Saturday, November 28, 2009
On my way home from work today I got a flat tire, in four lanes of gridlocked rush hour traffic. It happened on 5th avenue, which runs through the heart of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. I made it from the 2nd lane over to the right side of the road. I pulled over by the sidewalk into a metered space. I put a quarter in it, because it was before 6pm, and a parking ticket would just add insult to injury. I got out the spare, the tire iron and the scissor jack. It took a bit of struggle to get the jack in a stable spot underneath the car. It went up, though. The hubcap came off pretty easily, and all the nuts did likewise. All of them except one, which was a little reluctant to come loose. I managed to slip and pinch my hand between the tire iron and the curb in the process of its forceful removal, opening a decent little hole in the meat of my right hand. It bled quickly, and the blood mixed with the dirt already accumulated. The wheel itself, however, was rusted firmly into place. I couldn’t pull it off. I couldn’t even get it to wiggle. College kids streamed past, beautiful girls in short skirts and boys without convictions. They were all young and clean. I am not a proud man, and I would have happily asked one for help, but I just didn’t see any of these guys with more upper body than me. They all looked thin and soft. Filthy, and sweating completely through my clothes, I knelt in the gutter with my blackened hands, one also bloodied now. A woman walking down the sidewalk handing out religious pamphlets approached me, asked if I knew about the lord Jesus Christ, and waved a pamphlet in my face. I wondered if I took the fucking thing, would the lord Jesus Christ come down from his ivory fucking tower and change this goddamned tire? I wondered if I looked like I needed something to read while I tried to pull this rusted fucking wheel off, and I also thought about ending her miserable fucking life with the tire iron still sitting easily within reach of my bleeding right hand. I wanted to cave in her face, take pictures of it, and send them to the lord Jesus Christ as a warning. Instead, I politely said, “No, thank you.” It was the most restraint I’ve ever exercised in my life. After about 15 minutes, a cop showed up and demonstrated how to kick off a tire that’s rusted stuck. Apparently, he worked two jobs. His second job was as a mechanic. He was very friendly and helpful, and looked Hispanic. Nicest cop I’ve ever met. His trick worked pretty quickly. After thanking him profusely, I put on the spare and threw everything else into the trunk. My 45 minute drive home resumed.