Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Fix a Flat Tire with Popcorn, Coffee and Skittles

On the highway with my two boys, halfway between the pool and the library, I hear that thump-thump-thump sound.

I pull over to the shoulder, put it in park and step out to inspect.  Yep.  Driver's side rear is flat.

My van came originally with run-flat tires so the manufacturer never included a spare.  Not like I wanted to put my gluteus out into 70 mph traffic to jack up the car on a 90 degree day.

AC on and the boys in their car seats, I call roadside assistance.  They'll be there within an hour.  My two-year-old is asleep and my four-year-old is reading books.  Things could be much worse.

My wife is one day overdue to have a baby, but she tells me on the phone there's still no action.  Things could be much much worse.

Help arrives in 45 minutes.  He notes the tire still has a little air in it, so the damage can't be that bad.  I know there's a Tire Rama not far from the next exit.  He pumps my tire full and follows me there.  It's flat when it arrives, but at least we're at a tire shop.

The Tire Rama guys jack up the car and inspect my tire while the boys and I sit in their waiting room eating their popcorn.  I see the coffee pot is empty, but I'm a restaurant professional.  I can make coffee.  I find a filter-bag in the cupboard and set it to brew.

A vending machine sells Skittles, among other things, which is a dairy and gluten free favorite at my house.  I just need change for a dollar.

While I'm explaining my need for Skittles to the man at the front desk, a tech enters and says I need new tires, also.

He shows me two small punctures in the tread and the rubber powder accumulated inside the tire.  He explains the company won't allow him to fix punctures in that part of the tread.  Of course, the van is all-wheel-drive, so all four will need to be replaced.

The tires are less than two years old.  I bought them at Les Schwab.  They should be under some kind of pro-rated warranty, so if I need a new set I'd rather get them from Schwab.

And Les is just a couple miles down the street.  If I could only get there.

I call them.  They say bring it on down and they'll see how much wear is on them.  Then they can decide how much the warranty will cover.

I think I can get a couple miles if I can refill the tire.  The Tire Rama guys say it's not holding anything so that's impossible.  I get back on the phone with Les Schwab.

They say they have a service truck that can come down and help me.  They'll be by in a few minutes.  The Tire Rama tech takes my van off the lift and, with the tire hissing, parks it sideways across three of their parking spots.

Within five minutes, Les Schwab arrives, jacks up the van, inspects the tire and assures me they can fix it.  "They always refuse to fix competitor's tires," he tells me.  Then he says it will be easier to fix my tire at his shop.  He'll be back shortly.

As my van sits jacked up in the Tire Rama parking lot with three wheels, the boys and I return to popcorn, coffee and a magazine about tricked-out trucks.

Twenty minutes later, my tire is back.  He replaces it and takes a picture of his Les Schwab truck in front of the Tire Rama store.

In my best radio voice I say: "Les Schwab.  We'll fix tires anywhere, even in the competition's parking lot."

I thank him and he cruises off.  The boys and I head out, short three hours of our lives and 50 cents of Skittles.  We make it to the library six minutes before it closes.  Moral victory.  We grab two books and head home.

Who am I going to next time I have car trouble?  Duh.

At the end of it I have to say my boys were wonderful.  I can't thank them enough.  Never a complaint, whine or tear from either of them despite the fact that none of us wanted to be there. I was bored and frustrated to the point of freakishness, but they kept me on track.

Just had to say something about my experience with Tire Rama and Les Schwab.