Tag Archives: car

You got a flat, you got to fix it yourself

You got a flat tire, you got to fix it, you got to do it yourself. You got to pull over, you need to look in the trunk, you know, assuming it’s a standard car, by which I mean, there should be a false bottom, like pull at the bottom of the trunk, OK, that’s usually not the real bottom, there’s another bottom, underneath, that’s where the spare is going to be. It’s usually just a donut, like a smaller tire. Don’t worry, it fits.

flat tire

When I was in high school, I ran on a flat tire for like a whole day. The car still drove, I just couldn’t figure out why it insisted on drifting to the left. I figured it was a steering problem, like maybe I needed to get a new steering wheel or something. And I know you think that sounds ridiculous, a steering wheel problem, but it could have been true, because in high school I wanted a cool car so badly, and I didn’t know any better, I thought this meant like buying a pair of fuzzy dice for the mirror.

I bought this Knight Rider style steering wheel, it was like a video game steering wheel, it only had grips on the sides. I bought this thing on eBay, and I had no idea how to install stuff, so I asked my friend Nick, his cousin worked at a Best Buy garage, he assured me he knew how to install it. And I was a little skeptical, because I had previously used Nick’s services to install a CD player in the dash. It didn’t really fit right, like there was a huge gap in between the hardware and the car fixture, CDs would always get lost in that hole, but what could I do, he handed me the keys and he was like, “All right, she’s good to go. Two hundred bucks.”

And while I didn’t want to use Nick again, I could just imagine me going to a real auto garage, I’d walk in there with my novelty steering wheel, the mechanic’s face would be like trying not to laugh, like sure, I guess I should take this kid’s money. But are his parent’s going to get pissed off at me? Is this wheel even legal? At least Nick was somewhat closer to my age, and his car was totally tricked out, neon lights underneath, fuzzy dice hanging from his fuzzy dice.

I showed him the steering wheel and he was just like, “Sweet. I can do that. Two hundred bucks.” And he did it, it steered, although I couldn’t figure out which button was the horn, or maybe they were all supposed to activate the horn, and he just couldn’t get the connection right, I don’t know.

But when I got this flat tire, it just naturally occurred to me that it was a steering issue, that all I needed to do was to pull to the right, almost dramatically, and since there was no top to this wheel, you know, what this steering wheel added in coolness it definitely lacked in usability, I had to twist my arms uncomfortably to the other side. So pull, turn, and just a little heavier on the gas, and the car seemed to be driving fine.

Of course, it wasn’t fine, the front left tire was completely flat. But I didn’t know that’s why people were honking at me. I don’t know, and I couldn’t honk back, because, like I said before, no working horn, but eventually this one guy got my attention, he mouthed it out for me, “Flat! Tire!” and I pulled over.

I’d never changed a tire before, so there was a lot of trial and error, like you know that trick where you take off the screws before you jack it up? Yeah, I had no idea, the wheel just kept spinning as I tried to loosen the lug nuts. And that jack, I didn’t know there was like a certain spot. Whatever, this is all pretty basic stuff.

I got the donut on, I rode that thing way past its hundred mile suggested use. Finally my parents got on my case, “Get a real tire, now!” but I didn’t feel like digging into the comic book fund, so I went to some junkyard and bought an old one for like twenty-five bucks. Nick told me he knew how to do tires, but the two hundred dollar price tag was the opposite of what I was trying to do here, not spend any money.

So sometimes you just got to get dirty, you got to change your own tires, figure out yourself how those things get weighed. I’ve done it, I’ve been there man.

What? You have a Jeep? I don’t know, isn’t it on the outside of the back door. Yeah, the tire shaped covering with the “These Colors Don’t Run” graphic, yeah, that’s the spare. You have Triple A? You do? So what are you calling me for? You really want to hear stupid stories about my car from high school? Just call them up, that’s what you’re paying them for, I mean, you could do it, but they’re pros, they’ll have that thing changed in like two or three minutes.

Four extra-large sodas

And I was like, “Just try to stay out of my way, OK?” which, yeah, it sounded a lot cooler in my head, I was going for the whole, “I got this,” or at a more basic level, “Don’t worry, don’t have any doubts in me,” but it came out the way it came out, arrogant, dismissive. It was too late for an apology, it would have killed the momentum, totally destroyed whatever we’d already set up for ourselves, the mood, the false determination.


A week earlier, my friend Rich had showed me this video online of two guys ordering four extra-large sodas at a drive-thru, and right as the cashier handed them their drinks, the driver threw the oversized containers back through the window. All you heard was the scream, she must have gotten soaked, followed by the crazy laughter of the two guys in the car as it sped away.

I remember laughing so hard at that video, the insane kind of funny that, looking back now, I’d never laugh, I’d never let myself. It’s too mean. I’d feel automatically too bad for that woman, she probably hates her job, or maybe she doesn’t hate her job, maybe it’s just me, I hate my job and I assume everybody else hates their job also. Maybe she’s happy. But she’s working the window at the drive through, she gets out the XL cups, fills them all up.

And then what does her boss say? The manager hears the spill, he looks up and the window-girl is doused in soda, there’s a mess everywhere. Did the computer get wet? What about the register? Did the soda make it to the cash? It’s everywhere. She feels bad, like even though everyone says they believe her, she’s worried some of them might suspect she’s making it all up. Because seriously, who would do something like this? And why?

But back when I was seventeen, when I finally had a car, independence, those were things I wasn’t focusing on, the who, the why. My whole world was all of the sudden open and new, I got such a crazy thrill out of anything I hadn’t been exposed to before. And this act summed up everything that I wanted in life at that moment, the ability to look around at the most mundane of situations and still be thrown for a total loop, like nothing applies anymore, everything you thought you knew, forget it.

I think Rich might have suggested we try it out also, or maybe he didn’t directly suggest it, but he said something like, “We would never do something like that,” just something to say, but I took it as this personal challenge, I was like, “Well, I would do that,” not even thinking about how this was already escalating dangerously. “No way, you would never do that,” so now here I was, Rich had thrust all responsibility my way, now this was my joke, my prank, my wild act to either carry out or chicken out of.

So we went to Taco Bell. My euphoria had definitely dwindled down into something else, an anxiety, my heart was still racing but I could tell that there was a part of me I wasn’t willing to yet consciously acknowledge that told me this was a stupid idea. And again, I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to be thinking about anybody else besides myself. I was purely concerned with what if we get in trouble, what if my parents have to get involved?

And Rich, he was pretty nervous too, but it was a carefree worry, like settling in to watch a really scary movie. Sure, he’d be along for whatever ride this turned out to be, but at the end of the day, he could always shrug and be like, I don’t know why Rob threw those sodas. I had nothing to do with it.

I pulled up to the drive-thru, I ordered four extra large Baja Blast Mountain Dews, and as we turned the corner to the window, we both kind of giggled a little bit. It was happening. The sodas had been ordered. Maybe this would be easier than the mental struggle I was setting up for myself here. Maybe all I had to do was throw and drive, and then I could laugh and laugh and laugh.

But we pulled up, and it’s this big dude, he’s passing me the sodas, telling me how much they cost. I didn’t even look at Rich, I just took out a ten, gave it to the guy, took the change, and left. Rich started laughing, I guess I deserved it, I guess he had to make fun of me, I mean, I was the one behind the wheel.

And looking back, I have that whole justification, the putting myself in the other person’s shoes, the realization that people shouldn’t go around throwing sodas at each other. But I still cringe, I still get pissed, like why wasn’t I thinking? Why did I sit there and let Rich make fun of me for the rest of the night? Why didn’t he offer me even a dollar for one of those sodas? Man, I haven’t seen my old friend Rich in forever. I wonder what he’s up to right now.

I’m still pissed that I failed my first road test twelve years ago

If there’s one thing I’d love to go back in time and redo, it’s my road test. The first one. The one that I screwed up. It seems like a crazy thing to obsess over, but it was such a scam. There’s no reason why I should have failed that first time around. I think the whole system was set up against my passing.

Whatever, tell it to the judge, right? Yeah, well, find me a judge, get me a cheap lawyer, let’s go back into those DMV records, I want to find out just who administered my road test. Let’s get her on the stand and make her swear under oath that I didn’t deserve to pass it that time. Scratch that, if she was willing to lie the first time around, about my driving ability, she’ll probably lie to the judge anyway.

Nobody deserved his license more than I did. From a very early age, all I ever wanted to do was to drive a car. I have very vivid memories of me being a little kid, strapped in some car seat in the back of my parents’ station wagon, dreaming of the day when I’d be able to get behind the wheel and drive myself around. As I got closer to turning sixteen, time conspired against me, each day that passed felt like a year, ever closer to gaining my license yet infinitely further away.

Sometime in between my fifteenth and sixteenth birthday, I had everything set up, all of the paperwork filled out for my learner’s permit, my application for driver’s ed. All I had to do was wait for the earth to complete another partial revolution around the sun so that I’d finally reach that arbitrary age that our government decided was old enough for me to officially begin to learn how to drive.

I turned sixteen. Learner’s permit, check. All I had to do now was sit around some classroom every week for a couple months and watch boring educational videos on such compelling topics as, learning that you’re not supposed to play with the radio volume while you’re on the highway, or, understanding that getting cut off in traffic does not entitle you to pull a crowbar out of your trunk and start smashing the offender’s windshield in.

Even the instructor’s knew that driver’s ed was a joke. Our behind-the-wheel lessons consisted of us splitting our time between running errands around town for the teacher and going to get ice cream at various locations around Long Island. I think the final exam included a collage, magazine clippings glued to poster board like it was some sort of a rinky-dink teen-driving convention.

I didn’t totally mind however, because it was at least something to do, a reason to get out of the house. Plus, I actually got to spend time behind the wheel. It was a tease, sure, looking over at my instructor in the passenger’s side, he had this extra brake installed by his feet I guess so if I lost control or something.

After I accumulated the necessary classroom hours, I was able to set up my driver’s test. And this was where it counted. This was everything that I had been waiting for, the chance to prove to a representative of New York State’s Department of Motor Vehicles that I, Rob G., was ready to join the ranks of the licensed to drive.

So I showed up to take my test and the inspector pulls up in a Chevy Cavalier. “Wait a second,” I asked her, “I have to take my driver’s test in this? What about my car, the one I’ve been practicing on?” And she agreed, yeah, usually you do get to take it in your own car. But for reasons that she refused to divulge, I’d be taking it in the Cavalier.

I hopped in the front seat and tried to move the seat back. “Don’t move the seat back,” she snapped. “Why? I’m like six foot three, come on.” And she just glared at me. In that moment, while she was probably already deciding that she’d fail me for having the nerve to adjust my seat to an appropriate position, I got a good idea at what I was up against. I don’t think this lady had a soul. She appeared miserable, like the only joy she had left to hope for in life was denying a guy like me my right to the open road.

“Pull out here and go straight,” she mumbled. I pulled out. I started going straight. “Make a right at the light.” I made a right at the light. “OK, pull over, you failed.”

What? I failed? Why? What did I do? She wouldn’t tell me. She wouldn’t say anything. She made me get out of the driver’s seat and drove us the block back to the starting point. It was obvious to everyone standing around that I had failed. She handed me a yellow slip of paper that awarded me absolutely zero points toward my road test. What a bunch of bullshit. I had to wait like three months before I was allowed to even schedule another test, one that I passed without any problems.

Whatever, I guess I should get over it. I don’t even have a car anymore. Still, I can’t believe that I failed. Everybody else in my family passed right away. Do you know how pissed off I get every time a road test conversation gets going? Everybody pointing and laughing, talking about how I’m the worst driver in the family.

I’m the best driver in the family! Oh, how I wish I could go back and redo it. But what would I even do differently? I don’t know. This lady had it out for me. Maybe I’d just reschedule. Or I’d fake a seizure. I don’t know. Or I’d let the person in front of me go ahead while I pretend to try to find my permit, hoping that I’d get a different instructor. I have no idea. It doesn’t matter I guess. But I still think back and I get really pissed off. Because I am the best driver in the family, I swear!