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July 1, 2009 / Mark Kerrigan

Two Flat Tires Out on the Interstate!

Cl_Jeep_Cherokee_02Because I’m writing this blog to show how people may be affected by traumatic brain injuries,  aneurysms, strokes, or other  head injuries, I thought I’d tell you first-hand what happened to me yeasterday. Plus, it’s kind of funny now that it’s all said and done.

Yesterday, my son John and I had planned to go canoeing starting around 7:30 a.m. at his camp, Camp Widjiwagan. As is usually the case John headed out the front door of our duplex before me, and turned to me, as I hurried to catch up with him, and said, “Oh, no, Dadddy! You’ve got a flat tire!” (He wasn’t talking about the spare tire around my mid-section, either.)

Sure enough, the rear passenger tire on my car was completely flat–as a pancake. No worries, I told him since it was about 7:05 and the drive only takes about 15 minutes. So taking it all in stride, I went to my wife’s car, took out the emergency road kit, and plugged the air compressor into my cigarette lighter.

Since the tire was so flat, after about two minutes, I decided it was not worth the time it would take to inflate the flat, and I began preparations to change it. So I sent John inside to let his mother (my wife) know what was happening, and I took out the spare and jack. Surely I could change it in a few minutes, as I have performed the operation many, many times before.

But that was not the case. I found the jack, and puzzled over where I should place it under the car. Then when I settled on an appropriate spot, I couldn’t figure out how to raise the car with it. (If you haven’t guessed, I’m not that mechanical!)

By this time, my wife had emerged from the house, and—being the logical one—asked me, “Why don’t you take me to work in my car and then take John canoeing?” So the three of us loaded up in her car, which is nicer than mine, and headed out to her office.

“John, do you still want to go canoeing with me?” I asked my son. His response was as expected, “YES!”

“Because I could get you to the bus stop on time if you wanted to wait until the next time in two weeks.” Silence. He was thinking about my offer. “And next time, I don’t care if I have to ride my bicycle out there, I’ll get there. I PROMISE!”

Well, he agreed, and we changed course to take him to the bus stop. So I got him to where the bus picked him up and signed him in. As I drove home, my wife, knowing my non-mechanical nature, warned me to be careful.

“I don’t want any trips to the ER, I don’t want to come home and find you under the car…

“I’m mean, it’s on a gravel driveway with a slope,” she reminded me. I promised her I would be careful and nothing would happen. I was just going to put the spare on and drive slowly out to Wal-Mart where they would hopefully fix the tire for free, since I had road hazard.

We got home and then said an extra-long goodbye, since she wasn’t 100 percent sure she would see me outside a hospital again.

“Be careful,” she said as she got in her car and backed out of the driveway.

So I lit a cigarette and resumed forming a plan about the best way to change my tire. I looked at the jack, looked at the lug wrench and said, “Now how the hell do you fit in there?” to the wrench.

JackHandle“This can’t be right,” I told myself as I struggled to make the lug wrench fit into the spot where the jack handle goes. (Remember, I’m not that mechanical.)

So I found the separate jack handle, slid it into the correct slot and started to raise the car off the ground. Then I remembered that I needed to at least loosen the lug nuts before I got the tire completely off the ground. So I found a lug wrench and began to torque on the nuts.

With the five lugs loosened, I resumed trying to get the tire off the ground. (And by this time, sweat was already pouring off me.) I continued to crank the handle, and saw that the jack was trying to slip out from under the weight of the car.

So I let it down, found a new spot to place the jack and started all over. This time, before the tire was off the ground, I felt the car shake as I continued to turn, and then it happened.

The jack slid out from under the car, and there was my Jeep, sitting with all four tires securely on the ground, with the jack on its side.

“Well, I’m glad I didn’t take the lug nuts off,” I said aloud as though I were talking to a spectator.

I decided to move the car, flat tire still flat, up to the road where I might have better luck than on gravel. I made sure I had enough room to place the jack on the pavement and not be too far into the road.

All went well, until it came time to put the spare on. As I tried to place it with the valve stem on the outside, it seemed as though the lugs were too short and wouldn’t go through the holes.

So I put it on the other way—the valve stem on the inside. (Remember, I’m not that mechanical.) After I got the lug nuts tightened, first by hand and then with the wrench, let the car down off the jack.

Everything seemed fine, the spare was holding up quite well, considering it was only a donut.

Then I began the eight mile drive to Wal-Mart, carefully monitoring my speed because the now-inside of the tire read not to exceed speeds of more than 50 mph.

Cars and trucks were passing me like I was standing still, but I continued on at a snail’s pace until I heard a whump, whump, whump and the car started to shudder uncontrollably.

I pulled into the emergency breakdown lane, and got out to take a look. The spare was flat. “Great,” I said. There was an exit about half a mile ahead, and I planned to stop there as I drove hazard lights on, down the breakdown lane. Little did I know that I would only be able to make it to the merge of two fairly busy interstates before I could not, in good conscience, proceed.

I stopped, got out and realized the spare tire was just about to come off the rim. Time to take a break and think about what I should do next.

These problems I have shown you are common for people with TBIs. Looking back on the whole incident, or series of incidents, I can see where I had trouble because my sequencing — or following steps in the proper order — was a bit off.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story, I will finish it at a later time…



Leave a Comment
  1. Flash / Jul 6 2009 9:34 pm

    Hmm. Is it true? 🙂

  2. onthemarkwriting / Jul 7 2009 2:39 pm

    Flash – Yes, the story I have related here is TRUE.

    I may have left out a few minor details simply to keep the word-count down, but the gist of the story remains the same.

    I have been blessed to have a wonderfully supportive family and a spectacular team of doctors and therapists. Without God, my family or the doctors, I would not have been as fortunate as I am today.

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