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July 2, 2009 / Mark Kerrigan

Two Flat Tires on Interstate (cont….)


highway-incident-response-unitSo there I was, running on the rim of my spare tire (which turns out to be a donut) with a flat tire in the back of my Cherokee. Without having AAA or any idea of how much it would cost to get towed to a tire shop, I did what came naturally for me: I called a friend from church. The director of maintenance at Woodmont is a guy named Ron, and I am blessed to know him.

Ron is the kind of guy who can fix just about anything. It’s just a bonus that he worked for Saturn for 25+ years. Therefore, when I have a car problem, I call him. He’s my “on-call” mechanic.

More than once, I’ve called him with a dead battery, brakes that need replacing, or a door that was falling off the hinges (Jeeps are really bad about that, I understand.), and Ron has come, without giving me a hard time about it or making me feel guilty.

So there I was sitting on the side of the road with two flat tires in the bright sun, not quite sure how I was going to get out of this pickle.

Ron said he had to finish some things he was working on at church, but that he’d give me a call back when he was on his way.

Of course, I felt a little more secure knowing that Ron would be able to help me out of the mess I was in. I have watched enough police videos on television to know that it’s best to stay well away from your vehicle on the side of the interstate—even with lights flashing on the police car, some inattentive drivers have hit either the cruiser or the maimed vehicle.

I had promised my wife that I would be extra careful, so I sat on the concrete anchor for the sign I had just passed under. I was at least 30 feet away from my car and well behind it.

A couple of times, though, a semi would blow by my car and I’d watch it shake from side to side from the wind.

I called my wife to let her know what had happened and was in the middle of being warned to stand far away from the car when I spotted a bright yellow truck coming to a stop behind my car.

“Am I glad to see you!” I shouted over the roar of the traffic to the driver who was wearing a blaze-orange reflector vest as he stepped from his vehicle. He smiled and said something, but the traffic was louder than his words. “I’ve got two flats.”

He stood  there, between the two vehicles, and surveyed my tire. “That’s the spare on there,” he said.

“Yeah, I had a flat this morning and thought I could make it out to Wal-Mart and get them to fix it. But then my spare went flat, and now I’m up a creek,” I told him.
“You think you could put some air in the spare so I could get back on the road?”

He agreed, and then started to the back of his truck to open first one compartment and then another. While he was doing this, I called Ron to tell him that there was no need for him to come out to where I was since the TDOT Incident truck was on the scene.

“Well, okay,” he said. “If there’s anything you need, though, let me know.”

As the driver of the big yellow truck approached my truck with an air-powered socket wrench and a compressor hose, he looked at the spare, still on the car, and  I answered the obvious question before he even asked.

“It’s on the inside,” I shouted. “The valve-stem. It’s on the inside of the tire.”

“Well, you got the spare on backwards,” he told me. “The writing’s supposed to be on the outside.”

I explained that I had tried it with the writing on the outside but the lug bolts seemed too short to work. “So I turned it around and it seemed to work just fine.”

As he shook his head with chagrin, I hollered, “I’m not very mechanical!” He smiled kindly.

As it turns out, the valve stem on the spare was broken, either from dry-rot or from driving on the rim.

“How’s that other tire look?” I asked me.

I reminded him that it was flat this morning, but if he could just put enough air in it to make it to the store, I would get it fixed there. We pulled the tire out of the back of the Jeep and my “knight in shining armor” began to try to inflate the tire once more.

“Well there’s your problem,” he said, showing me the head of a nice shiny new-looking nail I had run over the day before.

He went back into the compartments of his truck, and reemerged with a pair of wirecutters and some boring tools. He plugged the hole, just as I had seem others repair tires when I had to get them fixed.

I guess the point I’m making here is that while I’m not mechanical, I’m not alone. I feel certain that there are other people out there who have problems with sequencing and following detailed, multi-step directions.

When I was attending Timber Ridge Ranch, a neuro-rehab in Benton, Ark., there was a girl who had sustained a head injury a few years prior. One morning, she woke, and being the kind person she was, decided to make coffee although she didn’t drink java.
But the thing about it was that she poured the water into the coffee maker, and then started to add coffee grounds into the basket. However, she had forgotten to put the coffee filter in the basket prior to adding the grounds.

The coffee was horrible! It had grounds all through it! If you’re a coffee drinker, you know the involuntary response when you get a mouthful of grounds. It’s not her fault, and it’s something that affects almost everyone who has sustained a traumatic brain injury, a stroke, or something similar.

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