austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Early in the morning, gets you without warning

We set out reasonably ahead of time to visit my mother's college friends. The car choices were the small convertible BMW with a backseat too small to be really comfortable for tall people like everyone in my family, or the truck with the warning light about the brake pads. We decided to go for the convertible, which had no warning lights about anything, and trust that we could take a break or two for stretching on the two-and-a-half hour drive. I brought my book. And another book to read in case we were driving longer than I expected. (And one more just in case.)

When a clock-like light lit on the dashboard I thought of my reputation as a car-damaging elemental, and was glad to learn it was just the cruise control light. (It was not so much a clock as a speedometer icon.) But a few minutes later, as we got on the Hutchinson River Parkway, on came the tire pressure warning light. We tried pressing the appropriate button to make it go away, but the light stayed on, and the car began to shake, and we pulled over to the concrete island divider at an off-ramp rather than risk driving to the next service station, which would prove to be about a mile away.

Since it was just a flat tire, Dad and I tried changing it ourselves. The first frustrating thing was the car had one of those newfangled ergonomic jacks where you can't tell which way is up and it slips out of whatever orientation you use. After four tries my father, who has a billion times my competence in car things, got the car fitted on it. He sent me to walk ahead on the white dividing line to warn him if a car was coming at him, since it's so very likely that drivers will split the difference between staying on the road and driving up the off-ramp. But I would easily have several seconds of lead time to jump out of the way, and my dad could roll out of the way, while Mom was still sitting in the car (she was driving) and would ... be rear ended, I suppose. Probably Dad just wanted me out of the way.

So after several tries he got the jack in what seemed like the right position, and I wheeled the jack up enough Dad could to take the old tire off. Or, he tried to take it off: it wouldn't go. Dad asked Mom if she had the brake on; she responded by taking her foot off the brake pedal, leading to the car falling off the jack. Back to square one. Or almost square one. Dad got the jack in place again and started wheeling it up, and directed me to put my weight against the trunk to hold the car in place (I didn't get it either). But he got the tire off the car, and then ... uh ... something began to slip, and the car fell off the jack, and I fell into the trunk. I'm bigger than the trunk. This was the most Buster Keaton-esque thing I have ever done in my life. But now the car was stuck, tire off, wheel touching the ground, and no room to put the jack back under the car. We were pretty well stuck.

Trivia: In 1953 when the American Broadcasting Company and United Paramount Theaters merged there were 159 commercial television stations in the United States, of which 14 were ABC affiliates. 71 were NBC and 74 were CBS. Source: Inside ABC, Sterling Quinlan.

Currently Reading: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, Stephen Ambrose.


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