Rufus T. Firefly: Now, what is it that has four pairs of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?
Chicolini: Atsa good one. I give you three guesses.
Rufus T. Firefly: Now let me see. Has four pair of pants, lives in Philadelphia… Is it male or female?
Chicolini: No, I no think so.
Rufus T. Firefly: Is he dead?
Rufus T. Firefly: I don’t know. I give up.
Chicolini: I give up, too.
—Duck Soup (1933)
A couple of days ago, I had me a bit of an adventure.
I had a few projects that I needed to do, but from what I’d gathered, it looked like I was also going to need Wife’s car to get it done, since I had to schlep around a bunch of items to several schools I work with. So on Tuesday morning I had three projects to deal with:
- Go to Notre Dame and pay off my tuition bill so they’d release my grades;
- Go to the office, turn in the grades and then make a bunch of phone calls to school principals;
- Go to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, pick up the materials and then deliver them to a bunch of schools.
Now, it was raining on Tuesday morning, and unfortunately my raincoat is in my car. This is bad because, as I mentioned before, I had Wife’s car. I said, “ah, the hell with it” and went without a coat.
So, off I go to the College of Notre Dame. I park in the 30-minute zone, which is close to the building, and head inside. Go to the Business Office and pay off the tuition, then to the Registrar to get a couple of copies of my transcript. Total elapsed time: 20 minutes, no problem at all.
Back outside and into the car. I pull out of the parking space and it’s immediately apparent that something’s wrong. I stop the car and look around at the front passenger side.
Flat tire. In the rain. As usual.
I don’t get many flats in the good weather; I don’t know why. And this time it’s not even my own fricken car.
Now, since this is Wife’s mini van and not my own car, the first thing I have to do is figure out where the spare tire is. A quick look in the back gives up only the jack and the tire iron. But what’s this under the space where the jack is stashed? It’s a big plastic lug nut-looking thing. That’s when I realize: this is one of those cars where the spare is suspended UNDERNEATH the back. You have to crank the nut-looking thing to let the spare down, using the tire iron/jack handle.
The saving grace for this is that I’m standing under the open tailgate to do this, so I’m not getting especially wet. However, the nut-looking thing is in such a place that you can’t attach the jack handle and just spin it around; you have to do a half-turn, then pivot the handle over itself, then half-turn again, pivot again, half-turn, pivot…and so on, until the cable has completely lowered the spare to the ground, at which point you can maneuver the gizmo at the end of the cable that’s holding the spare, through the hole in the spare to set it free of the cable.
This took easily about twenty minutes. But OK! Got my spare (one of those compact donut jobbies), got my jack, got my jack handle, now off to remove the bad tire. I’m getting rained on now, but this shouldn’t take too long.
It took a little doing, but I was able to loosen the lug nuts on the car, then I got the jack underneath. The car has one of those scissor-style jacks that you have to line up with some landmark underneath the car, so now I’m starting to get wet AND dirty. Great.
And, of course, when it’s close to the ground the jack works much the same way that the nut-looking thing did: half-turn, pivot; half-turn, pivot, and so forth.
It was at about this point that a Campus Security vehicle approached me and asked what I was up to. I told him I had a flat and, ever the helpful guy, he nodded and drove away. Thanks! Glad I dropped several thou to pay your salary, Asshat!
Crank…crank…crank…and finally the jack appeared to be doing its job. The tire started to lift off the ground, and then WHUMP! the car fell to the ground. Yow! Dammit! The car fell off the jack! Really? I mean, REALLY?
No, not really, as it turned out.
So I have to hand-crank the jack back down to the low position and got it back under the car, then began cranking again. This time, as the car started to lift, I watched it MUCH more carefully. And that’s when I saw it start to fall again, then stop because I’d stopped cranking. I took a peek underneath to see why the jack was tipping over.
It wasn’t tipping; the base was flat on the ground. The jack itself was starting to bend out of shape. I cranked it back down (a task that was tougher than it should have been, because of the bending), got back in the car and called AAA. I explained to them what was going on (flat tire, twisting jack) and they said that someone would be out within the hour. Apparently they were quite busy that day so they couldn’t guarantee any faster than that. Eh, what are ya gonna do? I sat in the car and listened to the radio. I couldn’t call the principals like I’d planned because A) I didn’t have all their numbers; B) I had to keep the phone line clear; and C) the battery was starting to wind down. Fortunately it wasn’t more than about a half hour when my phone rang. It was the driver, pulling in behind me.
So of course he comes out and I tell him what’s up, and he breaks out the hydraulic jack, and between that and his pneumatic wrench-that-looks-like-a-hand-drill, he has the tire changed in about nine seconds. Flat tire into the back, get my butt back into the car…
…which doesn’t want to start.
I leaned out the window and hollered, “We may not be done yet!” He walks back over and has me turn the key again. “Pop the hood,” he says, “you need a jump.” This was probably because, so I could listen to the radio, I had the key in the “accessory” position, which means that the headlights, which have the “auto” setting, had been on the entire time. (I don’t have that on my car so I forget about it on hers.) He breaks out another little box from his truck and hooks it up to the proper places on the battery/chassis, and away we go.
Of course, at this point I’m not only drenched from head to toe with the rain, I’m also filthy from all the grime on the tires and the ground and the jack and whatever else. So I wound up going home to change into different clothes, not necessarily appropriate for a business-type office. Not that I cared at that point.
Come to think of it, now it’s the weekend and I still haven’t made all of those phone calls that I wanted to.