Old route 460 from Newport News to Richmond was what I called “a flat tire simulator”. It was that way as far back as I could remember. It was one of those roads with evenly spaced grooves across the pavement and the sound duplicated the sound of a flat tire perfectly.
One Saturday evening I had friends from Richmond to come to Newport News to visit me. Don and Joyce have been my friends since I was in my late teens. I was godmother to their two sons and actually helped deliver their youngest. I was off that weekend and our visit seemed too short. They had to get back to Richmond because Don had to get to work. After telling them that there was no way I could go back to Richmond with them, we said our goodbyes. They got in the car and I went back into my apartment. After a few minutes, I heard a strange noise in my bedroom. I approached the room cautiously and found their twelve-year-old sitting on my bed. At first, I was startled to see someone in my apartment, but Steve was smiling.
“What are you doing here?” I said as I stood with my hands on my hips.
Steve smiled at me in the way only a 12-year-old boy can, when he is getting something over on an adult.
“Mom said they’d wait for us at Stuckey’s.” Stuckeys was a popular place to stop for travelers,
Suddenly, I realized that my old friend had tricked me into coming to Richmond. She knew I would bring her son home. The trip to Richmond was over an hour away in good traffic. I had a dozen things I had to do, so I thought if she going to trick me into this trip, she could wait awhile. I had pets to care for before I could leave. I really didn’t have time to go to Richmond…but I had no choice.
Steve helped me to feed the cat and change the water dish. I got a change of clothes and what I needed for an overnight trip. Steve and I put the top down on my blue and white Corvair convertible, got in. We kicked up the radio to a respectable volume and off we went.. We took our time. Of course, I was smiling to myself.
As we were singing along with the radio and waving at everyone that looked like they needed to be waved at,. We were having a good time until we found ourselves on the horrible “flat tire simulator”. I had driven on this road hundreds of times and somehow, this time, it just sounded more realistic. Maybe it was because the top was down but with a kid in the car I was more cautious.
I pulled over and did a walk around and I couldn’t see anything wrong. I even asked Steve to look with me. He was a smart kid and besides, another set of eyes never hurts. He couldn’t see anything wrong either.
Eventually, we ended up at Stucky’s and I told Don about the sound. He suggested that he follow me as we went on to Richmond. He thought he might be able to see something we missed. Don was a truck driver and a decent mechanic. I knew he would know what to look for. We agreed if we heard the sound again, that Steve would raise both arms straight up and with the top down on the Corvair, that wasn’t hard to miss, Don would get as close as he could and see if he could see anything. Once we got up to the speed limit, the sound was louder than ever. Steve raised both arms in the air. Don swooped up behind me and in just a few seconds and Don flashed his headlights. This meant he had spotted something and I needed to pull over.
I pulled over in the service lane. Don, Joyce and their younger son pulled in behind me. Don said it looked like one of my tires was a retread and a piece of the tread was trying to come loose.
I was divorced at this time and I really wanted to be able to take care of myself and my car, too. Since I had never changed a tire, this looked like a perfect time for a lesson. I asked Don if he would walk me through it.
Both boys got in Don’s car and turned on the air conditioner. Don, Joyce and I proceeded to replacie the tire with the spare.
First, I had to get the jack out of the trunk, then loosen the lug nuts. I positioned the jack and I’m not sure what I did, but as soon as I got the car jacked up, something happened. The car started going down by itself. I tried to get a hold of the handle and it hit me under the chin. Every time I reached for the handle and it would hit me. I was too busy trying stop the car from going down to get out o the way of the jack handle.
“You know Ginny, it might be a good idea to say out of the way of that handle.” Don said as he was trying to pull me away.
He reached over and flipped something and it stopped. He later showed me the switch that you flip to let the jack go down. To this very day, after that experience, I will never forget to make sure it is in the right position.
After I had the lugs loose and the car jacked up, I was supposed to take off the lug nuts. Don suggested putting the lug nuts into the hubcap to make them easier to find.
“You have to protect your nuts.” He said, with a straight face. I had to smile when he said this, because everything Don said could usually be taken two ways . When he said something and started rubbing his hands together I knew he was having a good time at my expense.
You have to realize that I have been a friend with Don and Joyce for years. We have been through a lot together. Don was on the road often, so, I taught Joyce to drive. We went through several episodes of small emergencies; ranging from sick babies, to trips to the ER, my divorce, and deaths in both families. Both of them had been my patients, at one time or another. But, we’d had many good times, too. We spent more time drinking coffee, playing cards and sometimes just trading jokes together, then most people do in a lifetime. As you can tell, we could say anything at any time to each other and each one of us knew it was just a matter of time before it was our turn to be the butt of the joke.
I was sitting on a floor mat, on the ground, trying to get this tire off. Don was standing behind me with a cigarette, and in between puffs, he was telling me what to do. Joyce was standing beside him as she keeping an eye on the kids.
I had to have a little help getting the lug nuts off, but apparently, I hadn’t loosened them enough when I had the car on the ground.
“You need to use your fingers,” Don said. “Want me to loosen it for you?
I didn’t say a word.
“They should easily come off in your hand.” Just keep working at it till something happens, you’ll know when its happens”..Don was having a ball with this one.
Joyce punched Don on the arm and by then I was blushing and laughing.
I finally got all the lug nuts off and safely into the security of the hubcap. I could see how easy it would be to lose them. I struggled with that tire and managed to wrestle the spare into place. Don told me to replace the lug nuts with one at the 12 o’clock position and then the 6 o’clock position and to use my fingers to tighten them as much as I could. I did, but they kept falling off.
“You are screwing backwards.” Don commented.
I looked at him, as if to ask what he meant, then he and Joyce both started to laugh. I started turning them the other way. He suggested alternating positions for a tighter fit. By now my face was bright red. Of course, this lesson didn’t end there. He also told me, whoever gets the tools out is responsible for putting them away. He said he hated it when his tools slip, and he tries to put them in the wrong place. His wife hit him again. I was ready to crawl under the car.
I tried not to laugh but that got me. I couldn’t do it any more, I laughed till tears ran down my face and Joyce was laughing as had s i was. I was sitting on the ground, Don and Joyce were laughing so hard they had to lean against my car. If anyone saw us, they would swear we were all drunk.
Don finished tighten the lugs. You can imagine what he said about that.
For some strange reason, I never forgot this lesson. I never tried to do anything else to my car, I just let the mechanic handle it. I fix things with my check book.