Crazy B*tch (Memoirs of a Lemon Lover in Recovery)
Chapter 8—Re-tiring Ol’Bruiser
My very first experience of driving in snow with Ol’Bruiser was, as you might imagine, interesting. Keep in mind I had already survived driving without brakes, so I had some instincts and learned behaviours to fall back on. I had earned credibility with my parents, and they were not overly panicked at the outset. It felt good to know they had some faith in me.
Driving while it was snowing was kind of cool. The snowflakes were big and fluffy and the world looked like a big snow globe. The roads were wet, and it really wasn’t any different than driving in the rain—except for one difference. My roof only leaked in the driving rain, so when it snowed, there was no puddle in the driver’s seat. It was, at the outset, a fairly peaceful experience. However, throughout the day, the snow accumulated, and then as the sun set, all that melted snow that wet the streets began to freeze.
I slipped and slid all the way home. It was nerve-wrecking. I could not shift higher than second gear without the back-end of my car doing its best asphyxiating fish routine. Sometimes, on curves even that gear seemed to launch me into unsafe speeds. I am not entirely sure how I got home without ever sliding off into the ditch. I will admit freely, I was far luckier than smart. I had no idea how to drive when the roads were like this. I honestly anticipated having a little more traction somehow.
By the time I got home, I vowed never to drive ever, ever again. I was shaking so hard I could hardly get my coat and boots off. I hadn’t felt this hopeless since the night the power steering hose broke. My mom found me, curled in the fetal position, by my boots. She helped me stand up and guided me into the living room. We found my dad sitting in front of the TV with his Chilton © book opened on his lap. He asked warmly, “How did you make out?” My response was fluent blubbering. My mom glared at my dad as I recounted my most scary vehicular adventure to date.
When I was done, my mom stated quietly, in a manner so icy and controlled, that she made Dirty Harry seem more like the host of a children’s cartoon show. “So…tell your daughter just what kind of tires are on that car.” What did she mean by that? What was I missing? I was so preoccupied by my drive home I hadn’t considered what might have been passing for conversation in my absence. My dad grudgingly admitted that he had yet to get new radials for Ol’Bruiser because he was curious about just how I would handle the first snow without the benefit of good tires. He felt that kids who fund their own cars would not have tires that were any better. My mom went bat-shit crazy on him, detailing all the many ways his curiosity was flawed and irresponsible. In retrospect, I find it kind of ironic how I blubbered into the middle of a war zone.
My dad explained how I had two sets of tires on my car, and how back in the day it was perfectly safe provide the front two tires were the same (to each other) and that the back tires were the same (to each other). He then went on to explain that while safety standards had changed, the laws of physics had not. My mom cleared her throat and my dad then shifted his explanation to cover just how my driving experience was normal, given the tires on my car. He also assured me that he wouldn’t have been able to drive any differently in the same situation. He swallowed hard and assured me that I was a very good driver, he was very proud of me, and that first thing in the morning we would go down to the tire shop and get some new radial tires for Ol’Bruiser.
He and my mom assured me that I should keep driving because I could do it. I adamantly refused to drive to the tire shop, and my mom offered my dad to drive the car himself. She said I needed to see for myself how any driver would struggle with that car given its current tires. She also said my dad could do well to be reminded of exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end of his “hair-brained” schemes.
I slept like the dead that night—that is if the dead died from a nervous break-down brought on by an anxiety attack. It felt like every nerve in my body was scramble-fried in hydrochloric acid. If I had nightmares, they were too psychologically scarring to remember. The last thing I remember is heaving one of those mega-sobs that children have in their post-tantrum state.
At the tire shop the next day, my dad recounted for the nice men my adventures of the night before. My dad trotted out his best story-telling gear, and yet the guys at the shop seemed nonplussed by him. His plan to delay tire shopping until after the first snow was a prominent part of his story, and it must have sounded far more clever in his head because out loud, he really wasn’t coming off well. I, on the other hand, felt all kinds of kindness, pity, and compassion. One older gentleman cavalierly took my hand and gently led me to the customer reception area. He selected the comfiest chair and sent off some of his younger colleagues to fetch me a soothing cup of tea, and plate of cookies. Thanks to my dad’s story, I was treated like a freakin’ princess while the shop manager (along with the emphatic support of my mother) proceeded to ensure my dad purchased the most expensive tires, and extended warranty package available. I am not going to lie, the whole experience went a long way to helping me recover from the night before.
My dad either planned the whole thing, or he refused to let these events go by without his seizing an opportunity to teach me something about car maintenance. When we got home, he made me take off, put on, and re-torch each and every tire on Ol’Bruiser—twice. I viewed the whole activity as kind of moot because my dad had purchased such an extensive warranty package that if I did suffer from a flat tire, I would have road-side assistance—anywhere and anytime. However, I knew that this information was important, if for no other reason than to offer me enough knowledge to ensure the guys who swooped in to rescue me changed my tire properly.