Why is it that the most mundane, inconsequential, trivial things in life are the ones that shape your day? You can get a raise, find a house, fall in love but somehow that nothing-really-going-on morning lips you like a buttermilk pancake?
Right now the roads are icy, snow piled up everywhere, temperatures hitting new lows. Good day to stay indoors. But not for me. I’m an outside guy. A chronic sufferer of cabin fever. It sets in right after the morning news. That’s the show that reminds us over and over and over again that there’s ice and snow and record lows. So I made plans to meet my son at Rutgers for the Ohio State wrestling match.
Anyone who has a son knows that spending time with him happens every leap year. Should be a special day. I’m a homebody; for me a voyage to New Brunswick is a road trip and requires detailed preparation. I gave myself plenty of extra time to get there. Plenty of extra time to gas up and make sure nothing could go wrong in these conditions – that is ice and snow and record lows.
I stopped at a local gas station. Four pumps and a lane on both sides of the island. Because one lane was backed up with four cars, I just drove around to the other side. That’s where my gas cap faces anyway. That was also backed up – with four orange cones. So I jockeyed around until I was positioned in line to fill up. Still enough time.
Rolling down my window, I handed my card to the gas guy. “Fill ‘er up – Plus please”, I politely said. Now I’m no fool: I’ve been around long enough to know that the from the tilt of his turban, the Bluetooth in his ear, and the unrecognizable blah-blah-blah of his conversation, he was not talking to me. As he started to push the “Regular” button, I jumped out. Well first I almost garroted myself on the seatbelt, but then I jumped out. “That was Plus!” I repeated. “Blah,blah,blah,blah,blah he inattentively jabbered into cyberspace as I pressed the right button.
While he proceeded with his chatter, I checked under the hood. Oil: good. Antifreeze:good. Windshield washer: Low. On days of ice and snow and record lows, this component is. “Do you have windshield washer?” He had had no more idea of what I said than I did of the guy on the other end of the Bluetooth. I would have to stop somewhere else on the way. Now time was coming into play.
He filled ‘er up and, after what seemed like a long commercial break, brought back my card with a receipt to sign. “Thank you”, I sarcastically muttered. ”Blah, blah. Blah, blah.”, he replied.
So that was that. I pulled around to the air pump. Air these days apparently trades on the New York Stock Exchange. How else to explain the high cost for something you cannot see. Isn’t it time for someone to invent a tire you can just blow into? If you’re worried about getting a bang for your buck, the next time your tire is low – buy a new one. This air was three minutes for six quarters. No – not a dollar and a half; six quarters. I had five. My heart racing, I walked back to the gas pump. Words obviously would never communicate my needs. I held up a dollar bill and pointed to a quarter. That he understood! I’m a genius, I tell ya’!
I couldn’t remember exactly how much PSI it took but it’s etched on the side. Ever try reading the side of a tire? There’s enough writing for a short novel but all I could make out was “Goodyear”. Maybe I’ll ask the guy. Yeah – right!
So I’ll go with my gut -40 lbs. I prepped myself: Walked around and took off all the caps. Got out my tire gauge. This is not my first rodeo. I have the most expensive super-deluxe gauge Pep Boys carries. A pocket-watch style instrument with big numbers that even a mole can see. I don’t trust the old-fashioned tube-like gauges. No matter how much air is in the tire, they always read 20. Checked the tires: three were good. Only one low. Of course, it had to be the left back one. You know, the one that’s six inches too far for the hose to reach. As fast as I could, I repositioned the car into a proper location.
Dropped my quarters in. The machine rang and began its hiss. Attaching the fitting to my valve stem, I could hear the air coming out – from the tire! In a panic I twisted and turned and relocated the air-hose filler-upper thing. More air escaped. This is when life is not worth living. I ran over to the guy. “Your air pump doesn’t work”, I nervously explained. He interrupted his telephone chat-chat long enough torespond, “Maybe no work”.
The next gas station was not far away. I bought the windshield cleaner and got twelve more quarters for air (you never know). The rest of the trip was a breeze. We only missed the first two matches.