This morning I completed my last rite of passage into manhood. I changed a flat tire.
The tire actually went flat on Tuesday night, but because I've been so swamped with homework, final projects and exams, I wasn't able to get to it till this morning. Knowing the icy cold that awaited me, I bundled up with a coat, scarf and fur hat, and I downed a mug of hot chocolate to super heat my core. I was sweating by the time I got my shoes tied, and I stepped out the front door to meet my challenger.
I'd watched my dad and friends change flat tires a number of times, but I've always had a defeatist mentality toward any kind of repairs. I'm clumsy with tools and every time I take something apart to fix it, that something inevitably remains in pieces in a box because I can't remember how to reassemble it. I'm the kind of guy that gets taken advantage of in auto shops.
It turned out to be simpler that I thought it would be. Remove spare from trunk. Place jack under car. Crank jack with cool twisty rod. Pop off hub cap with crow bar. Unscrew the lug nuts . . . this is where things got messy. All the nuts were rusted and stuck, and I couldn't for the life of me get them to budge. I tried every angle, every position and every curse word until I had to just give up. There was no humanly possible way I was going to get those lug nuts off without slipping a disc.
I called Quinn. Quinn seems manly enough, the kind of guy who can fix things. I don't know what I was expecting him to tell me, but he actually imparted some brilliant wisdom, and it came from our physics class, of all things. Quinn was a physics TA, so I guess it's second nature to him. To increase torsional force you just have to increase the distance from the center of rotation. Basically making the level longer makes it require less effort to move it. I needed a longer crow bar.
I went into our backyard, cautiously tiptoeing around the overripe plums from our neighbor's tree, looking for a long metal pipe. I found such a pipe buried in the leaves along the back fence. I slid the pipe over the crow bar and pulled it toward me. I was amazed at how easily the nut came unscrewed. Chalk that up as an important life lesson.
Once the nuts were off it was no problem to pull the flat tire off and slide the spare tire on. As I tightened the last nut and lowered the jack, I felt a strong sense of manly pride. I no longer felt like a vulnerable school girl who just got her license. At this point my toes were totally frozen, as was my snot, so I went inside to gloat over my victory.
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