I changed a tire yesterday, a very manly thing to do. Kneeling in the dirt, getting grease on my skin, muscles in my arms and shoulders rippling as I loosened the lug nuts, swearing like the spawn of a longshoreman and a character in a Martin Scorsese gangster movie when I realized I screwed up and have to start over.
It was a lovely spring-like day here in the northeast: About 60 degrees, sun shining, and neighborhood abuzz with activity. My brother had plugged my flat tire for me and it was time to take the donut spare off and put the repaired tire back on.
I started on the lugs. Apparently I didn’t realize my own Herculean strength when I had tightened them a few days earlier. I pulled, yanked, pushed, huffed, puffed, strained, growled and called them names, but they didn’t budge. I brought in Lou Ferrigno to help but the nuts just laughed at him. I set off C4 explosives but they absorbed the impact growing larger and stronger. Their cognitive functions grew exponentially. They developed communication, speaking to each other in a rudimentary romance language. At one point they bandied about ethnic slurs aimed at me (my background is German/Scotch-Irish so it was a lot of sausage sucking and sheep buggering).
Finally, I went Chuck Yeager on their ass. I ejected myself from an F-15 fighter jet wearing an old fashioned diving suit and helmet. Making a raptorial dive at the speed of sound, I crashed into the lug wrench with enough force to pry them off. The process was time consuming. An era of time passed that saw the squirrels in my tree evolve into a rodent/opera singer hybrid capable of hoarding nuts and hitting the high C in performance. I myself actually died after the third lug and was brought back to life by robot mechanics who wanted to see me finish the job.
With the lugs loose, I jacked the car up, took off the donut spare and put the regular tire on. Next came the fight with the wheel cover. The design of the cover is that it is held on by the lug nuts. You have to reach into 5 small holes to get the nuts started. Whoever designed this should be forced to sit under Rush Limbaugh’s chair while he farts his way through his 4 hour radio show.
Since I have the manual dexterity of Larry Fine, it was drudgery trying to hold the tire still, hold the wheel cover in place and get the lug nuts threaded through the small circular openings in the cover. Each probe into one of the openings resulted in another cut or scratch and more loss of blood. After a field transfusion by a WWI nurse conjured up by my weakened and delusional mind, I perked up, lowered the car, tightened the nuts and inspected my work.
Now we get to the title of this piece. I forgot about the valve stem. When I put the wheel cover on, I didn’t place it so the valve stem would stick out through the provided slot. I rushed it, slapping the cover on and tightening the lugs like an inmate’s sphincter in the prison shower. The valve stem was buried behind the cover. And since the cover is held on by the lug nuts . . . I had to change the tire all over again. I had to loosen the lugs, jack the car up, take the lugs off, reposition the wheel cover, hold the tire still while holding the cover in place and hand tightening the lugs through the tiny holes, lowering the car, and tighten the lugs with the wrench.
I took a 20 minute job and turned it into a 45 minute fiasco, much like I took a 30 second story and turned it into the 675 word tome you’re reading now. Take a good look. Gaze upon me in all my glory, for I . . . am an idiot.