A few days ago, I made a routine trip to a gas station to top off the air in my tires. I say routine, because my tires (which came with the car) are on their last legs/treads.
For the first three tires, all was going as it typically does — popping in 50 cents, fumbling with the hose, squeezing my right ring fingertip repeatedly with the handle and pumping in the air to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. But somewhere between the third and fourth tire, the pressure gauge stopped working. And that was really unfortunate, because with tires, there’s a fine line between pumping air in and sucking it out. And I was sucking.
I knew this because I have custom valve caps that use a color-coded system to signal pressure status. And when I put it back on the fourth tire, it was as red as Louisiana’s politics (whoever decided radial tires needed to look full even when they’re not, well, suck it). So I screwed off the cap to pump some more air, and I dropped the cap into the hubcap. Great. I’d have to take off the hubcap to access it.
If you’ve ever seen the 2006-era Scion xB, you probably think of the sleek spoke alloy wheels straight out of a “Fast and the Furious” flick. I don’t have those. I have the standard rims and the cheapest, default plastic hubcaps the manufacturer makes. You don’t even need a lever to remove them; you can literally pop them off with a single bare hand. Well, you can if you aren’t me. Because I’m a weakling. I did do it once, a few years ago, but I was younger, hungrier and had the manual in my hand when I did it.
This time, the hubcap was on good and tight, possibly a byproduct of a recent professional rotation (there’s your lesson on maintenance, kids). And I, having already spent about 20 minutes and $2 at the pump, was facing the triple-whammy of having an underinflated tire, an elusive valve cap and a stubborn hubcap.
Before long, a pickup truck with a riding mower in the bed pulled up to the pump. Two men got out and asked me if I was done with the hose. “It was working for the first three tires and then the gauge stopped working and now I’m trying to pry off my hubcap to get a cap that’s trapped in there because it’s a custom cap and it was expensive, so yeah, you can use it,” I overexplained, being me.
As soon as one of the guys picked up the hose, the head fell off. “That might be what’s wrong with it,” he said. He screwed it back on and gave it to the other guy, who began pumping up his mower tire. “Nope, the gauge is still broken,” he added. As he pumped, the other guy went to work on my hubcap. He had trouble and looked inside their truck for a tool. “Man, you’re not gonna find a hubcap tool in there,” the pumper shouted. “Wait up.” He then stopped pumping, walked toward my hubcap and, in one sweeping movement, yanked it off. “There you go,” he said. “Thanks,” I said as I grabbed the errant cap and screwed it back on the valve stem. I then attempted to pop the hubcap back on. “Need help?” the guy said. “I got it,” I said as it kept slipping off. “You look like you need help,” the other guy said. “Make sure you find the hole for the valve and put it in the right place. Here, I’ll hold it. Just don’t be so nervous. Now beat it with your fist, get it on there tight.” As I did so, I felt it necessary to say, “I’ve done this before. Seriously.”
Still talking about hubcaps and tires here. Do focus.
Anyway, I finally got the hubcap back on and one of the guys even pumped my last tire with his leftover pump time. I asked them if they wanted any change, because we’d spent about $16 at this point between us. “For what?” he laughed. “Listen, man, you and I, we help each other out. If people did that more often, this world would be a better place.” They then got in their truck and drove off.
I really like people like that. I’m voting for them in 2012.