“Do you hear that?” my wife Kara asked. All of a sudden, the slightly deflated tire I’d noticed on our car the day before seemed much more relevant. It’s funny how ignoring impending catastrophes doesn’t always make them go away, like it did for global warming.
We’d managed to drive about a mile on a pancake-flat tire because we couldn’t separate the sounds of pounding rain, mumbling radio, swishing wipers, fussing baby and squishing Michelin. As soon as Kara mentioned it, though, my ears tuned to the correct frequency to hear the rubbery sound of us not getting to work anywhere near on time.
“Ah, yes, that would be the sweet sound of column fodder,” I replied. The main benefit of being a journalist who writes mostly about cleaning up baby barf is that, not only can you call yourself a journalist when you aren’t one, but you can also translate every misfortune into a column that will arrive in your editor’s inbox mere hours after deadline. Sometimes, you even give him enough time to read the column before it goes to print.
Sometimes you don’t, though. Hi, George! Sorry if I didn’t leave you enough time to read it this week. Nipples!
In any event, I turned around and drove back home through the deluge so that I could perform my vehicular duties in the shelter of our garage. This was a great opportunity to show off my manly bona fides, because you get arrested if you try to show them off in public.
In all seriousness, this was an important moment. In the decade we’ve been together, Kara has never had occasion to witness me changing a tire. Changing wiper blades, sure. Diapers. Light bulbs. Underwear, occasionally. But there’s something about changing a tire that lends the act greater significance than it really deserves.
I think it boils down to the fact that being able to change a tire is basically the G.E.D. of masculinity. It won’t necessarily put you ahead of too many other guys, but without it, you have absolutely no credentials at all.
Kara held our son Evan and watched as I pulled out the jack and the tire-wrench-like thingy from the trunk.
“Don’t worry, this’ll only take me a few minutes,” I assured her, remembering the last time I’d changed a tire, which was in high school. I had more recently picked out a corsage for my prom date.
Things were going fine until I dug down deep enough to arrive at a giant plastic square with a tire-shaped bulge in the middle. Either there was a tire under that thing, or a tire-shaped alien had angered Jabba the Hutt.
But this piece of plastic was not interested in surrendering the bounty underneath. Yanking on its handles had no effect. It seemed cemented into place, and no amount of furious, frenzied tugging could get it to move. I was the guy yanking on the sword before King Arthur tried.
“You need to hurry, Babe,” Kara said as Evan began fidgeting and fussing.
“Sure, we’re getting there,” I lied. Desperate, I grabbed a crowbar off the workbench and stuck it under the corner of the plastic progress inhibitor. My work shirt drenched in sweat, I tried to swear under my breath, but a few of them slipped over it.
“No swearing in front of the baby,” Kara said, demonstrating her lack of experience around a Todd man working on a car. In general, there is less swearing when the cops show up at a Hell’s Angels party.
I put all my weight on the crowbar, knowing that I was probably about to break something important, but not caring. If I couldn’t change a tire, at least I could appear manly by breaking things.
Kara glanced into the trunk.
“Did you try unscrewing that piece in the middle that’s holding the tire cover down?” she asked.
Apparently, the spare tire was waiting for Queen Arthur.
You can put Mike Todd back in your trunk at email@example.com.