It was a Tuesday, the same day of the week that brought us 9/11 and Tuesdays with Morrie.
My car registration was due that day, but I hadn’t smogged it yet, because the check engine light was on. This happens every year—nothing’s really wrong, it’s just a glitch. I unhooked the battery and drove it around for two weeks to reset the computer.
First thing that morning, I took my car to the nearest shop for the smog check.
The guys there said that the light came on during the test and it failed. They wanted $80 to test it and see what was wrong. Not to fix it, just to see what it might be, and see if it even could be fixed.
I took my car home, because they were clearly ripping me off, and because my wife had to get the baby to the mall for her 1-year-old pictures.
Five minutes after she leaves home, she calls me. Her van got a flat tire.
I pile the kids into my car—which has broken air conditioning—and go out to the parking lot where she’s with the van.
I take out the spare, jack up the van, and take off four of the five nuts on the flat tire. The last one, though, is smaller than the rest, and won’t budge. I try for a while before giving up, because I’m just starting to strip the nut.
We need help, so we call my wife’s mom, because she has a AAA membership. My mother-in-law is kind enough to drop what she’s doing and come out to wait for the truck with us.
This is late in an August morning. It’s hot. The kids are all sitting under the shade of one small tree.
The truck shows up. The guy tries to take off the nut. He can’t. He says we’ll need a tow truck to take it to a shop.
We wait for the tow truck.
The tow truck guy shows up and tries to get the nut off. He can’t. He chains up the van and we go to the place where we do all of our tire work. Grandma goes back to her stuff and my wife takes the kids home.
The tire place tries everything they have…and can’t get the nut off. The manager says I need to take it to a larger shop so they can drill it off. I point out that I can’t take it anywhere, because it has a flat tire. That’s why we’re here.
The manager says someone put the wrong nut on, and did it too tightly. I explain that they must have done this, because we do all of our tire work here. He stares at the tire and says they’ll try something else.
I have to leave to work for about an hour on one of my jobs, so my wife comes to check on the van.
While I’m at my appointment, my wife texts to say that the shop is having our van towed to a larger shop to have the nut drilled off.
So I take my car—which still has the check engine light on and needs a smog check—to another shop, one that we trust, but which is farther away.
They turn off the light but say I need to drive the car for a week to reset the computer. I say that the registration is due today. They suggest driving a lot right now, and that they’re open for a few more hours.
So I get on I-15 and drive 40 miles out to the Valley of Fire.
While I’m driving, my wife texts to say that a tow truck has finally come to take the van. She has waited for two and a half hours.
They take her van to the same shop I’d just left.
They look at her tire and say that it will take longer to do than they have time left for that day. They’ll have to do it in the morning.
She decides to wait there for me, since I’ll be returning soon. I drive a bunch more and go back to the shop.
They test my car again. The computer still hasn’t been reset.
By now it was getting dark. Totally frustrated and dejected, we head home together, having wasted an entire day running around in the heat and getting absolutely nothing done. One vehicle was physically undrivable, the other was now not legally drivable.
The next day, though, things worked out: they fixed her van right up, and I was able to take some computer resting directions from online and drive my car so that it would be ready. These directions were laughably odd and specific (“Accelerate to exactly 60 mph and hold steady for five minutes. Then decelerate to a full stop without braking.” How does one legally do this? I had to go way out onto a highway and then coast uphill on a shoulder to get it right. But then my car passed smog and got registered.)
The tire shop paid for all the towing and work on the van.
Just one of life’s insane little frustrations, but it makes you realize how good we have it overall that such petty things form most of the hard times in our lives. Would that all our adversity were so easily solved, and so quickly.