On Tuesday, with the laundry piling up and library books due that day, I piled all the kids in the van and made a trip to the library and to Kmart for detergent. As I was unloading the kids back at home, Elijah pointed out that one of the tires on the van was flat. As I was standing there dismayed at the thought that I had a flat tire and wondering how it had happened, when one of my neighbors came by and mentioned he had seen it that morning. Doh! I had been driving with a flat tire and not even noticed1.
So naturally I just curled up in a ball in the bedroom and hid until the problem went away on its own.
I only wanted to do that.
Instead I made a brief and unsuccessful attempt to find2 the Fix-A-Flat that Ken insisted he bought for the van. When that didn't work, I was tempted to just leave the tire flat until such a time as Ken would be free to deal with it. But Wednesday evenings are my Spanish class, and I was not quite prepared to miss that. So instead I listened to the instructions that Ken gave me on how to deal with it.
Wednesday morning I asked God for a quick, easy, and cheap repair for the tire. Later that morning I finally dragged all the kids out to the van, used the Fix-a-Flat3 that Ken kept for his own car on the flat tire - it got it about halfway inflated - and drove about two blocks to the place Ken had mentioned. The guy there said he doesn't repair tires, but he kindly put air in the tire for me. He mentioned that I had Les Schwab tires4 (which was news to me) and directed me to a Les Schwab a mile or two down the same road.
I got there and the lady took my name and car info and such and then was clearly done.
"Oh, assuming it's repairable, how much will it probably cost?" I asked.
"Do you have Les Schwab tires?" she said.
"Umm. I think so? I don't really know." I answered.
"Well, if you do, it will be free. Otherwise it's twelve sixty-six."
"Ok." I said and went to sit down with the kids5.
A little while later a mechanic came over and informed me that there was a nail in the tire and it was unrepairable. He also seemed to be under the impression that I should have noticed a vibration of some sort at some point in time6. I think I tried to mumble "Not that I noticed"; it was difficult to come up with words on the spot that would convey the idea that this vibration of which he speaks is probably entirely real, but that he was after all, talking to someone who had been driving around on a flat tire without noticing. Then he offered to look for a used tire which would fit it, which he insisted he would be able to give me for free. "Ok", I said, which statement I think should win awards for Understatement of the Year. I was almost deliriously happy with this offer.
Half an hour after I had walked into the Les Schwab, I walked back out with a new (used) tire7, total cost to me: $0.008.
Answered prayer: Check.
Go Les Schwab9!
1. It's not exactly that I'm unobservant. It's that I can't tell the difference between "driving feels rough because I have a flat tire" and "driving feels rough because the pavement has not been sanded down to atomic-level smoothness". Just like I can't tell the difference between "my engine is making noises that indicate it will explode if I do not get it to a mechanic within the next 0.3 seconds" and "my engine is making noises that are perfectly normal for any vehicle that has been in existence longer than 1 year". This is why I tend to just ignore anything my vehicle does, so long as it is still running. Much to the dismay of my husband.
2. A search that was made more difficult because I still haven't actually offloaded all those bags of clothes that I decluttered yet; most of them are piled up in the back of the van, on top of where the Fix-A-Flat would be, if I had it.
3. It wasn't called Fix-a-Flat. It was called Tire Jack, I believe. Go Tire Jack!
4. This was news to me. Ken bought the tires used from someplace. It may have even been from Les Scwab directly, although he seemed a little surprised when I told him this whole thing, so who knows.
5. The second I started to turn away, I wanted to turn back and ask "You did mean $12.66 and not $1266.00, right?", but I didn't do it. And as I was sitting there later, sense came over me and I was glad I had not asked such a stupid question. Because: (a) I know tires cost somewhere in the $50-$200 range, and no one is going to pay over a thousand to repair something they can buy new for a tenth the price. (b) If a car place is considering doing work that is worth that much, they sure don't let you go with just your name, as the lady did for me. They will take your address and phone number so they can hunt you down if you don't pay, and they will look at you all serious-like when describing the problem because that is how they convey that you are about to provide half their profit for the year. and (c) They don't offer thousand-dollar repair jobs as a free courtesy for people who have previously bought something from them.
6. I couldn't exactly understand what the vibration thing was about; the guy had an accent. I think he was not saying that I should have noticed the flat tire, rather some other vibration, but I could be wrong. The "There's a nail; it's unrepairable" part came through quite clearly, as well as the subsequent offer of a replacement used tire.
7. I did have just enough savvy to look at the treads on the tire they gave me before driving off. They were, if anything, slightly better than the other tire on that side, so I was happy.
8. Well, ok, with the price of gas these days, I probably spent that $12.66 just driving the four mile round trip to Les Schwab. But still.
9. My sister-in-law informed me that Les Schwab is only on the West Coast. Haha all you non-West-Coast suckers! On the other hand, another friend informed me that other, cheaper tire places also offer this "buy our tires and we will repair them for free" deal. Like America's Tire. So maybe it's more common than that. Who knew? On the gripping hand, I don't know if other places also give out used tire replacements for free.