Wiper Linkage Chronicles Vol. IV: The Two Tires

Discussion in 'General Maverick/Comet' started by facelessnumber, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. facelessnumber

    facelessnumber Drew Pittman

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    Foreword:
    This has nothing to do with the wiper linkage. Parts 3 and 2 don't either, but Part 1 does...


    Chapter I

    If you’re reading this as a post from “facelessnumber” on mmb.maverick.to, then you can be assured I have survived. If not, well then tell my family and friends I love them, tell them I had an interesting life, no regrets, and I’ll see ‘em all on the other side.

    Now let me tell you about my day.

    I’m writing this from a comfortable seat in the first class cabin on a flight bound for Sacramento, California. My legs are stretched out, this chair fits my ass, and the flight attendant has yet to allow my non-styrofoam coffee mug go empty. I just finished a plate of fresh fruit, cheeses, sausage and turkey which was not at all vile, and I’m listening to the soothing sound of Pink Floyd in my earphones above the steady hum of the engines affixed to this magnificent Boeing 737 aircraft. Not bad. Yes, this is comfortable, and it should be relaxing, but I am not quite relaxed.

    I’ve never been in first class. Normally I wouldn’t call anything about a flight of this length comfortable. I’ve banked tens of thousands of frequent flyer miles, and I am no stranger to the 737, 757, Airbus A310, 320, Embraer or Canadair regional jets, DC10’s, or a multitude of other flying machines whose names I didn’t care to remember. “Magnificent” is not a word I would normally use to describe any of them. No, indeed every other time I’ve flown it was quite different. Not intolerable, but hardly comfortable. I’d call it a pleasant surprise if I scored a bag of peanuts or a pack of crackers. Normally this rather drinkable and apparently bottomless mug of coffee would either be scalding hot or barely warm. It would be contained in a vessel of foam, paper or some other equally smashable material, and I would be waving it around in desperate hopes that my outstretched arm would act as a sufficient shock absorber in the absence of a trustworthy place to put it down. With any luck I might avoid dousing myself in the crotch with it. Normally, my idea of a comfortable seat is simply an answer to my humble prayer that the two guys on either side of me won’t be as fat as I am, or maybe I’ll get a window or an aisle instead of sitting “bitch” in an unnatural posture between two other poor bastards who have no place to put their elbows. On a normal day I would be enjoying the novelty of this flight, but today is not normal.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ungrateful for my seemingly random upgrade and my accidental seat among the other half. Maybe it’s a sign that whatever otherworldly entity or earthbound spirit which has chosen me for its amusement today is done for a while. No hard feelings, right? Or maybe it’s nothing like that. I should know by now that sometimes sh!t just happens and not get superstitious about it, but I can’t seem to escape the little voice in my head telling me this is very wrong, that it just doesn’t make sense for me to be sitting here with my legs propped up in the first row next to these suits with nice haircuts. Not today. Given the way the rest of this day has gone, I can’t avoid thinking just maybe I’ve been put in a front row seat to better witness my own fiery demise.

    And don’t think it’s escaped me how utterly morbid and taboo it is for me to not only speak but actually write such thoughts, to tempt fate like this before I’ve even got the ground underneath my feet, but hey it makes for a better story, doesn’t it? That’s so often how I see life. I have taken a lot of senseless risks in my youth, done plenty of stupid things, and experienced all kinds of derailment in well-made plans caused by coincidences so impossible that I could only attribute them to cosmic sabotage. But I‘ve always come out alright. Sometimes better off, occasionally wiser, but always with a good story.

    So I’ll probably be okay. Maybe I’m not so confident that I can continue listening to Goodbye Blue Sky without skipping to the next track in my Floyd collection, but I believe I’ll make it. As much unlikely and outright bizarre bad luck as I’ve had before, I can’t deny that so far it’s been balanced with equally unlikely blessings. And the bad stuff has at least been interesting.

    Hm… Turbulence…

    Okay, so I started the day by going to work. Some of the information systems and conservation planning staff from the regional offices are having a week-long meeting in Sacramento. This annual meeting has traditionally taken place at headquarters in Memphis where I work, but it was decided last year that we should start moving it around so we could all get better acquainted with how each shop operates. Not a bad idea. My part of this whole thing is networking. I’ve got a presentation in the morning, in which I’m going to talk about server virtualization, backup systems, data storage and other geeky things that geeks like me find interesting. During that time everyone else will stare at the wall and try not to sleep.

    I was to fly out around 2:30, so I left the office at 11 to finish packing and to buy a few little travel essentials at Target. By travel essentials I mean nicotine patches. Yeah I figure now’s a good time to quit smoking. I’ll let you know how that works out. Right now I’ve got two of them slapped against my chest and I’m doing surprisingly well, all things considered.

    Right on schedule I set out in the Maverick, bound for the airport. The weather is comfortable, the windows are down and the stereo is off. The nostalgic harmony of dual glasspacks on a pushrod V8 at seventy miles an hour is all the music I could want. The clock on my dash isn’t sadistically laughing at me the way it usually does. I’m not early, but I’m far from late, and I’m in a generally fantastic mood right up until some inconspicuous piece of debris shows up in the road. There’s no time to avoid it. I tighten my grip on the steering wheel as I pass over a piece of angle iron that isn’t as little as it seemed, then I signal a lane change knowing there’s no way my left front tire could have escaped damage. Sound and vibration confirm it, getting louder as I change lanes a second time and make for the off ramp ahead.

    I stop the car, set the parking brake and bellow a few expletives, indulging in a brief explosion of rage, then my composure returns as quickly as it left and I calmly step outside to have a look. The tire is of course utterly ruined. I try not to think about the fact that it’s barely got a thousand miles on it as I observe the perforated sidewall next to the near perfect tread. The lip of my wheel has a tiny dent. Nobody will ever notice that, I try to convince myself. But I damn sure notice it.

    No time to think about all that now, I’ve got a plane to catch. I take two steps towards the trunk with the key in my hand when I remember I’ve taken the spare out to make room for my luggage. That’s when I call my boss, who by now has gone past the security checkpoint and started heading for the gate, and tell him I might not be joining him right away. I hang up and start going over my options. My garage is locked and my wife is out of town visiting family, so nobody’s going to be able to get me the spare. I’ve made some friends since moving to Memphis, but I still don’t have the network that I did two years ago and I certainly don’t know of anybody who can just bring me a wheel that fits within the next few minutes. That would have been a long shot even back home. Damnit, I’m only one exit away from the airport! How about if I get somebody to bring me there, then I’ll hand over my keys and a credit card and ask them to have it towed home? No, that’s asking a lot and I just don’t have that many local friends anymore, not the kind who owe me favors like that.

    Finally I call my counterpart at work, Jennifer, the other network administrator. She can take me to my house where I can get on the computer and make new flight arrangements, then we’ll go back to the car, I’ll change the tire and be on my way. I’m starting to wish I had called a cab in the first place, but I couldn’t be sure I’d have a ride home when I got back in town, and two cab rides would cost the company more than just five days worth of airport parking. My attempt to save a little money was going to end up being pretty expensive though, because now I’m going to miss a flight. Ah, but who could have predicted this? I probably would have just ended up right where I am now only I'd be standing next to a yellow Crown Vic with a flat tire. But the cab would’ve had a spare. I should’ve had a spare. This is my fault, so I’ll at least offer to pay for the wasted plane ticket. I sure as hell can’t afford it, but it’s the right thing to do.

    My mind is going in a million directions when the sight of Jennifer’s sensible new Honda brings everything back into focus. I open the silver door of her perfectly sane and practical car, settle down into its modern ergonomic interior, and we start heading for my house.

    As I mentioned she’s the other network administrator. The other admin. There are only two of us. And now we’re both out of the office, so of course this is when something breaks. It’s the link between the network at headquarters and our web servers, which are co-located at a telcom facility on an Internet backbone. The website isn’t down, but the developers can’t get to the servers, and this is our problem. Fortunately the nature of our work is such that we can do our job from just about anywhere, so we jump right into that problem as soon as we get to the computer at my house. It’s a bad port on a network switch. We log into the switch, configure the adjacent port to the right settings, then with a quick call to the helpdesk we’ve got someone moving the cable over to the new port. A minor delay. My boss calls. I’m not the only one who has experienced a minor delay. He’s just now boarding. Turns out I could have made it after all, had we just got the tire and went straight back. Instead I’m telling him I’ll have to catch the next one, offer to do it on my dime (which he mercifully declines) and I’ll see him in the morning.

    Finally I can use the computer to check flight schedules after wasting all this time. My original airline, Northwest, can’t get me there until 11pm the next day so they’re useless, but I’ve still got to call them and exchange my now voided round-trip ticket for a one-way ticket to use on the return trip, or else I’ve wasted even more money. With that done now I’ve got to find another airline which can get me to Sacramento before the next morning. After some searching, I find the only flight there is, and it leaves in two hours. Alright, let’s book that thing and get the hell out of here! “Processing Error,” says the website. So I call them. Their on-hold music seems to be club hits from the 80’s, early synth pop, and now is when I finally begin to crack. Instinctively I grasp for a cigarette, and I don’t have any. Oh, right, nicotine patch. Piece of ****! I reach into my shirt and slap a second one on, then the music stops and I’m talking to a ticket agent. Soon I’ve got a confirmation number. I scrawl it onto a scrap of paper, hang up the phone and bolt out the door. Put the spare in Jenn’s trunk, get a floor jack and let’s go!

    I’m back on the interstate, headed toward the airport again Same as before, only the mood is quite different. Traffic is thickening and the afternoon rush has begun. This is taking too long. At last we approach the exit before the airport, the one where I parked my car. Is my car even here anymore? There it is. No, wait, that’s not mine. And there’s another one. Both of them have flat tires too. Ah, there’s the Maverick! We pull in behind it, Jennifer pops her trunk, and I proceed to change my tire fast enough to make a NASCAR pit crew dizzy. I put my bad tire in Jenn’s car, thank her for the help and wave her off, then put the tools in my trunk. I slam it closed, step to my left and that’s when I notice my left rear tire is now flat.

    No time. There is simply no time for this. The tire is very low but it’s holding some air. Can I make it to a gas station, run inside for some change and put more air in it? What if there’s no air compressor? What if it’s broken? What if I don’t make it there before the tire blows and I’m stuck even further from the airport, even deeper into a part of town where cars get stolen daily? I can’t miss two flights today. Even the most lenient boss in the world would get pissed about that. And the nearest gas station, which may or may not have a working compressor, is still further from me than the airport. I remind myself this is the last flight I can take today. Even if I destroy the wheel, I need to get this car parked in a safe place and I need to get on that airplane. Much as it pains me to abuse my car, this is not the kind of bullsh!t to risk my career for.

    So away I go, and it doesn’t take long to finish off that second tire. The sound is horrible. My right foot barely cooperates with my brain’s directive, as if pleading for me to stop this madness. Sickening visions of a mangled quarter panel deluge my imagination as the stench of burning rubber turns my stomach and stings my eyes. The tire is reduced to smoking shreds by the time I park it, but I’m at the airport now and I still have time. A quick look tells me there’s no apparent damage to the sheetmetal, and there’s even a chance haven’t hurt the wheel. There’s hope, but I won’t know for sure until Friday. Off to check in for this flight.

    While I’m walking, I call Jennifer. She kindly agrees to take the first wheel in to a local Ford dealership which has my tire in stock, and she’ll meet me here when I get back. Mighty nice of her. I certainly do have friends here, and she’s one of them. As I walk across the parking garage to the airport lobby I can’t help but imagine what a sight I will be when I’m strolling over this same crosswalk at the end of the week rolling a wheel.

    At the Continental ticket counter, I punch in my confirmation number. The kiosk tells me I need assistance. And that’s just fine. It’s a computer. You might think that because of my close relationship with these future overlords of the earth that I’m a huge fan of technology, and you’d mostly be right. But it is because of my affinity with these things and my intimate knowledge of the spectacular ways in which they can fail, that I do not believe they belong in certain places. Especially when they fully replace the human beings whose tools they are supposed to be. I don’t want them counting my votes. I don’t want them driving my cars, checking my groceries, keeping tabs on me for the man, and I don’t want them right here in this place right now. Just as I’m getting ready tell all of these things to the kiosk in front of me using shorter but more colorful words, my “assistance” arrives. He has no idea who I am or how I came to be in possession of this invalid confirmation number, but at least he can call somebody. So he calls somebody. Turns out I’m right, the computer’s wrong, it happens sometimes, he’s sorry, here’s my boarding pass. I thank him and I head for the security checkpoint, where there are more computers.

    Somehow I make it through the checkpoint without being strip searched, shot or sent to Gitmo, and I walk to the gate. Boarding has just begun. At last I’m starting to feel a little relief, when I am shaken to full alert at the sound of my name being called out over the intercom. I approach the counter, no doubt looking quite wary and suspicious, and they explain that I’ve been upgraded. A lady hands me my new boarding pass and I thank her, then I stare down at it like I’ve just been handed my own pre-printed death certificate. For a moment some part of me genuinely questions whether I should board. But if I don’t I’ll never be able to explain why. Unless it really does crash, and then I’d probably be jailed until I come up with a good explanation of why I knew everybody on this plane was about to die – I mean, why I didn’t know.

    Yeah, better get on the plane...
     
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  2. CaptainComet

    CaptainComet Large Member

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    as always ... another good read.

    Glad to hear you made it. Have a much better week!

    Our cars are nose-heavy enough that I found out one morning that you can drive pretty well on a nearly flat right rear. I put a 2 inch slash in the sidewall due to some road junk that probably was kicked up by the front tire.I heard it hit the back of the car hard and CLANG. It was about four miles later that I heard the tire start singing, so I slowed down to check it out. As the car got down to about 40 mph, the right rear corner dropped. Being that there were no shoulders on this desolate road, I got back on the gas, and the car picked right back up, like a boat coming up onto plane. Drove it about another mile this way, until I got it to a parking lot.

    Similar to you, the tire had just a few hundred miles on it. I owned it less than a month. Still had nubbies on the tread. :mad:

    Unlike you, I had a good spare and even made to work on time. Didn't mess up the nice clothes I was wearing. All in all, fairly lucky that day. :thumbs2:
     
  3. Mavaholic

    Mavaholic Growing older but not up! Supporting Member

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    All I can say is Wow!!!
     
  4. facelessnumber

    facelessnumber Drew Pittman

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    Just in case anyone's biting their nails in suspense, this is a couple of weeks old. Captain, thanks for wishing me a good week, it was a good week. Afterwards it was kind of a living hell at work though. The email servers got hacked while I was gone and last weekend I ended up at the office from Friday night to Monday morning, pausing only for 12 hours of sleep on Saturday, basically doing some autopsy/forensics type work that had to be done with the servers offline... Really all that stuff's a whole other story though, but probably not the stuff for a car forum. I actually lost five pounds from the crazy sleep patterns and the stress since I got back from that trip.

    Oh, but I haven't smoked!

    And the car... The car is fine...
     
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  5. Russell

    Russell Orejano Supporting Member

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    wow!....last time I had a flat on the mav, had to disguise myself as a goiter, finally got a ride with a very, very large woman....just hung on to her neck...have you recently read ' Confederacy of Dunces', by John Kennedy Toole?.....that'll fix yer wagon....I enjoyed your article..
     

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