Shortly after I sent my blog from yesterday, I was heading back down the road in the SUV with the family and the two dogs. Feeling a little better after taking some cold medication, I sneezed and then I heard a clunking sound in the right rear side of the vehicle. Was that an echo from my sneeze or did I run over something?
Now one of the advantages to having a nice exotic foreign import car is the really cool advanced notification features that come on when you have a problem. One of the bad things is that there is no room for a spare tire and parts are not easy to find, especially when you are in the middle of the high desert. The nearest dealership is at least 100 miles away. Anyway, just when I thought that the noise was nothing, the panel popped up with a beeping noise and that wonderful little message popped up on the heads up display – -“Warning, Tire Malfunction.” Then just to really emphasize the point, the really smart display panel pops up showing me all four tires. The one impacted tire, with an air pressure value in red shows 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24…..
Now they say you do not need a spare because apparently you can drive on the rims at a certain rate of speed to get to safety. I do not know about you, but I do not believe that for a second. I think they mean in normal conditions, with a typical flat. However, a tire with giant gash in it with 115 degree temperature and at least 220 degree pavement? Nope, that tire is melting fast and super cool rim or no, I have to pull over and fast. Luckily, there is an off ramp.
Now I will not tell you where I was at. I want to protect the innocent people that inhabit this area. I do not want to pass any judgement, especially after my experience. Let’s just say that there were not too many Mercedes Benz G class SUVs in the area. This was not exactly the place you want to hang out on a Sunday afternoon. Hypothetically my road side assistance is suppose to help me in situations like this. I called the number, it asked me for my cell. I typed it in, I get a txt with a message to a link. I click on the link and I need to download an app. There is barely an internet connection, and I do not remember my policy number because I am in my car, not at home. So I give up on that, hit the super call Germany button on the dash, but unfortunately I am cheap skate and that was one of the bills I sacrificed a few months ago in my 30 days of spending reduction habit. Damn it.
So my wife and I start cold calling tire repair shops. Only about 1/3 of them are open. The ones that are break out laughing when we tell them what vehicle we need tires for. You want 20 inch tires on a car? Ha! Hey George, listen to what this lady wants! So setting my family up in a parking lot, I start heading down the street trying to find stores that have tires. Funny thing, there are several. I suddenly got this idea, what if these guys do this on purpose? Set out tack strips, blow tires 5 miles before their exit and voila, clients galore! Anyway, 4th tire store and no luck. I pulled my limping vehicle into this old shack that said something like, Lucky 4 U Tire. A really scrawny black kid was the only one manning the shop. I was in a bad mood, with a bad attitude. Here I am stuck in the middle of now where, no tire shops, no mechanics. The only place to stay the night would be this roadside place that looks eerily close to that bar in Dusk til Dawn. Literally, I kid you not, the no was flashing in and out on the vacancy sigh. But hey! They have color TV! Rock On, Right?
One look at my wife and I knew that this would NEVER be an option. Anyway, the little kid looked at me and said, out here with your family and the tire blows. Man you are screwed. Wow. However, he has a tire! Unbelievable, one that will fit. He will put it on for me even. This kid that I was very suspicious of, suddenly became my hero. However, my ego kicked in. You see the tire was not quite the right size. It was a made for a Corvette, with wide rims but low narrow sidewalls. It would fit but it was only a temporary solution. So I thanked the kid, but said no thanks. I got back in my car and did what any good, experienced sales person would do. Open up the freaking yellow pages at page 1 and start dialing for dollars, I mean tires. After 20, 30 calls, I found one! He said he had a set of four that would fit, they were used, but they would work. You see, an all wheel drive car has a transmission that needs to have balance. If you put imbalanced tires on them, you could wreck the transmission. It would not happen right away, but it is not recommended at all. So I could replace with all four and be totally comfortable with that. I would have four semi used tires that all matched. I got google maps to finally work, 6 miles away, I could make it, right? The scrawny kid told me no way man, you are not going to make it. However, he obliged me. He filled it with air, shaking his head at me. He offered to replace the tire with the one he had for like 50 bucks, but I being the prideful one that I am decided to race on down the road and make it the 6 miles.
Well we made it 4 miles. By this time the rubber melted away on the side walls and we were at bare rim. We also found ourselves in an area some people might describe as a ghetto. Now, it was not really a ghetto but it definitely did not look like a place where I wanted to be stranded. After 10 phone calls, I found a tow truck. He was on his way, I was feeling better. Now what to do with the 6 family members and 2 dogs? Across the highway was an old beat up restaurant that had moved into an old Del Taco by the looks of it. The drive thru window was boarded up, decorated in some local graffiti. I got my wife, family and dogs over to the restaurant. I ran back over to wait for the tow truck. That is when I got taught a little life lesson, was given a healthy dose of humility, and realized just how awesome people still are. There is hope for this world yet.
First off the people in the restaurant were totally amazing. They set my family up, took care of them, fed them (and the dogs). The totally watched over everyone while I was gone. The tow truck driver was great as well. A great man, with a family of his own, that had this ability to calm any stressed soul out. This guy should open up a practice as a therapist. After spending 20 minutes in his air conditioned cab, and after he talked me down from a near panic state I felt like I could take on the world. That was until I saw the “tire shop” he was taking me to. He said, are you sure man? I hear this is a pretty rough place? You cannot find tires anywhere else? Anyway, he pulled me up to the place. Helped me off load the SUV and he hung out there for a while to make sure I was good. So there I was standing in front of the “tire shop” hoping like hell that I did not just make a huge mistake.
The man that came out to greet me had several tattoos across his face giving me a message in a language that I could not read. I am not a gang expert, nor I can read the symbols frequently used, but I think I knew this one. I tried to adopt my “every thing is cool” stance that I learned in high school and started my negotiation in earnest. He went back into the shop and he finally came back. He apologized profusely, said he would have to charge 220. He new that was steep, and I agreed. I knew he had me over a barrel. When he saw the look on my face, he said that is for ALL FOUR tires, I said, oh, that is not the price per tire? He said, nah man I would not do that to you. Stuck out here with your family like that, dude those tires are used. 220 is fair. He got his buddy to help. Now they had a lot going on. People were coming and going like crazy, but all of a sudden these two guys dropped everything and jumped on “fixing my shit” as they described.
One of them was teasing me, you have triple A man? I said no. He said, oh you bought that Mercedes rich guy service, right? I nodded. He said, Triple A is the best man. Only costs 50 bucks, they never let me down. He took at look at my car, then at me and said you can afford it. Out here with your family, middle of no where and you are too cheap to buy triple A? He laughed as a spun the last tire off the axle. At any rate, these guys took care of me quick. Changed the tires, came in under budget. They were awesome, dropped everything, got me up and running. People are amazing when given the chance to serve. I gave them both some cash, they both gave me a hug goodbye, as I pulled out of the gravel road they were singing a song with some of their buddies jumping in.
I found my family happy, well taken care of and stuffed on hamburgers and cold soda. We hit the road, with four used tires and heading down the long desert highway. We came into this town broken, and feeling miserable we left with our hopes restored and the feeling that we have many more members of the human family right there with us.