Monday, April 18, 2011

Small Indignities And Tiny Redemptions

I got up this morning with the simple aim of changing a tire on the minivan. My ego took a body shot early in the process when I realized I didn't even know where the spare tire was kept. After reluctantly consulting the owner's manual, I discovered the spare, the lug wrench, and the jack handle. There were no instructions on how to get the jack out. I could see it, but it was as though it was welded in place, and I saw no way of getting it out of there without destroying the plastic trim that kept it all neatly hidden from view under normal operating conditions. I'm easily frustrated. I'm not a handy man, truth be told. I do know when to walk away. I did so before giving in to the impulse to tear the plastic trim off in an infantile rage. I thought about the need to be patient and adult. I tried visualizing Mr. Miyagi, but he just looked disappointed.

Plan B: take the jack from my compact Toyota and use that. Good thinking! I search for the recommended jacking point. Is that it? Maybe.... go with that. But it bothers me that I don't know instinctively, and I am diminshed as my clumsy hands fumble with the mini-jack. Eventually the van's body begins to rise. My knees hurt, my eyes are watering, nose running- the wind is cold, and I would like to go back to bed. This is a small thing, shouldn't even qualify as a chore. I've done this dozens of times.

The driveway is loose sand and gravel. The jack slowly and mockingly tips over...three times. After much incongruous swearing and muttering, I realize I am a member of AAA and I pay an annual fee for emergency roadside service. I surrender, ashamed, and call them.

A young man arrives in a flat bed truck. I meet him outside. Avoiding eye contact, I explain my dilemna. He's ready to dive in and change the tire, but instead I show him the jack-frozen-in-place. He explains that all I have to do is lower the jack a little to get it free. Raising the jack a couple of inches is what keeps it from banging around in the stowage. Ohh, now I see! I put the jack in place on the ground and start to crank it up, telling him how the smaller one kept tipping over.

"Did you have the emergency break on?"
No. Ohh, now I see!

So I set about changing the tire myself, using his tools, which are much better than the standard toys that come with the car. He says, this is a first, and I confess that my labor is an even exchange for his teaching - kind of, without saying that exactly. In the end we shake hands. He drives off with a honk of his horn. I walk up the driveway, eyes level, hands a little stronger.


  1. Practical demonstrations ... so valuable, but so little valued by so-called educationalists who only seem to see the academic as worthy of note, of rewarding.

  2. True, Sandra. Patience is a requirement for both parties. Most of my life I've lacked the patience, and so did my early teachers. That can cause one to lose interest in learning real quick. I feel a stirring in myself to learn how to do more.

  3. Sometime realisation comes SO late - I only realised I actually had a brain when in my fifties, only learned I could write fiction in my sixties. I rue the wasted years but no doubt they contributed ... content?
    You must have learnt a lot of patience to do the job you do.


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