The Long and Winding Tale:
Karen Zipdrive Takes Her Car in to Get the Wheels Rotated
I bought new tires last year, and the retailer sent me an e-mail recently to remind me I was way overdue for a tire rotation.
I'd already noticed some road noise while I drove, and the final straw came when Big Sis's partner, My Sharona, who always drives my car when I'm in Austin said, "Sounds like tire cupping to me."
Well, I'm a dyke but not THAT much of a dyke, so I dared not ask what tire cupping meant, lest she explain it while my eyes and brain glazed over.
So, I thought today was a good day to take Tina Turner (my car) in for a shoe-swap.
After waiting a few minutes, the tire guy came toward me, looking like a physician who just discovered I have a brain tumor.
"Ma'am," he said gently, "I'd like you to take a look at something, please."
He took me out to the tire-busting bay and showed me one of my wheels, spinning on some kind of gizmo.
"See ma'am, you've got the start of cupping here on the tire, but worst of all your rim is bent up pretty bad. Do you drive this car kinda hard?"
"Umm, I drive vigorously."
"What do you mean by vigorously, ma'am?"
"Well, I go fast and take turns rather sharply."
"Do you go over pot-holes and railroad tracks kinda fast, ma'am?"
"Well, there ya have it," the young man said.
I asked him to just put everything back the way it was so I could drive home and think it over without feeling rushed into making an expensive decision.
Before I could get away, his concerned looking co-worker appeared and mumbled something to him. It seems another wheel was even more bent.
They broke the news to me and I said, "Screw it. Give me an estimate on four new wheels. But I have no plans to drive to any Southside, Westside or Eastside establishments, so there's no need for spinners, danglers, whistlers or anything attention-grabbing. And I will pay no more then $100 per wheel."
"Well, ma'am, you have a large wheel, but we can put you in these for only $125 a wheel."
I stood up straight, and in my best Ethel Merman-project-it-to-the-rafters voice I said, "Look, I know I am the perfect target for a man-store like this to take advantage of because I'm old, no longer attractive to men under 70 and might look like I can afford whatever price you quote, but please, let's skip the sucker-the- old-broad route and just knock that price down to $100 each. Okay, young man?"
People started giggling and leaning in to hear his reply.
He said, "Yes ma'am...but I'll have to ask the manager if I can do that for you."
"Oh, the "get the manager" trick, I saw this on Sixty Minutes," I said.
By then the whole room was snickering, even the employees.
The kid returned and said, in a stage voice of his own, "I'll be very happy to give you those wheels at your price, ma'am," as he started to peck out the bill of sale on his computer.
I watched as he typed:
4 Godzilla Team 5000 chrome wheels @ $100. ea $400.
4 Valve stems, chrome: @ $8 ea $32.
4 Lug Nuts, Chroma-Dynamic Lock-o-matic @ $8 ea $32.
4 Heavy Duty Team Magnesium Racing Valve stem caps @ $4 ea $16.
4 Environmental Protection Agency Federal Law Disposal Fee (wheels): @ $25 $100.
4 Environmental Protection Agency Federal Law Disposal Fee (lug nuts, etc.) @$2 $8
I got pop-eyed and said, "No, No, No, stop!
"When I said $100 each, I meant I'd pay $400, plus tax and that's it. Take all that other stuff off there."
He wanted to quibble, but I interroupted and told him anything they removed and replaced had to be boxed up and placed in my trunk-- wheels, lug nuts, valve stems and all.
By then, I could tell the employees all wanted me out of there because I was making the other customers get ideas.
So I got my deal and sped off. No more road noise. Yay!
Please allow me to stray for a moment.
As an ongoing art project, I have taken dozens of hubcaps, painted them, festooned them with plastic saints and turned them into religious icons I call, "Holy Rollers."
I get my hubcaps at this used tire store, where I'm pretty certain only the top 5 percent of their employees were actually born in America.
But they are nice cholos and they'll change a flat tire for only $4.
As a treat, I took my bent Acura wheels to them, but before I could give them to them as a gift, they said, "The most we can give you is like $7 a piece because things are so slow right now."
So the co-manager, Marcos, said, "Ma'am if you take these to the recycling center you can get a lot more, like maybe fifty bucks because they're heavy aluminum."
I said, "Where is that?"
He described an area close to the seedy side of downtown that no female had been within 5 miles of in centuries.
"Man, I ain't driving down there," I said.
He leaned his tire-greased belly toward my open window and said, "Come on, I'll show you where it is, you drive."
So off we went, to a warehouse stacked to the dingy rafters with scrap metals of every ilk. We placed the wheels on a giant scale, I showed my ID to the man in the cage and he gave me a slip of paper with mumbo jumbo printed on it.
From there we went to the teller cage, where another guy handed me $57.62 in cash.
I split it 60/40 with Marcos and we drove back to the tire shop.
Turns out he's a real nice guy who got all the way to the 11th grade at Jefferson High.
He looks like the baddest Mexican Bandito Motorcycle gang member that Central Casting has ever hired. He's shaved bald, had a scarred eyebrow, broken nose and horrific scars on his arms he told me he got from radiator and tire explosions.
But he does house painting, yard work, dead animal removal, hole digging, car detailing, junk removal... just about any chore you can think of that causes excess sweat and dirty, banged up hands that no woman over 50 should have to even consider doing.
And he thinks I'm fancy and rich because my car is shiny and made in this century and I speak precise English, so he's too cowed to think I'd ever sleep with him in a bazillion years. So he's no Rico Suave, thank God.
Anyway, I finally have the last puzzle piece my life was missing--my own personal cholo. I will start him out on easy, outdoor stuff like trimming branches and hauling them elsewhere, but I have great hopes he'll soon graduate to ripping out carpeting and other horrid interior tasks.
In the process of our recycling caper today, I realized how hard Mexican Americans like Marcos work for a buck, and how great I have it as a white woman with a decent salary and a house and car.
Racist assholes who say Mexicans are lazy should have to spend a week tire-busting at C&D Tire company, where the pay is lousy and there are zero benefits, especially not health insurance. Marcos has been there 17 years. He's 42 now.
When people will do this kind of back breaking, filthy hard labor and light up when you bring them an ice cold soda, it makes me feel guilty that I never feel like I have to cow-tow to people I think are "better than me," and a soda is never anything to light up about.
I think of the couple of times I've spent the equivalent of his weekly salary on a nice dinner, and it makes me feel like a Capitalist pig.
So, I've decided I'll pay my new cholo a fair wage, drop off a barbecue sandwich once in a while at the tire shop (he works 7 days a week) and make a habit of buying a big Coke for him whenever I'm in the neighborhood.
When I finally got home from My Tire & Wheel Adventures, I found an e-mail from my brother that said my father had died earlier that morning. We weren't close and I won't be attending his funeral due to the Jerry Springer-esque nature of his wife and her family, so please don't think I'm overwrought or traumatized.
He was 90-years-old and had been in a coma for months, so it was hardly unexpected.
It was just one more thing to think about on this humid, cloudy and odd night.
I told my sister I was worried a bit that my father would rush to bother my mother in Heaven, but then she reminded me that dad may not have been deployed to that venue. "Hmmm," I thought.
Then she summed the whole situation up perfectly:
"The biggest thing he left me was three days of paid bereavement leave."
We laughed really hard at that.
Dad would have, too. He was a bastard, but a funny bastard.
Good night, all.