Something was wrong with my carís engine. Thatís what I thought, anyway, when I heard the rumbling that seemed to be coming from beneath the hood as I turned onto the street where the post office is located. I got out of the car and headed for the box with my mail, but I took a backward glance and saw that the right rear tire was flat.
There hadnít been a blowout or any sign while I was driving that told me this was the source of the noise. Itís been a long time since Iíve had a flat tire, but my first thought was that I knew how to use the jack and I could put on the compact spare and get myself to the gas station where I always go. No problem, right? That was my first thought.
My second thought was that I pay the auto club a hundred dollars a year for their highest rated membership, and I have aches and pains all up and down my body that would be aggravated by trying to change a tire, and that Iím the least mechanically adept person I know and if there was a way to do it wrong Iíd find it. And also, I wasnít out on a deserted highway where no one could see me doing it wrong. I was in the middle of town, in a safe place, where the tow truck driver could easily find me.
Thatís a lot of second thoughts, but they paid off. I called the auto club, they sent the tow truck, and in half an hour I was on my way to get the tire repaired at the gas station where I always go. That, it turns out, was a mistake. I was born in the era of the ďserviceĒ station. I can even remember when three or four guys in uniforms would take care of your car when you pulled up to the pump. I was a wee bairn then, without a driverís license, but I remember it.
They donít do anything mechanical at my station, except cook burritos in their microwave. Theyíre as useless as I am. I drove through the station to make sure, then drove on, looking for a place to get my tire repaired. The tow truck driver had reminded me that I could go about 50 miles on the compact spare, and for a while it seemed Iíd hit that mark and have to find out what happened after I passed it. For some reason Loganís Run flashed through my mind.
Well, I know of one full service station still operating in Santa Rosa. There may be more, I donít know, but I went back to the place I used to go before I started pumping my own gas. I drove up to the garage area and asked if it were possible to get a tire repaired. In another half hour I was happily on my way. What could have been an all day ordeal had cost me maybe an hour and a half of my valuable time. It would have been less than that if I hadnít wandered all over town before landing at Keith and Donís 76 station.