As the ancient Stoic philosophers said, in adversity there is opportunity. I recently experienced some true adversity (by which I mean the first-world, I-may-have-broken-a-nail type of adversity), and the opportunity I found therein will be shared with you, my dear reader, today.
The Sky is Falling!
Last Saturday morning, I tossed some tools into my car and headed out at the leisurely hour of 10:30 to go do some work on a side job. The customer lived a half-mile from me, the job was looking like it would be fairly easy and lucrative, and that, combined with a relatively good night’s sleep, had me in a happy place as I pulled up in front of their house.
I made some quick pleasantries with the customer at their front door, then turned back to the car to gather my tools. To my dismay, one of my tires was completely flat.
Oh, The Horror!
Since I was so close to home, and since I didn’t want to be loudly swearing at my car in front of this nice customer, I decided to limp it back to my driveway to make the repairs. After all, I am Captain DIY, a mere flat tire can’t stop me! (I hope)
I gingerly babied the car back home, wincing over every minor ding in the road as I pictured the smallest pebble driving deep gouges into my rim. As I inched into the driveway, to the slightly tepid confusion of the Headquarters’ inhabitants, I formulated my repair plan.
Time to Get Down to Business
I knew I had a decent car jack buried somewhere deep in the bowels of my woefully under-organized garage, and fortunately it was easy to unearth. Unfortunately, I had parked in such a way that I was unable to get enough height with the jack to actually get the offending tire off of the ground. Nothing quite like a well-placed divot to ruin everything.
At this point I remembered one of the key tricks to changing a tire: always loosen the lug nuts before you get the tire off of the ground, or else you will be fighting against yourself as the tire spins with every push of the lug wrench. Off I went to the trunk to find the lug wrench that every car has stashed away somewhere.
I found the jack that came with the car, but the accompanying lug wrench was nowhere to be found. I suppose that’s what I get for buying used (still worth it!). No problem, I’ll just head back into the abyss of my garage and grab my socket wrench set.
I found my socket wrenches no problem, put the proper size socket on, and, with the help of a piece of pipe on the handle (not recommended, by the way) I was able to break the grip of the lug nuts on my wheel.
Then it hit me.
If this had happened anywhere other than within limping distance of my house, I would have been in a tough spot.
First of all, I couldn’t wrest the jack free from its clever storage area in the car without the help of my trusty pliers. Second of all, there was no lug wrench! My potentially roadside tire swap would have been dead in the water, which means that I have been lugging around 30-40 pounds of deadweight for the last couple of years for no reason other than fraudulent piece of mind.
In other words, my failure to check these things before I actually needed them could have resulted in my family being stranded on the side of the road with a useless spare staring us in the face.
Just Call Me Private
“No big deal,” Mrs. DIY calmly assured me. “We have AAA, it wouldn’t really be that terrible.” Such naiveté.
Having to wait on the side of the road for what could easily be several hours for someone to come rescue us while the kids eat anything remotely edible within a 20 foot radius of the car not only sounds nightmarish, it would severely discredit someone known worldwide (or at least neighborhood-wide) as Captain DIY. In fact, I would be forced to hang up my Captain’s hat in shame and give myself the demotion I deserved.
The point of all of this nonsense, the whole reason I thought this ridiculous tangent was worth keyboard wear and tear, is simple: check your stuff before you wreck yourself. Is that how it goes?
Basically, you can save yourself a whole lot of headache by doing a quick survey of your car right now. Seriously. As soon as you’re done reading this, head out to your car and do a once-over.
Check your tire pressure. Check your oil (haven’t gotten to that article yet, but it’s coming!). Try to find your car jack and lug wrench, and see if you can actually get them out.
These are incredibly simple things to do, and yet almost nobody does them, myself included. Sure, you might have a back-up plan, or know a tow truck driver, but a little self-sufficiency can go a long way. Not only could you save yourself a lot of time and money, but the satisfaction that comes from fixing a problem by yourself can be tremendous.