Catastrophic Failure

Those are two words you don’t ever want to have to deal with, especially on a busy Los Angeles freeway during morning rush hour.

I was just about to merge from one freeway onto another when my tire blew. It made a sound like an exploding balloon if that balloon was made out of a lot of rubber. There was an exit right there if I could make it. I popped my hazards on, swerved over to the right and snuggled between two semi trucks. I had to cut off the rear semi to make it. He nearly hit me, but instead, he honked at me with that loud, death-signalling, semi-truck horn that means all of the business is happening behind you and it’s all bad business. The worst kind of business.

I always wondered why BMW would put the hazard indicator button right below the damn gear shift where my dog can and does step on it continually, until my tire blew on the freeway. Then the idiotic placement made perfect sense:

Right there in the goddamn middle. image from
Window controls, HAZARD, door lock button, window controls. What’s the problem?
image from

I made the exit, my car wobbling, and waited for the absurdly interminable light at the off ramp to change. I’ve only owned this car for a few months and it never occurred to me to preemptively make sure there was a spare tire and accoutrements. I checked the trunk and nestled under a mat, surrounding the world’s largest Bundt cake pan, there was a tire. A full-sized one at that. Phew. If my car ever overheats, I’m baking a cake in my spare tire holder.

mmm cake.
mmm cake.

Now, I’m a girl, but I’m not a super girlie girl. I can and have changed a tire. Today, I’m wearing Converse all stars (per usual) all caked in mud (yes, “mud”) from the dog park, jean shorts, and a basic striped Where’s Waldo? shirt. Perfectly acceptable attire for tire changing. There is nothing pink about me today with the exception of the pink spray paint that’s coating my hands from spray painting yet another piece of furniture last night that didn’t come off in the shower. It turns out, spray paint is difficult to get off of one’s person.

mmm watermelon.
mmm watermelon pink.

Yet, at the same time, I would rather not have to go to work covered in axle grease and I’m also a AAA member because you just never know when you’ll find yourself dead at the side of the road. Why change a tire yourself like a chump when, with one phone call, someone with better tools will change it for you?

“Where are you?” Well, that’s an excellent question and one that, somehow, we never think to have an answer to before we pick up the phone. Well, I’m on Busted Tire Road off the Fucked Freeway on a side street called Wait Here. “Do you know which city?” Um, no. I tell her I’m in The Valley, which in southern California, is about as specific as someone in Asia saying, come find me; I’m in China. I took several guesses followed by question marks instead of periods as to which specific part of Los Angeles I might be in like I was on a quiz show and the nice lady on the other end of the phone actually knew the answer, which she didn’t.

Somehow, through the marvels of modern technology, she pinpointed my location on Wait Here Street at the corner of Busted Tire Road. Someone will be there in less than a half an hour. Yay! He was there in twenty minutes. I was seriously impressed by the limited amount of time in which he managed to find me somewhere unspecific in The Valley. Apparently, AAA has their shit entirely together. Good for them.

Mr. Fixit took the tire off, and when I saw the extent of the damage, my heart skipped a beat. It was bad. It was really, really bad. While I was waiting for Mr. Fixit to arrive, a million thoughts ran through my head about leprechauns and unicorns, and most pertinently, well, maybe the tire is fixable, because we always hope the tire is fixable. As soon as he removed it, I realized that all of Mr. Fixit’s horses and all of Mr. Fixit’s men couldn’t put tire back together again. Well, shit. It did not occur to me to take a picture of what used to be my tire, but the trusty internet found this, which is pretty close:

Tires should not look like this.
iamge from

Mr. Fixit told me that I was incredibly lucky that it was a rear tire and not a front tire since there’s no way I would have been able to control the car if that mess of a thing had been on the front of the car instead. I think it was supposed to make me feel better. It did not.

I took a closer look at my car. A trim piece had come loose during the trim v. rubber death match. There was a nice, new black streak on the outside of the wheel well where tire remains had tried to become one with my car and mostly failed. When I got into my car, there were a couple of pieces of twisted rubber on the floor. They must have come in through the window.

Now that everything was over and the spare was on, I took the opportunity to panic. Even though the spare tire was a full-sized tire and not one of those dumb donuts, I drove to the tire shop like a blind grandmother on downers with a Speed bomb that Dennis Hopper told me will explode if I drive more than 20 mph.

DO NOT TOUCH THE GAS PEDAL. Speed, Twentieth Century Fox, 1994.
Speed, Twentieth Century Fox, 1994.

Three days later, tire shop! Shopping for tires is just about the least pleasant experience one can have with the possible exception of maybe every other experience related to buying or fixing or just generally owning a car at all. Cars are awful. They’re great until they inevitably have something go wrong with them and then you’re fucked. Something will go wrong. Do you have any idea how complex cars are? They have, like, at least four moving parts. And these new cars with their on-board computers and chips and sensors and cyborg brains… eesh. Forget about trying to fix that yourself.

At the tire shop… I need a tire. As you can clearly see, even if you’re a blind grandmother on downers, this tire that I have here is no longer what you would call functional in any way. OK, well, we can’t just replace one tire. You should do all four. No, I want the bare minimum of new tires possible, please. Two is the bare minimum, but your other tires are bald and in danger of exploding any minute… No, they’re not. They’re fine. I’ll fix those when they explode.

What kind of tires would you like? I would like the least expensive tire, please. Well, we have these all-weather Corinthian rubber numbers here. No, I live in LA. “All weather” consists of sun and occasional rain. I want basic tires, please. Well, these are on sale for the low price of your first-born child. We also do financing! No, thank you. Basic tires, please. But you’ve got those fancy chrome rims that some idiot who owned the car before you paid $2000 for. Your tires should match your rims. No, I hate those ridiculous rims and wish they would die. The only reason I haven’t killed them myself is because they hold my tires up. Basic tires, please. Sigh. Alright. Ramon, can you grab two of the house brand?

Twenty minutes later… We noticed that your brakes are bad and that your car needs an oil change and it hasn’t been waxed in months nor has it been rubbed down with soft newborn baby bottoms…. Basic tires, please.

Ten minutes later… You really need to get those brakes done. And you should get the other tires replaced. Also, we noticed that there is a shocking lack of diamonds on your chrome rims. We could add some diamonds or even gemstones if you prefer. Did I mention that we do financing? Basic tires, please.

The poor tire shop guy was exasperated when he rang me up for only two basic tires. You could tell that, later tonight, when he goes home after a long day of attempted up-selling, he would complain to his mother about the stupid chick who wanted basic tires and wouldn’t even add any diamonds to them. His mother would gently pat him on the shoulder and tell him that, even though there’s a sucker born every minute, that still leaves a lot of wiggle room for non-suckers. Before they eat, they’ll sit at the dining room table in the room laden with old pictures and silently pray that there are no more customers like me tomorrow. Lord, bring me a sucker. After dinner, she’ll go into the living room and turn on the television, and he’ll go up to his room to stew a while, and maybe finally build the caboose for his toy train set. Tomorrow will be better.