Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jimmy Says Kick It

I drove out to a small town two hours away last weekend to watch Annie in a horse training clinic. The sky was a crisp blue and the weather perfect for a country outing, so it was with a happy heart I pulled into the arena. Unfortunately the flat tire I saw on Annie's truck, with the enormous horse trailer still attached, put a bit of a damper on my spirits.

Rolling up my sleeves and switching from "Sensitive Husband Supporting His Wife" to "Manly Man Doing Manly Things in a Manly Way" mode, however, I swung into action.

The Incredibly Expensive Pain In The Ass
Immediately I was given cause to curse Ford Motor Company. The spare tire on a Ford F250 is mounted beneath the bed, and you have to slide the jack handle through a tiny hole to rotate the tire down. Not a huge deal, a lot of trucks are like this, but Ford had the unique idea of introducing an additional "key" that's required to fit over the jack handle for it to fit into the receptacle. Apparently spare-tire-thieves are a real problem, you wouldn't want just anyone carrying around a Ford jack to be able to lower that tire, right?

So I had to root around in the glove compartment to find the little metal key device. What if it had been lost? What if the truck had been purchased second-hand and the new owner wasn't aware it was missing until they were stranded on the highway with a flat? What if it breaks? You'd be screwed, that's what. For the sake of -- what, security? -- there's now an additional piece you have to keep track of just to change the tire. That's ludicrous.

To make it even more irritating, you have to go to three totally separate places to assemble all the parts you need to change a flat. The jack itself is located behind the rear seat, the jack handle above the radiator beneath the hood (and of course there's a special bracket that comes off to hold that in place, something that's also easily lost), and finally the "spare tire key" in the glove compartment. Any system for changing a tire that requires a map to find all the pieces is a bad design.

Not our friend Ronnie.
Finding the key made me feel like Frodo holding up the One Ring on Mount Doom. At last I'd completed the quest, hooray me! Luckily there wasn't a Gollum waiting in the shadows ready to nip my finger off. What I did have, unfortunately, was the sliding metal foot that holds the trailer up when it is disconnected. That sucker came dropping down on my pinkie like SkyLab hitting the water, and my fingernail immediately started blackening as I danced around in pain.

There's nothing like yelling "FUCK!" at the top of your lungs to really draw the attention of an arena full of young women trying to control their wild horses. I considered it a public service, giving them a reason to have to earn the trust of their horses with a wild, invective-spewing man dancing around in earshot, but surprisingly no one thanked me.


Anyway, my friend Ronnie (also there to support his wife in the clinic) came over to inform me that you don't have to disconnect the trailer to jack the truck up, so I lost a finger for nothing. Great. That was good news, though, because the batteries on the trailer were dead and I couldn't get it lifted off the truck anyway. I suspect the trailer knew this and tried to eat my finger on purpose as retaliation for letting the batteries die. Trailers are mean that way.

I finally assembled the far-flung pieces to let me jack up the truck. "Five minute job," I had confidently sworn to Annie an hour earlier when I started. But with the lug nuts off, I felt like I really was in the home stretch, and I grabbed the wheel to jerk it off the axle.

It didn't budge.

So I tugged again, with the same result. It didn't move even a little. I carefully examined the hub, making sure I hadn't left off some sort of catch or even overlooked a lug nut. Nothing. I glanced at Ronnie, a little red-faced. What kind of wuss can't get a tire off its mount? It's positively unmanly! So I stretched my muscles a moment, then threw my entire, not-inconsiderable weight against the tire, neck tendons straining and temple veins standing out in stark relief, a manly grimace of effort on my face.


Time for another set of choice expletives, I thought, but out of deference to Ronnie (and the horses, which were only just now losing that wild-eyed maniacal fear from my earlier rampage) I kept it quiet. "Is it stuck?" he asked.

"I think so, but I can't see where," I said. Ronnie tried to get it off as well, but he had no more luck than I did. He stepped back and we eyed the beast.

Now when a man sees a piece of mechanical equipment that's stuck, his neurons fire in a pattern that's universal. Burundian Bushmen have the same reaction as the most tried and true American greasemonkey. And Ronnie and I are no exceptions -- we looked at each other and said in the same instant, "Better get some WD-40."

Half a can of silicon lubricant later, however, the tire still wouldn't budge. Not even a little. It wasn't like it was wiggling but resistant to our best efforts, it was like it was a fused part of the axle itself. I pried at it with the jack, I beat it with my fists, I wept and raged like a spurned lover (ok, not really, but I would have if Ronnie hadn't been there!), but all to no avail. When even the Wonder Lubricant comes up empty, there's not much else a country geek can do except the Most Dreaded Thing Ever For a Man:

Call tech support.

I fished the manual out and got the number for Ford's Roadside Assistance. Well actually, to be honest I made Ronnie do it. As bad as it is for a man to call for help, it's even worse when it's your truck you're calling for help on. At least Ronnie could say "Hey, my idiot friend can't get his tire off his truck," but I had no such excuse.

Not surprisingly, Ford didn't know squat. "Well, I guess you'll have to take it to a gas station or something" was their helpful reply. Awesome. That's wonderful advice when you HAVE A FLAT TIRE! They did give us the number of a local tow truck company, though, so Ronnie handed me the phone. One call making yourself look like an idiot is all the Man Friend Code allows.

So I dialed up "Jimmy's Towing" and waited. Here's what the conversation sounded like from Ronnie's point of view:

Yeah Jimmy, thanks for the help. Listen, we've got a Ford F250 and the drivers-side rear tire won't come off the hub. Do you have any tips for us to try so we don't have to bother you with coming out on a Sunday? Mmm hmm. Mmm hmmm. Really? Interesting. OK, thanks.

Ronnie raised an eyebrow as I hung up the phone. "Well, what did he say?" Ronnie asked.

"Jimmy says kick it," I replied. We both grinned -- that's the kind of advice a couple of country boys like! "Well that's great, because to be honest, I feel like kickin' something right about now," he said, and I couldn't have agreed more.

So we squared off on that tire and kicked it like kickin' was goin' out of style. Flying kicks, roundhouses, standing punch kicks, we looked like a couple of cowboy ninjas letting loose on that sucker. Laughing and sweaty, we gave pulling the tire off another try, and immediately groaned when it again didn't budge, not so much as an inch.

"I think I might have to go kick Jimmy," I said, panting.

Instead, though, I recalled having heard someone say that sometimes if a tire is stuck, you can get it loose by driving on it for a ways. So I loaded myself into the cab, put it in drive, and pulled forward slowly. I was watching the tire in the side mirror, and sure enough, after about twenty feet it started to wobble as it unstuck itself.

I also saw Annie in the arena, shouting something at me, but I figured she was just telling me the tire was coming loose. "I know," I yelled back over the roar of the diesel. I was feeling quite manly and was sure she was impressed, but she kept shouting and waving. "Yeah, neat hunh!" I yelled back, feeling cocky. Then she jumped the rail and started running towards me. Probably she wanted to give me a big smooch for figuring it out or something, I thought smugly. I put the truck in park and hopped out.

"Stop!" I could now hear Annie yelling. "You're about to run over the field where all the pipes are, the owner said we couldn't drive on them or it'd ruin the arena!"

Oh. Oops. So much for feeling smug and manly!

In any event, I finally got the now-loosened tire off and the spare put on. It had been two frustration-filled hours and I'd missed most of the clinic, but at least my wife was now rolling on four known good tires. I plopped down next to Ronnie in the stands and thanked him for his help.

"No problem," he said, turning back to the horses. One of them was having fits and the trainer was struggling to get it under control. "What do you think Jimmy would do in that situation?" Ronnie asked, grinning.

Well of course, that's a no-brainer. "Jimmy says kick it," I said, a philosophy that I now have decided to adopt for every challenge in life. Bills due? Boss a jerk? Your favorite sports team losing? Just do what the Master advises and all will be well:

Jimmy says kick it.

And I will, Jimmy, believe me, I will.


sph said...

Three words - AAA. Dear Fuzzy Face had the same experience at 70 miles per hour pulling a 37 foot 5th wheel. Well, parts of it were the same. As he pulled out the jack and other parts from OUR FORD, I dialed AAA. Before he would realize we didn't have a key to the tire, the tire fixer person had arrived, after driving from Burnet to east of Llano. I think the driver had carpal tunnel vision.

I sat beside the road in my comfy camper chair, while Fuzzy went through similar motions as to the one's you described. When Fuzz on Face realized that FORD had control of this situation my fuzzy faced gentleman entered the camper, popped the top on a bottle of bubbly, and returned with his comfy chair to watch the sunset as we waited for the tow truck, because the tire could NOT be removed without the unknown and unavailable key.

JimmyMac said...

This story is an instant classic! I think we're going to have to gather a collection of "truck stories." I'm laughing way too much to give any real response - maybe tomorrow when I get my breath back.