With everything I’ve done on cars it’s a wonder I made it this long without ever putting air in a tire. Usually when the low tire pressure light dings on the dashboard I get an oil change, whether I need it or not. Usually. “Check the tires,” I say. Until recently when I found myself between nowhere and somewhere with both the tire pressure warning and the TPMS warning lit. Not that I somehow ignored the first warning for three months.
I’ve changed tires, flat and worn, and the oil, several times; once an alternator, and tons of spark plugs, fluids, and whatnot. I spent years sitting on a cooler in the workshop of a sponsored SCCA Formula Atlantic – Ralt RT-41 racecar handing out wrenches and learning about cars. I spent two seasons photographing SCCA trials so drivers could see how their cars handled corners.
I once drove a hundred miles an hour down the interstate in the middle of the night against another car who thought he was faster and badder than me. He was, but I still beat him. Stupid wins. That was the night I learned to drive a stick. I’m lucky I didn’t blow up the car.
I had been at a party all night, in Joe’s basement. I had decided I wanted to fuck Joe—he was hot afterall—I just had to wait for his girlfriend to dump him. Or so I thought. So to the party I went.
I skipped the tequila shots because I thought it’d be nice to remember fucking Joe, being confident it would happen since he’d already put his hands down my pants twice and his girlfriend was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t nice to remember fucking Joe. It was uneventful, and then he fell asleep. So I called Roommate and he picked me up in a friend’s Ford Mustang that he was building to be fast.
Only condition: I had to agree to learn to drive a stick so the next time I could get myself out of my own mess. I had gone to the party with Mark. Mark drove a stick. Mark’s keys were in the key basket. Mark was with Michelle.
So through Suburban sprawl I grinded gears, cursed up a storm, and made it to the interstate just as I got the feel for the clutch.
“Open it up,” Roommate said. And so I did.
“He wants to race,” and Roommate pointed. And so I did.
I followed Roommates instructions. He knew what he needed to know about the car’s handling. I showed him what he needed to know, and I showed that other car what liberation looked like. Stupid wins. Several miles later, I slowed to an exit, looped around, and drove the car back to the shop. We made a few adjustments and went home.
But I didn’t put air in the tires. In I’m-not-telling-you years, I have never put air in the tires. Not on my car, or any car. Until recently.
I’ve seen tires explode. I fear facial damage. It’s why I wear a seatbelt, too. And a full-face helmet on motorcycles. I like my face.