Monday, March 21, 2011

Thank God for Bill

This is where I was supposed to tell you about this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade in Christiansted. It's a great event, and for the third year in a row I was designed to cover it for the Source. Here's the video I did for last year's parade.

Instead, I'll tell you about this year's flat tire.

The schedule laid out perfectly. I had to get Millie to work at 10 a.m., giving me plenty of time to get to Christiansted, park, and amble over to the parade, slated to start at 11 (which on this island usually means about 12, 12:30.) We headed off down the highway at about 9:30, and I hadn't gone a mile before I heard an odd sound. No sooner had I voiced the question, "What's that?" than the sound changed, became unmistakable. I had a flat on the rear driver's side. By the time I could convince traffic to stop pulling around me (because I was slowing down in the faster lane) and let me over to the broad shoulder of the road, the tire was shredded. Fortunately I hadn't damaged the rim yet.

Naturally I have a spare, one of those doughnut tires you use in an emergency. I'd had an emergency about five months ago, and the doughnut was now flat, with an obvious hole.

So I called my co-worker Bill Kossler. Bill is the St. Croix assignment editor. He also lives on the west end, like we do, and we seem to take turns having absurd car problems. The day he sent an e-mail saying he couldn't make it to a story because "my hood blew off," I e-mailed back, "You win."

I told him the situation and suggested he call Taylor, a young guy who moved here about seven months ago from Arizona, to cover the parade. Then I asked if he could come by, pick up me, Millie and the flat tire and take me around to where I could get a new one.

He said sure. No problem.

In the wait I decided to remove the flat so we'd be ready when he got there. Five lug nuts. All tight and my lug wrench is short so I couldn't get much leverage, but by bouncing on the end I quickly had four of the five loosened.

The fifth turned out to be a problem. Not because it was unnaturally tight, but because it was a slightly different size than the other four and the lug wrench wouldn't fit over it.

How the hell does that happen? I had bought the two back tires in – I believe – October, and all I can guess is that when they put the tire on they simply fished around and found the wrong bolt. Who knows?

A police officer stopped by to see if he could help, but his lug wrench didn't fit either. Then – and this amazed me – he ran off to see if a guy he knows living nearby might have a different one.

In his absence, Bill arrived (in his dark green Malibu with the tan hood) and – Wonder of wonders! – he had a tire iron! You know the kind, a steel X with a different sized lug wrench on each end. They give you options and all the leverage you'll ever need. Within a trice (no more than a trice and a half) the tire was off. At which point the officer showed back up, smiling that his friend had a tire iron as well! But he expressed pleasure that the situation was on its way to being resolved, and drove off. Nice guy. I know the police in the territory sometimes have a bad reputation. All I know is that the three times I have had non-reporter interactions with them I have found them courteous, helpful and really nice guys. Even the one who wrote me a ticket. After all, I was in the wrong and he wasn't an asshole about it.

So not to drag this out much longer, Bill drove us around to the place he gets tires, what he called "the most reliable of the cheap places, or the cheapest of the reliable places," (I had bought my current tires at a place whose primary asset is it is "the closest to my house.") and I eventually got a new tire on. Bill had even stopped to get cash in case the place didn't take credit cards - which it did. But it was nice of him to think of it anyway.

By the time I got the new tire on it was well after 11 and Tyler was on the scene at the parade. So I took Millie to work (she was late of course) and drove home.

Tyler did a fine job of covering the parade – it's hard not to love it. The parade is a bizarre mix of island and Irish that has to be seen to be believed. Well, I missed it this year but I'll be back for it next year.

And I'll have a spare tire AND a tire iron in back, just in case. And Bill on speed dial.

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