Posted by: fringe62 | December 10, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is…. New Tires?

It was hot that early December, even for Winslow, AZ.  I pulled off Interstate 40 into a WalMart parking lot.  I needed to pick up some items and get a prescription filled before I headed East for home.  It wasn’t a very big WalMart and as I steered around the parking lot I noticed that many of the light poles stood at weird angles.  “Careless truck drivers, not paying attention to where they’re parking”, I thought to myself… “Idiots!”  There was no excuse for such poor driving skills especially when it damaged private property.

I managed to pull in next to a few other trucks.  I didn’t like parking on the end of a row as it raised the risk of getting clipped by another truck trying to park but there was nowhere else to go because of the way these trucks were already parked.  As I dug around in the bunk for my wallet I heard a loud hissing noise coming from behind my tractor.  I stepped down out of the cab walked to the space between my truck and trailer and looked around.  There was definitely air leaking out of my tractor.  At first I thought that one of my airlines wasn’t on tight enough.  I re-twisted them into place.  That wasn’t it.  I could still hear it.

As I walked further back I realized that the loud hiss of air was coming from my drive tires.  I squeezed my head and shoulders under the trailer and between the two sets of tractor tires.  The smell of asphalt and hot rubber was almost overwhelming.  The hiss was definitely louder and coming from the inside, front drive tire.  I reached with my right hand and started feeling the sidewall of the tire.  I felt a hot rush of air and as I pushed against it I realized my index finger fit very nicely into the hole.  “Just great”, I thought.  Not only was it huge, it was just into the sidewall, not the tread of the tire.

I wondered whether I would be able to talk someone at the tire shop down the road into patching it.  All of a sudden I realized that I was still hearing a loud hiss of air coming from my right.  With my left hand I started feeling around the sidewall of the back, inside drive tire.  “Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding”, I groaned to myself.  There was another hole into which my left index finger fit perfectly!  I pushed my finger into the hole…. silence!

So there I am, wedged between the tires, trying to keep my hair out of the grease and dirt on the underside of my trailer, arms crossed with each index finger firmly plugged into a hole.  I realized what a sight I must be to anyone walking by and I laughed out loud.  What in the world did I think I was doing?  Was I going to crouch there all day and hold my fingers in the holes?  I slowly pulled my fingers from the holes, slid out from between the tires, and let out a sigh that was drowned out by the steady hiss coming from my slowly flattening tires.  I watched as they drained themselves with a final whisper.

I walked back along my trailer looking at the blacktop.  What on earth had I run over?  I almost didn’t see them sticking up about two inches out of the asphalt.  Four, green pieces of steel rebar stood in a perfect square where there had once been a light pole base.  There was no way I would have seen them from the driver’s seat.  I had just missed having two or more flat trailer tires when I had swung in to park.  The arc of the track of my trailer tires had cleared them by about a foot.  Another few inches to the left and I might have had four flat tractor tires.  Thanks goodness for small favors and damned be the dumb truck driver that had knocked over that light pole!

I went into the store.  As I was waiting for my prescription to be filled I decided to speak with the manager.  I told her what had happened.  She wasn’t too sympathetic.  She said they had so many light poles bumped and knocked over by trucks that it had gotten to the point that they didn’t replace them when they finally fell over.  I told her that I understood her frustration but that maybe they could have the rebar cut off even with the asphalt.  It would be just as devastating if a car ran over them.  She sent a guy out to flip a cart upside down over them but that was about all she could do.  I can’t say as I blame her.

I picked up my prescription, finished my shopping and walked back out to my truck.  I drove down the street to the truck tire place I’d seen earlier.  It’s against the law to patch the sidewall of a tire.  These holes were definitely in the sidewall but just at the edge of the tread.  I managed to talk the guy into patching them for me.  I told him I didn’t have enough money to buy tires and that I was on my way home and would replace them then.  What I didn’t tell him was that home was over 2000 miles east!

The patch held up and after I unloaded near home I drove to my local tire shop.  The guy told me about something called vulcanization.  I’m not sure what the process is but it was a legal way of patching the holes in the sidewall of my two damaged tires.  If it had been my brand new steer tires then I would have had to buy new ones out in AZ.  I wouldn’t take the chance of blowing a steer tire.  That would mean quite possibly having an accident.  So it was either the vulcanization process for a couple hundred dollars, or buy two new tires for a few hundred dollars each.  I hated to buy new tires since the ones on there were not nearly worn out yet and I had just spent around $800 to buy two new steer tires earlier that fall.  I took the cheaper option.

A few weeks later found me driving East on Interstate 80 in Wyoming, headed home for Christmas.  I was running with another driver that was a friend of mine who lived in a town near me.  He had also picked up a load in California and was on his way home for the holidays.  Chatting on the CB helped to pass the long hours spent driving.  I was watching the sun set in my rearview mirrors when I realized that small pieces of rubber were flying around the back of my tractor.  “Miner” I said, (his CB handle) “Did you blow a tire?  I keep seeing pieces of rubber blowing out from under my tractor.  Am I kicking up stuff your throwing off of a tire?”

“Pull up next to me and see if you see anything” he said.  There was nobody behind me so as he slowed down I pulled into the left lane and looked at all of his tires on his trailer and then his tractor.  I slowed down and pulled back in behind him.  He moved to the left lane and slowed again so I could check out the right side of his rig.  I didn’t see any sign of a tire shredding but we decided to pull off at the next exit to take a closer look.

We pulled over onto the shoulder of the exit ramp and did a thorough inspection of all of his tires and found nothing.  I started walking around my truck and then bent down to take a closer look at my drive tires.  It was getting pretty dark but my hand felt what I did not want to see… shredded tires!  I grabbed my flashlight out of the driver’s door pocket and got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at what the light revealed.  The whole tread was almost off of one and the other was also close to coming off!  I climbed into my truck and started calling the nearest truckstops.  The closest one was still 100 miles further East and the other one was almost 75 miles back West.

Then I noticed that the exit where we’d pulled off had a little tiny diesel stop down over the hill.  By this time it’s dark and I can see the lights are still on.  Miner and I drove our trucks down to the station and pulled in just as the lights started going out.  I jumped out of my truck and ran in the door.  “Sir, do you have any truck tires” I asked?

“I do but I’m closed.  You’ll have to wait until morning.  You can park right there and I’ll wake you up when I get in at seven” he said.

“Oh” I said.  “I’m trying to get home to Pennsylvania in time for some family Christmas get-together’s.  Isn’t there any way you could change a couple tires before you leave?”

He glanced at the clock and muttered under his breath but grabbed a flashlight off of the desk and walked out to look at what I needed.  I showed him the two tires and explained what had been done to them.  He walked back into the shop, disappeared into the back and a few minutes later came out rolling two obviously used tires in front of him.  “I think these will work.  Five hundred each and I’ll include the labor and disposal for that price” he said without blinking an eye.

I just stared at him in disbelief!  “But, they’re used” I said!  “I just bought two new steer tires a month ago that didn’t cost that much.  You want a thousand dollars for two, very used drive tires?  You’re joking right?” (steer tires have a thicker tread, therefore usually cost a bit more than drive or trailer tires)

“They’re not so bad” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the clock again.  “I don’t have all night.  I’m already late for dinner.  Take it or leave it or I’m closing up.”

I opened my mouth to argue and then closed it again.  I let out a long exasperated breath.  He had me and he knew it.  Where else was I going to go?  He knew that I was loaded and couldn’t drive much further without risking doing damage to the other two tires on that side of the truck.

“Geez.  Happy HoHo to you too” I said.  “Where do you want me to drop the trailer.”

“You’re fine right there.  I’ll need cash or a credit card.  I don’t take checks” he said as he rolled the tires out the door.

I followed him out, dropped my trailer and as he jacked up the tractor and changed the tires.  I walked over to Miner’s truck and told him what was going on.  He couldn’t believe the price either.  “Wow.  Merry you’re screwed Christmas” he said.  “What happened to the spirit of the season and all of that?”  He walked into the office with me and grabbed a couple bags of chips and a soda.  As the tire guy walked in Miner tossed his purchases on the desk.  “Put these on her tab” he said as he laughed and then pulled some money out of his pocket.

“I need a written receipt” I said as I threw my credit card onto the desk.

A short time later as we pulled back onto the interstate the tire guy was on his way home to a cold supper with a very nice holiday bonus in his pocket and I had a huge hole in mine.  We drove another few hundred miles and called it a night somewhere in Iowa.

When I checked in with my dispatcher the next morning and told him about it he laughed.  “You need to take a picture of those tires and put it under your Christmas tree when you get home” he said.

“Why?” I asked.  “I don’t think any of this is very funny”

“Because” he chuckled, “when everyone asks you what Santa brought you for Christmas, you can point to the picture and tell them, new tires!”

“Very funny” I said.  “All I want for Christmas is some good paying loads from my dispatcher to pay for those tires.  That’s what I get for trying to take the cheap way out.”

 

 

12/10/12

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Responses

  1. Good Story – hope this Christmas is better than that year. Sandy


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