A Girl's Guide to Changing a Tire
Funny how something like a word, a gesture, or a phrase can trigger a thought that opens a floodgate of memories. I recently heard a Southern Mama advise her daughter to take auto mechanics in school because every woman should know how to fix her own car, then she should look helpless enough to have a man fix it for her. This advice brought memories of my sister Donna and a trip we once took together.
When this story came to mind, and I pulled the manuscript I wrote about my sister Donna from the unpublished book graveyard and decided to rewrite it. Some stories never grow old and like memories, they become sweeter with time. It will be a while before this story makes it to market, but for now, please join me as I stroll down memory land and tell of this fun adventure.
Donna got a job the minute she turned sixteen, and the job she got was one of a roller-skating car hop at the Stewart’s Root Beer Stand on Route 17. She wore white shorts and whizzed back and forth balancing trays of root beer mugs, burgers and fries. Did I mention that these were short shorts? Very short shorts! Donna made more money in tips than the Branch Manager of the local bank…and by now you can guess what she did with all that money…yep, bought a car. Not just a car, but a serious Chick car, a two-tone Chevy, that was sleek, shiny and sexy. It was a car that got attention – everybody’s attention! This is the sister I have to live with. Donna doesn't just look great in short shorts; she’s got plenty of pocket money and drives one of the hottest cars in town.
Then Donna got married. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly when and where things changed, but at the time we decided to drive to Western Pennsylvania for a visit with our parents, she was behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle. A car with seats that felt as if they were made of cast iron; a car that chortled, choked, spit and sputtered before it finally came to life. The coolest chick in town was now driving a rattletrap on the verge of death. Instead of chrome edged skirts and a rocket-blast muffler, this car came with two kids in the back seat. But then who was I to complain, I was a city girl and didn’t even own a car. (No one in Manhattan owned a car, not because you couldn’t afford the car, but because you couldn’t afford the parking.) Anyway, I jump in and off we go…me, Donna, an assortment of tote bags, Little Charlie, her 4 year old son and Debbie who was two at the time.
“I thought maybe you’d leave the kids with Charlie,” I said, referring to Donna’s husband.
“Are you kidding?” she answered, “What makes you think he’d watch them?”
It was a rhetorical question, because I already knew the answer…Charlie was an egotistical idiot who had a nose the size of a state, but saw himself as a heartthrob. On weekends he was the guitarist in a group who played gigs in third rate clubs with low end budgets. I’ve learned, and unfortunately so did Donna, that a few brain-dead groupies actually did see ‘Durante-Nose' as a star. In addition to the nose and ego which were comparable in size, Charlie was also crabby and short tempered with the kids…but enough about him, let’s get back to the trip.
We ‘d traveled about 40 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike when it happened for the first time. Thump, thump, thump. “Oh crap,” Donna said, “I’ve got a flat tire.” We pulled to the side of the road to check and sure enough, it was a flat tire. A long-time car fanatic, Donna could not only change her own tire, she could change her oil and tell you the precise cause of a noise only she heard. Me, forget it. I can change my nail polish and that’s about the extent of it. Had it been a summer day, she likely would have changed that tire herself…but it was November…the coldest November on record. It was well after nine o’clock at night, pitch dark, and the wind was blowing with a vengeance. The Volkswagen, in addition to its other faults had a heater that at maximum power breezed out whiffs of lukewarm air, which is why we’d bundled ourselves in layers of sweaters, fat puffy parkas, hats and boots.
Now it is a well-known fact that truck drivers never stop to help a guy change a tire…however a gal, well that’s another story. But given the dark, and our Pillsbury Dough Boy parkas, anyone driving by would have a hard time distinguishing whether we were male or female. “I’m gonna have to change it myself,” Donna said.
Being a city gal, I may not have known how to change a tire, but I certainly knew how to get a tire changed. “Take off your coat,” I told Donna as I peeled my mine off. “And kids, you duck down on the floor.” Okay, now you’ve got the picture…here we are, tight jeans broadcasting the fact that we’re girls, hair blowing in the wind, no kids in sight, just two chicks looking helplessly at the flat tire. Bingo! Ten seconds later, an eighteen wheeler pulled up in back of us and changed the tire. Within five minutes we were on our way again.
We made it to Pennsylvania without another mishap and had the tire repaired before starting home. However…and this is a big however, Donna’s tires were as beat-up, banged-up and patched together as the Volkswagen. So on the way home, you guessed it…we got another flat. “Off with the coats,” I said and we went through the same drill. Seven seconds this time. Truckers, God Bless ‘em, they’ll always stop fora gal in trouble. Minutes later we’re on the road again.
We get close to Union, which is where Donna lived and she suggests we stop and pick-up Charlie, who got crankier than usual when he thought Donna was off having fun. So we stop. Charlie, macho man that he was, took the wheel. Donna sat in the front and since we were only about twenty minutes from my drop off, I squeezed in back with the kids. We’re crossing the Pulaski Skyway when it happened for the third time…thump, thump, thump…
“What the hell….” Charlie says.
“It’s a flat tire,” Donna answers.
“You got a spare?”
She nods, “Thing is, we had a flat earlier, and I haven’t had time to get it fixed.”
“Are you telling me the spare is flat?”
When she simply nods, he lets go with a string of obscenities that ends in the question “What the $##%$#*$ am I supposed to do now?”
I say nothing. Donna says nothing. Little Charlie chirps, “I know how to fix it Daddy.”
Big Charlie of course ignores him.
“Daddy, I know how to fix it,” Little Charlie says repeatedly.
“Shut up!” his father snaps.
After several minutes of the boy insisting he knew how to fix the tire, Charlie grumbles, “Okay, how do I fix it?”
“JUST TAKE OFF YOUR COAT AND STAND OUTSIDE!”
Charlie Senior doesn't dignify this suggestion with an answer, he simply shakes his head, a disgusted look pulling at both sides of his mouth. “This kid is as stupid as the day is long….” he finally grumbles.
Donna and I say nothing, but inside we’ve got a whopping belly laugh going on!
I got a laugh out of that one Bette. Don’t you just love kids and the things they pick up on!
What a precious memory of a time with your sweet sister! The way you told it was absolutely delightful! I don’t know how to change a tire and never have had to, but if I ever have a flat tire, or see someone with a flat tire, immediately I’ll think of you and your sister and standing outside with your coats off!
Oh my this had me belly laughing! Thanks for sharing
Gotta love Truckers My Hubby is one and I would like to think he’d help you even with your coats on LOL and Especially with and because of the kiddis
Except Big Nose hopefully he blow his air horn loud and long as his nose was as he drove right by him
LOL!!! How adorable!!! Sisters can have the best fun. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories with us!! XO
What a fantastic story and memory of an “adventure” with your beautiful sister. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. <3
My first car was a 1965 VW bug! My two cousins and I had just picked up a friend that lived down the road when we felt a shift in the car. Doug looked out the back window and reported that one of the back tires was rolling down the road. That was over 30 years ago, and we still laugh about it!
omg I laughed until i cried. I loved it. Thank you for sharing your story.
hehehe Michelle yes they are. That’s such a cute story! 🙂
Bette, I laughed at the image in my mind of you and Donna getting truck drivers to stop and help. Sisters are the best! This is a wonderful memory of time shared.
My sister wanted her hair cut and didn’t want to fork out the money for it, so she asked me to cut it. Well, I had never cut anyone’s hair before and had no idea where to begin, so I snipped a little here, and I snipped a little there and so on trying to even it up. Long story short, my sister’s long curly hair became the shortest pixie of all time.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
This was a fun article. I had some experiences with flat tires also. Thankfully, they were on local roads and no truckers, but some kind men did stop and help me out. Fortunately for me, it was always nice weather so I didn’t have to remove any coats. However, I added one more maneuver . . . I cried.
P.S. I finally did it correctly (I think) and hit the blue button which took me to some facebook page and since I am already on facebook, there was no problem.
I enjoyed Bette’s loving tribute to her sister. She has brought to
life a picture of a spunky little gal with a heart of gold. Because
of Bette’s writing, Donna lives on….
I loved this! I can picture you and Sue standing out on the highway looking so beautiful. . . and helpless!! 🙂
I am enjoying your blog.
Aren’t sister’s fun?
Cute story. I can just see you and your sister standing out in the cold (without coats) and some trucker just busting a gut trying to stop in time to help you. lol