Something pleasant for me this morning: a flat tire on one of our cars. I was told before breakfast, before I was really conscious, that the air had seeped out of a left rear tire overnight, and was tasked with putting on the spare. Which is really only part one of the repair process, since the spare is one of those anemic temporary tires.
A college friend of mine once told me years ago the he'd driven some hundreds of miles on a highway using a temporary tire, and maybe he did. He had a reckless streak, besides a vast talent for sports writing even as a young man. I occasionally wonder what became of him, but make little effort to find out. His name's common enough that a mere Google search doesn't turn up much; or much that's new, anyway, since he seems to have some professional sports bylines from the late '80s lingering in on-line archives.
Or maybe riding fast on the temp tire isn't really so reckless. I'm not in a position to know. Anyway, I took some Dutch comfort in the tire-changing task. That is, thank God it's no worse. It could have still been raining (the car was in the driveway); it could have been 100°; it could have been out in the middle of nowhere. The last time I changed a tire in the driveway, there was snow on the ground. So today wasn't so bad. Removing the lug nuts, as usual, was the hard part, but they eventually surrendered to the force of my weight pushing down on them.
Yuriko wanted to have the tire repaired right away, or get a new one, but I had things to attend to at the word mill, so she went to the repair facility of a major auto dealer not far from us. Soon I get a call from her, and she tells me something I find a little hard to fathom. She'd been told, alas, that a new tire was needed. Sharp shards had torn up the tire's innards, but good, the bastards (I'm paraphrasing a little). A new tire would be $250.
I ask to talk to the fellow who told her that. I ask him about that price.
"That's, uh, the price for that model," he says. "I think, I'll have to check."
"Two-hundred fifty dollars for one tire?"
"Well, uh, maybe not quite that much. I have to check."
I tell him that yes, he should check on that. That was our conversation. I've had to replace a few tires in my time, and I'm fairly sure our car isn't so remarkably uncommon that we need special, expensive tires of some kind. It isn't like we have (say) a '79 Le Car and the things have to be custom made.
Later, Yuriko tells me that the shop had another look at the flat and decided, by golly, that it could be repaired after all. And so it was, for about $30.
I'd be shocked -- shocked -- to learn that the shop had a (strictly unofficial) policy of special pricing for people whose English isn't native, even though fairly fluent. I have no proof, of course, just my suspicions. But I don't think we'll be going there again. Suspicion is more than enough on which to base a consumer decision.