Last night, after work, I get in my car and start the process of preparing to leave – buckle my seat belt, adjust the radio, etc. Next thing I know, someone is knocking on my passenger side window. The little old lady who parked next to me is urgently signaling that I roll down my window.

Doubtful that she’s a threat to my security, I dutifully roll down the passenger window. She tells me that my tire is going flat and that I need to fix it right away. She goes on to say that she thinks the building security office has an air tank I can use to fill it up for the drive home.

Of course I undo everything and get out of the car to check out my tire. Sure enough, just like the lady had said, the tire is nearing flat. Shit. What do I do now? I head back into the building to find security. I look everywhere and cannot find them. Eventually I give up. The tire has enough air to get me to the nearest gas station, I think.

I decide to go for it. Of course, every time I turn while going down the parking garage to the exit, the passenger side rear tire makes a sickening squishy sound and the back end of the car shimmies. Suffering through and confident I can make it to the nearest gas station, I press on.

What I didn’t count on was rain and heavy traffic. The drive to Racetrac should have taken about 5 minutes max. Instead, 35 minutes later I finally roll in to the gas station and look for the air pump. YES! It’s unoccupied! I drive up and read the instructions. I drop in my $1.50 worth of quarters to get air and stretch the hose to the low tire. I don’t know who did what, but the end of the air hose is missing the fixture that makes it compatible with the tire valve. The air pump is working, but the end is so messed up that there’s no way I can get it to work.

I walk into the RaceTrac store and find one of the employees. I ask him about the air pump and he casually says, “Oh yeah, that’s been busted for a while now. We should probably fix that.” I ask about getting my $1.50 back and he starts laughing. Apparently he finds it incredibly funny that I was dumb enough to put money in the machine without checking to make sure it works first. I counter by asking why they didn’t put a sign on it if they knew it was broken? He thought that was a good idea and would ask his manager about it.

RaceTrac is a bust, their employees are useless, I’m down $1.50, and my tire is still in dire straits. I punch up Google Maps and look for the nearest gas station. Of course Google wants me to go to the RaceTrac I’m already sitting at, so I have to fight with the app to expand the search area and include other gas stations.

Fortunately, 8 minutes away (according to Google) is a 7-Eleven gas station. Sweet! I can get air and a Slurpee! I begin the drive over to my next stop and apparently everyone and their friends decided to take the same route. What should have taken 8 minutes, maybe 10 tops, takes 40 minutes. I don’t know who programs the traffic lights, but apparently they think 4 cars getting through during rush hour is plenty!

I finally make it to 7-Eleven and find their air pump. I read the directions and, having learned from my RaceTrac experience, double check the apparatus to make sure it is in good working order. Just like at RaceTrac, it’s $1.50 for 5 minutes of air, quarters only. Everything appears to be fine, all systems are go!

Except, I used my only 6 quarters paying for air I couldn’t use at RaceTrac. Double shit! I wanted a Slurpee anyway, so I trudge into the store and get my drink. As I’m paying, I ask the cashier if I can get some of my change in quarters to pay for the air pump to fill my tire. He gives me 2 quarters, the sum total of what I would have gotten if I hadn’t even asked. I ask if he can change $2 into quarters for me. He says yes, but since he’s already closed the register, I’ll either have to buy something else, no go because I only have $2 left, or wait for someone to come in and buy something.

I wait.

And I keep waiting.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m still the only 7-Eleven shopper.

At this point, I’m tired of waiting so I wander back to my car, hoping some random quarters might have fallen between the seat cushions or are hidden in the depths of my backpack. I find a few, but not the 6 I need.

Then I notice that the 7-Eleven air pump has a credit card reader. Huzzah! I’m saved! I swipe my AMEX and the air starts flowing! Sweet, sweet air! I hook the plug up to the valve on my tire and I watch my tire go from flat to fat in no time at all.

As I’m filling my tire, I notice an entire village of people wander in to the store. If I would have waited just a few more minutes, I probably could have gotten the quarters I needed. Oh well, AMEX will work. Although, I wonder how likely it is that someone skimmed my credit card number off of that machine. I’m guessing the odds are 90% certain it’s happened. I guess I’ll have to watch my credit card bill extra closely over the next several months.

The tire finishes filling up and my 5 minutes of air runs out, just as a tan mini-van rolls up behind me, ready to take my spot at the air pump.

I felt so much better driving home knowing that my tire was closer to the recommended air pressure. This morning I double checked it and it was holding close to the recommended pressure, down just a couple of psi. I guess I need to get the tire looked at. Hopefully someone can fix it.

Lessons learned from this experience include:

  • Keep some quarters in your car for air pumps and meters
  • Check the air pump apparatus before putting your money in the machine
  • Don’t expect any sort of customer service at RaceTrac
  • Make sure you are very specific when you ask the 7-Eleven clerk for quarters
  • Don’t ignore the tire pressure warning light on your dashboard. Mine had been lit up since before I got sick the week of Thanksgiving

I’m sure there are other lessons to be learned from this situation, but I refuse to learn them!

Good luck! Check your tire pressure frequently!

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