A.C. Snow

How a flat tire almost changed my life

You’re driving along somewhere out in the boondocks. The radio is sending forth your favorite tunes, the sun is shining.

Or, you’re heading home in the dark of night. It’s raining cats and dogs and you have miles to go before you sleep.

Either way, you suddenly hear the flop-flop-flop of the dreaded flat tire. And you curse the gods of ill-fortune that have visited this plague upon you.

My friend Glenn Keever, who has been shopping for a new car, shared a bit of good and bad news about fixing flats.

He said that many new models come without the standard, heavy spare that, since the first cars rolled off Mr. Ford’s assembly line, have hogged a great part of the trunk space.

In some new cars, the old spare has been replaced by a “run flat” tire. This allows the driver to proceed to the nearest service station after a puncture without ruining the tire. Keever said the trouble is the tires cost a small fortune to replace.

Some new cars come without a spare. Instead, they include an inflation sealant kit that allows the driver to pump sealant and air into the flat tire through the valve stem.

Can you believe that I’ve changed only one flat during my long and mostly happy life? But that one tire change almost changed the course of my life.

I had not long been dating my future wife, who then was teaching at what is now UNC Greensboro. The proud owner of a new Carolina blue 1957 hard-top convertible, I picked up Nancy in Greensboro and we headed to Andrews, 95 miles southwest of Asheville, to visit a couple of my friends.

We were tooling happily along a winding mountain road when I heard the dreaded flop-flop-flop of a tire gone flat.

I unloaded the trunk full of luggage and managed finally to dislodge the spare, find the virgin jack, remove the flat tire, and was putting the spare on the axle.

At that point, the jack gave way on the road’s rain-sodden shoulder. As the car settled, I heard a soft crunch, followed by a gasp from my girlfriend. I turned to find the car’s back bumper resting on her practically new Amelia Earhart luggage.

This was no ordinary suitcase. It was a top-of-the-line piece named for the famous American aviatrix who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Later, in a 1937 attempt to fly around the world, she and her plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

I’ll never forget the expression on my girlfriend’s face as she stared at her crushed luggage. She later admitted that at that moment she was convinced that ours was a budding romance that would never come to full bloom.

Despite my tire-changing ineptitude, she married me anyway. And I haven’t had a flat tire since. She gets full credit.

Yankee snows

I feel guilty when I find myself complaining about our winter weather, considering the Siberian winter our neighbors to the north and midwest have endured. We measure our snowfall in inches; they measure theirs in feet.

Some years ago our neighbors, Ed and Ruth Arden Green, now deceased, traveled the country in their Airstream camper.

One late autumn they were surprised by a snowstorm in Illinois. As they cautiously traveled along, listening to their ham radio, a long distance trucker came on with a message to a fellow trucker.

“Good buddy, don’t come this way,” he advised. “I’m stranded up here in Wisconsin where the snow is up to my yang-yang!”

Fortunately, we’ve been spared a yang-yang snow.

Eternal optimist

I love optimists and used to be more of one than I now am.

Former Raleigh resident Phillip Mullinax, who now lives near Houston, and his childhood pal, attorney David Archer of Gainesville, Ga., were recently chuckling over things children say.

Archer recalled the time he went to pick up his daughter at kindergarten:

“As we left, she told me, ‘Daddy, I lost my panties, but I found my boots!’”

I agree with Mullinax: There’s bound to be a country song in there somewhere.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com