No, not a spelling mistake. I’m a wreck of the nervous variety and am currently clinging onto a cup of strong coffee and have jaffa cakes in easy reach. I’m also whimpering slightly and feel the need to cry just a little bit. The reason for my total collapse is because of a flat tyre I experienced yesterday. I'm still in shock for it was not just a flat tyre, but a flat tyre with a bloody great nail in it. Shall I start at the beginning?
I had taken my pride and joy to nursery and decided to whisk off to Lewisham to start buying some presents. Yes! Mid November! This, for me, is early. Purchases purchased and muffin and latte consumed, I headed back to the car park. I’m not sure if you know the Lewisham Shopping Centre at all but you get such a buzz when you manage to get into the lift with life and limbs present that you almost forget to validate your car park pass thingy at the pay station. But today, I remembered. Feeling so full of myself (presents for Janey, Saskia and Charlie purchased AND I’d remembered to pay for my parking) I skipped merrily to my car. “Got a flat there” said a passing woman with a buggy. “A flat what?” I asked innocently as I put my bags in the boot. “Tyre” she said over her shoulder as she strolled shop-wards. It was true. I had a flat-as-a-pancake passenger rear tyre with a socking great nail sticking out of it.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when faced with a scenario like this, a million things flit through my brain all at once – from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the split second it took for me to register the fact that I had a flat tyre I’d thought that I: a) could drive it home s-l-o-w-l-y, ignoring all helpful comments of “you’ve got a flat tyre” from other road users and wait for David to come home and change it for me, b) could ring Green Flag and give them all a laugh, c) could ring a man, any man, of my acquaintance and ask them to drop everything and come and rescue me or d) cry.
I can actually change a tyre. I’ve done it, ooh, about six or seven times in my lifetime. But always with back up. Always with someone to tell me that my nuts aren’t tight enough or “don’t put the jack there, it’ll go through the floor you silly cow”. Never solo. Never alone. As I was now. I seriously considered plumping for option d) when I heard my name being called. I looked up and there he was, Tom the Caretaker from Work, coming towards me clutching an M&S shopping bag.
I reverted immediately into Hysterical Woman mode. Forgetting social niceties such as “hello Tom, how are you and how is your wife?” I screeched “I’ve got a flat tyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyre!” and slumped against my incapacitated car. “What do you want me to do about it?” he queried laughingly. “Help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” I wailed, already wrenching open the boot and tipping out the shopping bags.
Bless him, he did. He didn’t actually say I was a useless female who shouldn’t be allowed on the road but I could tell he was thinking it. He was in charge of the situation so I felt calmer and turned into Helpless Female, simpering at him as I handed him the jack. I even said “I wonder why they call it a jack”. Again, bless him. He ignored me and got on with the job in hand.
I passed him the spanner thing and watched him as he tried to loosen off the nuts. See, I know how to change a tyre. Sadly, it seems I can’t tell the difference between a socket spanner and a hoover attachment. “Your nuts are rollocksed” (please note Delicate Reader that the last word actually began with a “b”) he said, handing me back the failed spanner. It was at that point that it registered it was made of plastic and was the missing part of my Dyson. More simpering, self depreciation and shamefaced hanging of head. Once he had the correct spanner we were off.
As was the tyre, within minutes. Shoppers were passing us and watching the free floor show as I attempted to engage Tom in friendly conversation to show that I was actually an intelligent woman and that I could have changed the tyre myself, but it was just so lucky that he was there at the time. “So, what do you think about property prices?”. He shot me a withering look as he held out his hand for the spare.
I was still in Helpless Female mode and did that thing that ALL women do when we handle something dirty and greasy – I slapped my hands together, grimaced and said “euw, yuck” as I rolled the spare tyre to him. Why do they get so greasy and grubby? They’re just sitting there in the boot. Tom tightened the nuts for me, lowered my car to the ground and shoved everything into the boot. “Thank you soooooooooooo much!” I cooed, slamming my boot shut and pretending that the past ten minutes or so hadn’t happened. “Where are you off to now?” I continued cheerily, leaving Helpless Female mode behind and going for the Woman in Control look. “To wash my hands” he said slowly. “Shall I……look, do you want me to…….where are you parked?” I burbled but he was off, M&S bag under his arm, dirty mitts held out, having to go back into the shopping centre to find a handwashing facility. “Thank you Tom, I’ll see you at work next Monday!” I called to his departing figure. I don’t think he heard me.
Out on the road it occurred to me that I’d better have the tyre mended because if I didn’t, David and my dad would form a chorus of disapproval. Dad has impressed upon me the need to have water, spare tyre and torch in my boot at all times and David thinks I should be more independent. So I went to Grays on the A20 feeling, once again, everso pleased that I was looking after my own car (albeit with help) and was being proactive etc and blah, blah, blah. I won’t take my car anywhere other than Grays – I once took my trusty Golf to a large tyre and exhaust place that I won’t name for fear of being sued/beaten about the head with a pressure gauge but, suffice to say, they have branches everywhere and a rather jaunty jingle.
Anyway, I took my Golf into this place and was told that I needed “four new tyres love” instead of just the one I’d thought (honestly, it was smooth in places). Feeling slightly wrongfooted (and loathe to part with nearly a hundred quid without getting a second opinion) I rang Dad and told him. “I told you to take it to Grays” he said the minute he heard my news. I thanked the kindly gentleman (who was already preparing my car for the ramp despite the fact that I hadn’t said “yes, please replace all four tyres immediately and forthwith”) and drove off towards the A20. Man at Grays had a quick look at all four tyres after I’d relayed my tale of woe and said “nah, just need a new offside rear”, did the dirty deed in 15 minutes, pumped up the other three and only charged me £35. I have since recommended Grays to all of my friends. Even if they didn’t want me to.
I pulled into their car park and went for the World Weary Woman look with a hint of “I know exactly what’s wrong with my tyre and think nothing of taking it to be fixed without a man present” as I sashayed into the office. I showed a Grease Covered Youth the offending item and he bounced it into the back of the workroom while pointing me in the direction of the waiting area. Patio furniture and a Pepsi machine but it’s nice. There are magazines and a TV, which was blaring out Sky Sports News. I perched on a seat and tried to look as if I do this sort of thing every day. If I had any gum, I’d be chewing it nonchantly at this stage.
“Can you bring it in and drive it up to the red line?” came the voice of Grease Covered Youth five minutes later who was carrying my tyre as if it were as light as a feather. My car was parked outside in the car park area and I told him so. “No, I need it in here to put the tyre back” GCY said wearily. I gave a giggle and wondered how on earth he thought I’d got it here without a tyre. “I’ve got the spare on!” I said, rolling my eyes. “Yes, but if you keep the spare on, you’ll get done. Give us yer keys, I’ll do it.” he said patiently, catching the eye of the Bloke Behind The Counter.
Instantly, I went back into Helpless Female form as I watched my beloved car be driven in, jacked up and attacked from behind. I stood simpering behind GCY and, yes, even asked “I wonder why they call it a jack” again. The response was the same. Nothing. Now that I could see the two tyres alongside each other, yes, the spare one is inches thinner and has a big “NOT TO BE USED EXCESSIVELY” sticker printed on it.
I paid my money, overtipped GCY and shot out of there – ironically enough with my tyres squealing.