On the way home last night I passed a couple on the freeway changing the tire on their SUV.  The woman was actually standing in the lane of traffic to shield her husband (well, maybe it was her boyfriend, if she was THAT serious).  It got me thinking about how many tires I've changed over the years.  Think about it.  A typical vehicle owner gets a flat tire, and it's sometimes a MAJOR ordeal for them to change their own tire.  Many will buy a motor club membership just to avoid this task.  For tow truck drivers, it's something you can make into a contest.  For fun.  That's warped.

I never did a lot of motor club work, so I'm sure that there are many of you out there who changed more tires than I ever will, but I'm sure I've done a few hundred. And, of course, anytime anyone in my family has a flat, who do they call?  By family I mean anyone I've lived with, gone to school with, met through a friend, etc.--you know how it is.  "Hey, call Nick, he used to drive tow truck."  It's okay.  It's no ordeal for us, right?

The worst tire change I ever did was one of the first ones I ever did, when I was 16.  I owned a '49 Willys Jeep, and a friend of mine needed some help pulling an old rear axle off a junk car in a field near his house.  It was late fall, and the field was very soft and muddy, but not too much for a Willys.  The car was on its top, and he had cut and torched around the axle enough that we could put a chain on it and pull it off the car.  We loaded it in the back of the jeep and drove out, and when we got out to the road, I had a flat.

We couldn't get the lugnuts loose.

We really tried hard to loosen those lugnuts.  My buddy even walked home and got a large piece of steel pipe, about 4 feet long, which we put on the end of the lug wrench, to give us leverage.  We got one of the lugnuts about a half-turn before we figured out it had left-handed threads.

Years later I had another frustrating tire-change experience.  I was sent out on a police call for a tire change in the parking lot of a particular "adult" establishment here in Portland.  When I got there, there were several police cars in the parking lot.  Seems there had been some kind of disturbance inside, and the police went in to check it out, and while they were in there, someone slashed all 4 tires on the patrol car.  They seemed to be handling it fairly well, having a good laugh over it.  Rather than have me tow it in to the city shop, however, they called in a few more cars to get together enough spares for me to change all 4 tires.


In Portland, police officers are not "allowed" to change their own tires.  It's a safety issue, or a Union  issue, or something.  Yes, they
can get shot at, but they can't change a tire.  This was the 90s, so you remember those Caprices with the fender skirts over the rear tires, right?  Such fun.  It was a hot, summer night. Being on commission, I busted my butt to change these 4 tires as quickly as possible, so that I could get on to something more lucrative.  The officers chatted with the dancers as they came and went.  I finally finished, about 45 minutes of work, did my paperwork, and left.

Here was the real killer: I charged for 4 service calls.  However, when the city auditor reviewed my invoice, they determined that I could only charge for 1 service call, plus extra time on-scene.  Our contract stated that the first 30 minutes on-scene were part of the hookup or service call charge, so I ended up with commission on a $30 service call, plus $15 for an extra 15 minutes.

So my busting my butt actually reduced my commission.

And I didn't get to chat with any dancers.

Some nights, there is no justice in the world.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper

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