Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Samaritan city

My friend's husband just broke his hip - he is a dairy farmer and was involved in a fracas with a cow and a large amount of slurry. I always suspected cows were dangerous. I buy walnut whips and pineapple chunks and set off for a visit to the sick.

I pull off the A1 onto a country road. I check I do not have the handbrake on. I check I have enough petrol. I think: "The car is going to break down" and realise I have a flat tyre. Thinking about it, it must have been flat for a good 10 minutes, maybe longer. I climb out of the car to stare at the smoking tyre. It smells bad and it is pouring with rain. I am in the middle of nowhere and have given up on mobile phones as there is never a signal or the battery is flat. I have been happier.

I think: "Right, well it can't be that hard to change a tyre." I open the boot and find a jack, screwdriver, dirty nappy, pushchair, large amount of children's clothing, two teddybears, banana skin, spacegun and underneath it all, a tyre which I cannot lift. I go back to the front of the car with the jack. My husband has always maintained that if you use a jack in the wrong place on a car, your car will break. I slide it next to the wheel. A car goes by in the rain. I leap up and wave at it frantically and a nice man stops. He lends me his mobile phone so that I can call my husband (who is of course in London) and he can call the RAC. I think: "I can't call the RAC direct because it may take too long and I do not want to keep the man waiting for his phone." I have to ask the driver what road I am on. It turns out he is another local farmer and has heard all about the broken hip. He drives off.

I go back to the car and cautiously try turning the screw in the jack while working out whether the car could kill me if it falls off the jack. I decide I am reasonably safe as I am not underneath it on a trolley but kneeling next to it in a muddy puddle. I go back to the boot and pull out a few other pieces of metal that are lying around the spare tyre. I realise that rather than lifting the rear end of the car off the ground in a bid to extract the spare tyre from the boot, it may be easier to unwind the bolt holding it in place. I feel inadequate. A car drives by and I try to attract its attention but the driver does not see me. I contemplate putting on some lipstick and undoing some buttons. I am glad I have not done this when a little red runabout draws up and a white haired old lady peers out. I say: "Hello." I do not want to frighten her. I crouch down. I say: "Do you by any chance have a mobile pohone I could borrow?" I wonder if she knows what a mobile phone is. She says No, she is driving to see her daughter and had not wanted to drive by me. I know she is wishing she had a toffee she could offer me. I say how kind of her to stop and thank you. She drives on.

I go back to the car and look at the wheel. The tyre is still flat and I am getting wetter. I look at the signpost at the junction. I am about four miles from my friends. I wonder if I shout very loudly would they hear me. Another car draws up. I think: "For the back of beyond, you get a fair amount of passing traffic" although the hands on my watch stopped going round some time ago. I say to the elderly man driving the car: "Could I borrow your phone?" He hands it to me. His elderly wife looks at me with deep suspicion. I ring my husband. He tells me the RAC will not come as I am not named on the cover for the car and the AA cannot find me. While I am trying to explain where I am to him despite the fact I have no idea, the elderly man goes over to look at the wheel and says he can fix it. I tell my husband I will ring him back. The elderly man, a caravaner, digs around his own boot. He pulls out a walking stick come zimmer frame and then a wheel brace. I wonder if he is carrying it in case the zimmer ever gets a flat. We spend some time trying to find a place for the jack to go. He is incredibly game but is now wheezing very badly. His breath is so laboured I am seriously worried he is going to have a heart attack while he changes the wheel. I suspect his wife is sitting in the car having a hissy fit. He has to give up when the jack refuses to go any further. I shake him by the hand and thank his wife for lending him to me. I do not think she likes me.

I go back and have another go. I pull the jack out and slide it further along the car and turn the screw, but the wheel remains resolutely on the ground. I am not sure I care by now as I have no idea what to do once the wheel is in the air. Another car draws up. The man (who spends half his year in Australia and used to do something with trucks), cracks on with the job in hand. It takes him about five minutes. My tyre has a lenthy gash in it. He pours scorn on my spare wheel and implies I will die horribly if I go any speed at all. He says I must go straight to a garage and get a new tyre. I have the impression it could abandon the other three wheels and roll away from the car at any moment. He drives away. I open up the walnut whips.

24 comments:

Stinking Billy said...

I never come across good-looking women stranded by the roadside and struggling to undo their buttons, while I am out in the car. However, I am now going to give myself a quick refresher course on changing a wheel, just in case.

Swearing Mother said...

Have just made a mental note to myself: Enrol in nightschool course on how to change a tyre, ASAP.

Glad you had the walnut whips. Every cloud etc., etc.,.......

Winchester whisperer said...

Come to a bloggers lunch in London

Misses E. said...

This has reminded me I need to refresh myself on such things. It's been years, and I'm afraid I don't remember much if anything.

I'm sorry you had such a rough time of it, but what nice people to stop and help.

Rob Clack said...

Sorry you had such a rough time in the rain. Get someone to show you how to do it - where to put the jack (and don't forget you'll need to learn it all over again when you change the car!), the easiest sequence of events, how to undo the nuts when they're too tight, the easiest way to put the spare on, etc.

It isn't complicated, but 1) it's much easier if you've practised when you're not in a hurry, it's not raining and you're not flinching at passing traffic 2) wheels are heavy and there are a few tricks to unjamming them from the wheelhub and lifting them back up into place. Again, easier practised at home.

I hope this doesn't come over as patronising - it's supposed to be helpful.

Rob Clack said...

I forgot. Carry a pack of one-size disposable plastic gloves in the glove box. You'll get filthy anyway, but you won't feel uncomfortable touching the steering wheel as you drive (with a smug, self-satisfied smirk) away.

@themill said...

Now, how did you manage to stop the only farmer in the area who wouldn't offer to change it for you? Have you upset him in a previous post?
Dangerous things, cows.

Em said...

Surely there MUST be a mobile phone company that has coverage in your area??

I can't change a tyre. I rely entirely on my breakdown cover to deal with punctures and stuff...

Hope you didnt catch cold after getting so wet!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I have to admit I wouldn't know where to start if that was me. I would probably have just started walking. After spending half an hour in a state of panic. Typical it was raining, always the way.

J said...

I love all the advice about learning. My advice was to make sure to get your name on the account and keep a book in the car for the wait.

Moi said...

Reminds me of the time this happened to me last summer. I managed to pull over into a large drive, so as not to be run over by white van drivers between Fairford and Lechlade. After struggling with the rusty nuts and kicking the tyre in rage a few times, a woman appeared on the drive and told me to move my car. Her husband was on his way home from work apparently and wouldn't be able to 'gain access to his drive.' 'Thanks for your help', I hissed and sat in the car waiting for the AA. Her husband duly arrived 20 mins later and and after a polite, smiling exchange he changed the tyre for me, watched all the while by venomous wife from the front door.

Very disappointed by the ungallant farmers you have up there....

mutleythedog said...

What a pisser! I think you did wonderfully well and you deserve a bit of a cuddle and some expensive red wine...

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Good on you for even trying.

lady thinker said...

Oh Dear Wife - I am so SORRY - sorry that I laughed so much - but I see that in the link to 'How to Change a Wheel ' they make no mention of using a banana skin - so I'd discard that as soon as possible!
Join a rescue service yourself - the royal ones are the best. When they come to your rescue and change the wheel in nana moment they are like Knights in Shining Armour - worth every penny.

Mopsa said...

Any excuse to indulge in a walnut whip - nostalgia and chocolate at the same time. Yum.

mrsnesbitt said...

Greetings neighbour, calling from just outside Whitby here, on the North York Moors.

Great to meet you so to speak!

Will visit again soon.

Denise

Pig in the Kitchen said...

I am so comforted by the amount of crap that you also carry around in the back of your car.
Walnut whips? Did you choose to buy those or are they his favourite? I think you needed more hardcore chocolate.
I trust your day got better...
Pigx

Motheratlarge said...

I couldn't have waited that long before cracking into the Walnut Whips. I admire your self-restraint. Sorry you had such an awful time.

Frog in the Field said...

Here, have a piece of Banana cake, I'll put the kettle on..
I really felt for you, reading that, bloody farmers, broken hip? Pah..attention seeking more like!
ps. I'd have been in tears after all that!

Casdok said...

Well handled!

Big Chip Dale said...

i an very drunk. where am I?

Minx said...

Isn't it about time someone invented a tyre that doesn't pop? Sure some clever woman would come up with one.

Livvy U. said...

Glorious post!

maggie d said...

Sorry to hear of your experience Why is it always a pouring wet day when you get a flat tyre. I live in the country and have had to change a wheel myself several times the latest being last week in Tescos car park. In my car boot I keep an old ankle length shiny PVC raincoat with a hood. Although probably not fashionable today I wear it whenever I have to get out and change a wheel. It keeps my good clothes from getting covered in dirt and if its raining it keeps me dry and the hood keeps my hairstyle from getting ruined.

If I came across a woman like yourself obviously strugling with a flat tyre I would certainly stop and offer help. We women must help each other.