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Friday, December 23, 2016

A Story About Winter Driving

Some years ago, I was heading home from work on a Saturday morning. It was about five degrees with, as I recall Doctor Fever once saying, "a gentle wind wafting out of the north at about a thousand miles an hour."  I thought one of my tires was a bit low, so detoured to a service station that usually has an air line available.

When I arrived, there was a lady trying to air up a tire, and it wasn't working because that sucker was flat. And she was standing there in the "I don't know the number, but it's effing cold!" wind chill in just a sweater.

It turned out that changing her tire was a bit involved, because her spare was low enough to be unusable and the air hose at the station was off. So I took it to another place and got it aired up, brought it back, and discovered her jack would only go about halfway up; I had to get the jack from my truck to lift it from there.

During all this, I asked why she didn't have a coat (or gloves, or a jacket, anything), and she said "I was just going to work, and where I park is covered and close to the door." This was also, let me note, just before cell phones started being available and affordable for most people, so she had no phone, and it was early enough that most places were still closed.

So, here we have a simple flat tire bringing up a lack of necessary things:
  • No coat, or gloves, or anything warmer than a sweater.
  • An unusable spare tire. 
  • A nonfunctional jack..
  • No way to air up the spare without being able to drive somewhere.
  • No way to call for help unless she could find a pay phone... somewhere.

So in winter weather (moreso if you're traveling a ways, but even in town):
  • Make sure you have warm stuff to wear. Even a blanket folded up in a bag can make a big difference in comfort if you're stuck somewhere for a while. And if your engine is not running, meaning you can't use the heater, it could be a literal lifesaver.
  • Make sure your spare is aired-up and ready to use.
  • Make sure you know how to use your tire jack. (Don't laugh, I've run into people who had no idea how.)
  • Make sure you even have a spare tire (a lot of modern cars don't), or at least a can of Fix-a-Flat. It might be worth it to invest in an actual spare and a jack if you can; it might save you a long hot/wet/freezing wait for the service guy to show up.
  • Make sure you have a phone to use in an emergency.
  • Make sure you have change, in case there's one of those current '$0.25 for air' pumps around.
  • And, just in case you have to wait around a while, having a bottle of water and something to eat might be really nice.

Stay safe this winter, folks.

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