I am a firm believer that women are as capable as any man. Unfortunately, society does not look favorably upon women who take the higher road to self-liberation and discard the protective tendencies of their male counterparts. At least that’s what my gardener, cousin and random roadside strangers tend to believe.
I’ve never been a stranded motorist. I seem to always be surrounded by Cro-Magnon men who think that I should sit in an overheated car while the go do their thing and save the day. The first time I had a flat tire happened within the confines of my own house. I did a little gleeful car side jiggle because this was going to be my chance to flex my muscle. I’ve never been left alone to change my own flat tire due to the ubiquity of gentlemen in my time of need.
I had to wait until the gardener left. It would have been nearly impossible to do anything “liberating” if he was going to hover around me like a mother hen and insist on being efficient. The minute he left I dashed downstairs, opened the boot of the car and proceeded to remove the numerous metal pieces I would need for this endeavor. Although I act like I know everything I have no idea what they are called. I went textbook style. Remove spare tire first- done. Loosen bolts on tire to be changed- done. Block other tires-done- despite the little internal dialogue of blocking just one wheel or all wheels. Jack the car- ermmm, Houston, we may have a problem!
The first dilemma was figuring out how many wheels to block. All three or just the front ones? I was not going to call my husband to ask about something so trivial. Better stuff all wheels, front and back, just to be on the safe side. This car would not have a choice but to stay where I put it.
With the prep work done now was time to put this baby up in the air. I spent the next hour literally crawling on the hard dusty ground with my tush up in the air trying to figure out the right spot for the jack. I hated the jack. It was small and round and did not look efficient enough to handle an SUV. I was questioning the integrity of the jack while assessing the bottom of the car. There was metal all around but in some places it looked like it had been welded. Surely, you did not put a jack under a welded piece of metal. Wouldn’t the seams just rip like a tight dress one size too small? Wouldn’t it give way and crack? I’m no mechanic, but somehow what I saw wasn’t confidence boosting. I tried to look for the owner’s manual but it wasn’t there. This was going to be done my way or no way at all. So I called the only other person who might have been remotely helpful- my sister, 12,942 kilometers away. Her sage advice, Google it! Clearly she is not a liberated woman.
I did Google it. And they were all useless. Without a similar car model, it just wasn’t going to work. This car did not have a hope in hell of getting off the ground this day. There just wasn’t a safe and solid space where the jack would fit. It was getting dark and the evening blood suckers were out in full force. Project abandoned until further notice.
I was nervous that I would put the jack in the wrong place and the car would just sink on its own weight so I waited until my husband came home early the next day, which sort of defeated my liberation spirit. But it was either wait or lose a finger, or a toe, or a whole leg. The silver lining of the situation was when my husband was as stumped as I was. It was a slight ego booster to know that it wasn’t just me.
After endless minutes of surveying the dark underbelly of the car and trying several spots that all failed, we finally decided to put it at the largest and sturdiest looking piece of metal- right at the axle, or what I believe to be the axle. After this, I was left on my own. I mean, I wanted to be left of my own, I was not abandoned. This was my liberation project after all.
My husband had said to put the jack “there” and there is where I put it. Unfortunately, “there,” didn’t look trustworthy. “There,” was a slanted piece of metal where the round head of the jack would not push flat against. It was getting dark by this time and the kids were zigzagging with their bikes between the car and myself. I hollered several times for them to clear out- mom was doing something dangerous. Eventually, I started the tedious job of rotating the jack handle. When you see how puny and short the jack is, you doubt its strength. Don’t people use industrial grade stuff for cars weighing a couple of tons anyway? Surely this is made in China and will snap! The bloody thing actually extended literally forever. I sat there rotating the handle to the jack till my arms started burning. The bad wheel was finally about 2-3 inches off the ground. Hallelujah! I proceeded to remove the bolts I had loosened the day before. Lo and behold three of the bolts were stuck. I mean totally stuck as if I hadn’t even touched them the day before. I peered over my shoulder to my husband. Him trying to be a silent observer is like having a mosquito buzzing around your ear long after you’ve killed it. He was like a phantom, just watching. Probably judging. Sigh!
The precarious way the SUV perched on the jack, I knew I had to put the whole damn car down and loosen the remaining bolts and jack the car up again. My rump was throbbing. I’d been squatting for so long that the muscles in my behind were shooting fireworks in random directions. The car was up for the second time now. Bolts all loosened and ready to rock and roll. Not so fast, cowgirl! Because the bad wheel had been sitting on its own weight for two days, it had literally glued itself to the car. Once the car was tittering in the air, I had assumed it was a piece of cake to get the wheel off. Nope! Not by a long shot. I stole a peak at my husband. “Umm, is this normal?” I ask. As cool as a cucumber he tells me that the bush is stuck to the wheel, which is stuck to the breaks. He assumes I know what all that means and I just nod at him like I know what that means.
You know that scene in hospitals where they bring in defibrillator machine and then yell, “all clear,” right before the electrocute the patient? That’s how it was for a minute. It was like a triage area. I cleared the dogs, cleared the kids, cleared the spying watchman, cleared the bikes, and I stood a good 10 feet away while my husband kick boxed and went all fu on the tire. I plugged my ears with my fingers because I didn’t want to hear car crashing to earth. The wheel finally gave way, and without much fanfare, I was able to get it off, put in the spare, screw bolts back on, tighten, and eventually bring down the car back to solid ground. Finally we have touch down.
Twenty-eight hours after I had first attempted to change the tire, I was finally done. Did it feel like a victory moment? Hell no. Liberation be damned, what the hell would I have done if this happened on the highway and I had to explain to some poor Nairobian where the jack would not go and why the tire was stuck? I would have had to wait for a handful of “helpful men” to deliver me from my predicament. And I would probably be in my kinky heels and woolly skirts to boot. What can be worse than not being able to bend on a highway?
Since I couldn’t handle my camera post liberation movement, I had to take this super blurry picture of my hands.
Despite not feeling quite as liberated as I ought to feel I did learn a valuable lesson, a few of them actually. Know your own damn car. Know your tools. Have patience and don’t be afraid of getting your hands, or your butt dirty. I was blessed that my husband didn’t lose his patience and just do it himself when I took so long. I was glad that I had this chance to do it myself. Lastly, you better have solid contacts at all times because when you get a flat tire you might just be in your kinky heels too. You might not be stuck at home for 28 hours, but you sure as hell might be on a highway to nowhere waiting for Mr. Breakdown/tow truck to show up. And all for a flat tire.
I haven’t yet met many ladies who know their wheels and know to change them. My own mother has driven for decades and has no idea how it’s done. This has nothing to do with feminism. It’s just one of those things that women should know to do for themselves. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t but just imagine how much taller we would walk in our kinky heels if we got down and dirty as any man out there. What about you ladies, how many of you have ever changed a tire and how did you do it? What was your first time like? I would love to hear of your stories if only to know that there are more ladies out there doing this too.