Opinion: Residents made wreck of a day better

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Normally, when something weird happens to someone in our office, it’s sports editor Jeremy D. Smith who steps up and takes the hit.

The boy is a bad-luck magnet. Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, he went fishing with Demopolis resident Boyd Duckett. The two went out on the Tombigbee River, and Jeremy didn’t catch a fish, but he did manage to lose his glasses in the water (gone for good) and also his baseball cap (which was recovered).

But last Friday, it was my turn. When I tried to go to an 8 a.m. doctor’s appointment, I had a flat tire. Luckily, my fiancée was in town, so I made my appointment. But the fun really began when I returned and tried to get the tire changed.

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The flat was on the passenger’s side front, and I was parallel parked on West Washington Street, with the passenger side toward the curb. Because of the way I was parked, I couldn’t really get the jack to work, so I had to call someone to come give me a hand.

I called three different places, and finally Lane Tires answered my pleas for help. When the guy got to my car, he started to jack it up, looked at my wheels and said, “Where is your key?”

I didn’t understand why he needed them, but I handed over my car keys anyway.

“Naw, man,” he said. “The key to your rims.”

Do what?

Apparently, the rims on my tires actually lock to the wheel. Who knew? I didn’t, that’s for sure. The guy who sold me the car never mentioned it to me, either. I didn’t have a key. He couldn’t change my tire without it.

My only recourse? Have the car towed in, and the mechanic would see if he could chisel the rim off the wheel.

I didn’t like it, but I didn’t think I had much choice. I called three companies before I found someone who could come tow me — for $60. I had to wait a little bit, but we got the Mustang up to the store, and I was starting to feel better.

After we unloaded the car, I tried to pay the gentleman, but he actually refused payment. Maybe it was the good conversation on the way over. Maybe it was his kind heart. But money was tight enough last week that I wasn’t going to turn him down either.

My problems were over, I thought. But the tire store didn’t have what I needed in stock — and a new one (including installation) would cost about $190. Ouch. Oh, and it wouldn’t be available until Tuesday. Double ouch.

Thankfully, the woman working the counter suggested I look in Tuscaloosa. I did, and found a tire that would fit for $124 installed. In the meantime, the guy who had come out to look at my tire had found a key that fit my rims. How lucky can you get? They could take the rims off without damaging the wheels. So I asked if the guys would just change my tire to the spare in the trunk.

And it would have worked, too — if it weren’t for those meddling kids. Oh, I mean, it would have worked except for the bent rim on the spare, which rendered it useless. Somewhere out there, the guy who sold me this car is stealing candy from babies or kicking a puppy.

But the guys there went out of their way to help get me back on the road — and even sold me the key to the rims for a more-than-reasonable price.

I got two great examples of customer service and small-town helpfulness on Friday, and about four different people who I need to thank for getting me back on the road.

Now I’m ready for Jeremy to take back over as the guy everything happens to. I’m too old for this sort of thing.

Bobby Mathews is managing editor of The Times. Reach him at bobby.mathews@demopolistimes.com or (334) 289-4017.