Friday, December 06, 2013

“Rust Never Sleeps”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

“Rust never sleeps.” I heard it in song.
On a recent night in Chardon, I found out that this bygone admonition from Neil Young still rings true.
I had finished a late work shift at my “real job” across the county line. Taking a detour from the usual path toward home, I traveled via Interstate 90 and Route 44. My last pause was at the biggest supermarket on Center Street. I wanted to purchase a traditional, print edition of this newspaper. Plus, catch up on local gossip with friends at the store.
The night was clear and cool. I reached the courthouse crest in only a minute, then began to descend down North Hambden Street.
Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis, a late-night radio program, echoed from the six speakers in my truck cab. I barely noticed a distant “pop” from the roadway. It was followed by a rush of escaping air. Lewis had a persistent tendency to weave audio bits and oddities into his show. So the sound did not cause immediate alarm. Gripping the steering wheel, I wondered if the burst of noise had been part of his broadcast.
But as the truck leaned leftward, reality took hold.
Circle K flew by in a blur of indecision. There was little time to ponder my alternatives. I turned, with effort, into a lot that had once been Chuck Ohl Chevrolet.
It was almost midnight.
I got out of my vehicle. The front, left tire was completely flat. Unpacking the emergency jack and lug nut wrench showed that the equipment had likely never been used. Amazing, since the truck had been built in 1998.
A factory spare tire was suspended under the cargo bed. It hung on a cable which could be loosened with the jack handle. Accomplishing this task while holding my iPhone for illumination proved challenging. Yet once I had lowered the tire, my predicament became clearer. The carrier had completely rusted. There was no separating the wheel from this device.
It also appeared to have never been needed.
I hammered away for a few minutes. Speckles of brown dust covered my face. Yet the spare tire remained bonded to its carriage.
I couldn’t help thinking of Young’s famous composition:

“My my, hey hey
Rock and Roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out
Than fade away
My my, hey hey
Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this, but you pay for that
And once you’re gone, you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.”

I started dialing numbers out of desperation. Because of the late hour, no one was awake. But finally, my niece answered her phone.
“Hello?” she said, groggy from slumber.
“This is Uncle Rod,” I wheezed. “Could you give me a ride home?”
She sounded confused. “Where are you?”
“Stranded, in front of Interstate Towing,” I explained. “Just down from the Chardon Square. Will need a tire for the truck, but that can wait until tomorrow...”
“Of course,” Dree said. “Aren’t you cold?”
“Nah,” I replied, patting my belly. “Plenty of natural insulation here.”
While waiting, I maneuvered the truck into a better spot, where it would not interfere with the flow of customer traffic. Then, another song appeared in my head:

“Like a snake calling on the phone
I’ve got no time to be alone
There is someone coming at me all the time
Babe I think I’ll lose my mind
‘Cause I’m stranded on my own
Stranded far from home.”

The Saints were Australian Punk heroes who I first heard in New York. Their classic, 1970’s recording seemed to reverberate through the darkness. While waiting, I took a few cell phone photos for Facebook.

“Stranded I’m so far from home
Stranded yeah I am on my own
Stranded why don’t you leave me alone.”

My niece arrived in a few minutes. She promised to help again, when daylight would make the task at hand easier to accomplish. Hours later, I could see the rust in all of its awful glory. But the spare tire still would not budge.
Our only solution was to pull the entire front wheel and take it to a repair shop. I left the truck perched on three tires and the bottle jack. An old acquaintance at a local business provided the replacement. A new tire exactly like the one bought before, about two years ago.
I was back on the road in time for work, only thirty minutes late.
“My my, hey hey.”

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