So today I drove to a friend's house (40 miles from mine) and I noticed my tire light came on (yes, the one of the infamous "blinka-blinka" post. It usually comes on when one of the tires' pressure doesn't match the others. Lately, it's popped on two or three times, but after the initial discovery that there wasn't much difference in pressure between all four tires, I started ignoring and resetting it instead of, you know, actually checking to see if anything was wrong.
Yesterday I washed the car. As I bent to scrub down the rear driver side wheel, I noticed, "hey, that tire looks a bit low." It had been awhile since I checked them, and the tempurature's dropped, so maybe it was time to adjust for the denser, colder winter air.
I checked it. First the tire pressure gauge said 8.0. As in 8 pounds of air pressure per square inch of tire. That's right, EIGHT. Zer-o-eight-o. If you know anything about automobile tires, you would know that the pressure shouldn't be reading in single digits. Ever. I checked it again.
Technically double digits, but not any better. Worse, in fact. I had even driven on them that day. It was a short jaunt to the library, but come on. Someone should have knocked me aside the head for that. And I was wondering why my gas mileage has been so shitty lately. Barack Obama would be ashamed.
I checked the other three tires. They were all in the low 20's. Better, but not much. The manual states that they should be at least 33, and 38 if you're loaded up with four people and luggage (laughable in my car, but I guess the law requires them to put the recommended tire pressure for the "what if/it could happen" situations).
Now here's my question--when the tire pressures barely varied, the idiot blinka-blinka light popped on. But it didn't for a rear tire with a reading of 8? Did the manufacturer run a deal with the tow truck companies to drum up business? So when things are normal, the light comes on and I panic, but when they are clearly and visibly unsafe, no light? Wha happened?
Today I was heading to a friend's house and not long after I merge onto the highway, you guessed it--blinka blinka. "Oh, shit." I think, knowing that the rear tire was flat just yesterday. I glance in my side view mirror to cop a peek at the tire. Surprisingly, 1) I can see it and 2) it looks a-okay. The sidewall is not scraping the pavement. I continue on, passing a green Cadillac SUV with West Virginia plates. I know what you're thinking, "ha-ha, nothing good ever came out of West Virginia." I know--I thought it too. Hey, I'm not proud.
I stop at a local mall (vs. the one 50 miles away), find an empty parking area and check my tires agains. I use my portable compressor that plugs into the lighter and I fill the rear one (oo, smart, you're saying, but really I bought it because I'm too stingy to feed quarters into the ones as the gas stations). The rest of the tires match up (they are safely in the mid-30's, while the rear driver's side is about 1.5 pounds less than the others.
As I was going around to check the tires, I noticed the same West Virginia small Cadillac SUV in the parking lot. Now this wasn't the regular lot--this was theone that is only used during the last two days before Christmas. This is the overflow lot. "What the hell are they doing here?" I think, but I continue along, hoping I can fill up the tire and be done with the idiot light for good.
After I finished filling the rear one, they pull around. Don't make eye contact, I think. Maybe they're lost and need directions. West Virginia is a long way from here (not really, but suburban Marylanders like to pretend it is). My music is playing on the stereo and my back is turned. Keep it moving, I think. Then I realized they were talking to me.
I turned around to face two women. "We saw you pull over and we wanted to help, but we weren't sure how. We saw you had a little one..."
me: (thinking): but that was why I got the windows tinted, so people wouldn't "see" anything back there--
"...and we just want to make sure everything was okay. "
"Ohhh..." I say. "I'm an asshole," I think. "Thank you. The tire pressure light came on and..." I try to coherently explain my ongoing battle with the light and how I think filling the tire solved the problem. I'm an idiot describing an idiot light.
"Okay," they said before peeking through the open door and admiring my daughter (three year olds are best viewed from outside of the car, when they are half-asleep and still strapped into their booster seat).
I thanked them and honestly it was such a sweet thing to do ("That's so sweet of you" were my words). I feel awful for feeling distrustful when I saw they pulled into the same area. So shame on me and yay on them. And yay for anyone else out there who has gone out of their way to help or check on a total stranger.