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How many people does it take to change a flat tire?

Nine. Actually make that ten. Ten people and one dog.

And so this is how it all happened. After dinner yesterday, driving back with a car full of girls I suddenly heard a weird clanking noise coming from somewhere. Actually, it would be unfair to say I heard it. One of the girls did : I was busy chatting.

I decided to stop and investigate where the noise of coming from. That’s when I noticed the right rear tire : it looked exactly like the Kolkota Knight Riders team after yesterday’s defeat. Dejected, out of air and fully down.

Now let me tell you that I have quite a lot of knowledge of tire changing : in theory though. I remember my last three flats in three years (averaging one a year). The first one, in the early days was when I refused to believe that such things could happen to me. Thankfully, I had just caught up with a friend and parted ways. Before he could get any further away, I placed my distress call. Friend arrived, changed tire in ten minutes and I was all set to go! It seems easy, I am thinking.

The second time it happened, it was in office and my very nice colleague, despite being dressed in business formals, changed it for me. I made copious notes – I was just beginning to get a hang of this tire changing business.

The third time it happened, it was at a busy junction. I had a friend with me who helpfully suggested we seek help at the petrol pump just ahead. Now why did I not think of that? Anyway, about 15 minutes later, it was all done. A rather elderly gentleman at the pump took pity on us and helped. I made quick notes (again) as to where the different implements were being placed so I knew exactly how to do this the next time.

This brings us back to last night : my fourth flat. The girls had already begun to panic a bit, but I assured them that this is not a national emergency. We were passing a petrol bunk and L and M walked across to ask for some help but had to come back empty handed. They were closing down and no one had handled a spanner in their lives.

This is where I had a idea. Let’s drive as slowly as possible to T’s house, about a kilometer away and then wait for T’s hubby to arrive and help us. Brilliant! A foolproof plan, except that T’s hubby was out somewhere too. But no worries, we could wait. We weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere.

I steered the car as slowly as possible until we were finally in front of T’s house. Since T’s hubby showed no signs of arriving, I decided to take things (and the spanner) into my own hands.

Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten where the diamond shaped implement that lifts up the car actually goes. Helpful suggestions were floated around, none of which really turned out to be very helpful. I turned the spanner every way possible to turn the implement (what the hell is it called?!). But to no avail.

This is when M caught a complete stranger (who was zipping away on a bike) for help. Do you know anything about anything, she asks the poor zapped soul. Okay, that’s not exactly what she asked but it was pretty close. This young guy looked like he had been asked a really tough physics question. No, he had no idea as he had never changed a tire before. Or even seen the instruments used to change one.

He did however volunteer to hang around – it was rather late in the night and apparently there was a drunk person in the vicinity. I was very impressed with his chivalrous spirit : but it didn’t get us too far in the tire changing process.

T then decided to try the “call a neighbour” option. So a big hunk of a guy walks out of her gate, with a really excited looking dog. Neighbour and dog however maintain safe distance from the car : none of them having changed a tire before.

Meanwhile, we were actually making a little bit of progress. A driver who was waiting somewhere nearby made an appearance and helpfully suggested that I was placing the elevated thingy all wrong. “Elli, elli” he says. Since he didn’t speak much of any other language, we communicated in sign and surmised that we had to lift up the wheel 2 inches from the ground. Super – things were going well.

This is when the bike guy stepped in (finally he was being helpful) and loosened the wheel nuts. Whoever screwed them on so tight, I am wondering? I need to do more strength training if I have to get these things off.

M at this point, decides that it is a national emergency and calls for more help : her sister. Wait, it’s not just the sister. It’s her sister’s friend too. None of these people though actually know how to do it.

So now there are 5 girls, M’s sister’s friend, the clueless bike guy, the helpful driver and the hunky neighbour (and his excited dog) : all gathered to change a tire. At this crucial juncture, T’s hubby arrives. Oh, I’ve done this many times he says breezily. Thank God, I am thinking with my hands full of grime, feeling like a failed mechanic. Someone who actually knows in which direction to turn the spanner!

He quickly maneuvers the jack (yes, I think that’s the name!), elevates it to the right level, opens the poor deflated tire and voila : the new tire is now on.

It has now been over an hour that we’ve been struggling and it’s nearly midnight. The clueless (but very helpful, thank you!) guy has zipped off. Hunk and dog disappear realizing they weren’t really contributing to the scheme of things. Driver goes off to find his own car. And we have crossed over to the next day : incidentally T’s birthday. T’s hubby has brought her a sinful chocolate cake. We sing happy birthday, partake of cake and then clutch our tummies contentedly.

Whoever thought a flat tire would lead to chocolate cake? But I am not complaining. I am now preparing myself for the next one. I’m 99% sure I’ve got it this time. I just hope it’s not the front tire.

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