The Hyundai’s tires are cold weather sensitive. Every year, when the temp drops below 32, the “TPMS” light pops on.
The first time that happened, I took it to the tire shop, where they filled the tires and told me that’s what happens to tires when the cold air contracts inside them. They looked at me a little pityingly too (“Ah, poor silly woman….”) so I gracelessly grabbed my keys from the counter and grumbled off into the gloom.
That never happened with any of my OTHER cars, I huffed to myself, and I’ve been driving since before that smart-mouth whippersnapper tire-guy was born.
But at least I knew. Each year, then, as the cold weather came and the TPMS popped on, I would head down to the Speedway and pump air into my tires…air that went from costing a quarter to costing something like $2.75 during the Hyundai’s lifetime.
That would send me off grumbling, too, (Who ever heard of paying for AIR?) but since the air pump was self-serve, no one was the beneficiary of my grumpiness.
I would climb back into the car, put it into gear, and drive off. In about half a mile, the “TPMS” would blink off, and I would relax, knowing my tires were fine.
This year, though, we bypassed the whole “TPMS” ordeal and went right to the flat tire Emoji thing.
It doesn’t quite look like this, but you get the idea of the warning light that glared tauntingly at me from the dashboard one morning this week.
It scared me. I got out of the car and walked around, inspecting tires. They all LOOKED fine.
I kicked them, and they all felt fine, too—in fact, after that, they probably felt better than my toes did.
Mark, when I told him about the flat tire Emoji, looked grave, and he dug around in his tool kit for the tire pressure gauge thing. It was broken, so he and James took a ride to Lowe’s. They came home with two bags full of good stuff, and they remembered to buy the tire gauge tool, too.
That night before supper, Mark checked all the tires. The driver’s side front tire, he said, MIGHT be a little soft. He took the car, and a pocketful of quarters, down to Speedway, and he filled up all the tires.
The next day, I drove the forty-odd miles to Coshocton to teach. The Emoji did not blink off. When I parked at the College, I got out and kicked all the tires, and they seemed full.
The day after that, I drove an hour to get to my favorite dentist’s office. Once again, the light stayed on, but the tires seemed all right.
But it troubled me. Maybe there was something wrong with a censor someplace, and the light was just a goof-up. But maybe, in some way I couldn’t see, there was something wrong with one of the tires.
I called the service guys we deal with, and the person I spoke to said, “Sure. Bring it down Friday morning, and we’ll check it out.”
“If in doubt, call the experts,” I thought. I went to sleep that night feeling a little bit better. It doesn’t seem like a good idea, at all, to ignore warning signals.
And doing all that driving, I had a chance to listen to talk radio.
One the way to teaching, I listened to a crofter in Scotland talking about farming her land. Last year, she said, it rained all summer, and the crops didn’t grow well. Then the snow, over the winter, was unprecedented for her area. And then, she said, this summer, the drought came. By June, she was feeding her sheep with stored-up hay. Normally, they’d be happily grazing, but the crofter said her grass had turned brown and died.
It’s climate change, she said, and we’re somehow going to have to change the way we do farming, or things will go very, very wrong.
The program switched from Scotland to Florida, where a journalist was in Tallahassee, reporting on the aftereffects of Hurricane Michael. She talked to people who were living in their cars. She talked to the manager of a Walmart in Panama City. The store, he said, was badly damaged and couldn’t be opened yet. But he was encouraging any employee who wanted to, to come in and work. The unemployment, he said, was staggering, and people who had no homes and no income were—no big surprise—getting very depressed.
At least, he said, if people come in and help put the store back together, they’re making money. They feel like they’re doing something.
The journalist cut to an interview with a weather scientist, who, when asked if the severe storms were the result of climate change said, in a surprised kind of voice, “Well, of course.”
Warning signs, I thought, and I sensed a huge wave waiting, pent up and growing, maybe, stronger, biding, pending, watching for a chance. I felt the weight too of corporations and governments who fiddle while Rome burns, who deny weather science to line their pockets…pockets, I imagine, that are already quite full.
They are ignoring the warning signs, and we are, already, feeling the effects.
I turned off the radio in the parking lot, shook my head, and went in to work with 23 very bright young people on position papers. I shoved the global warming warnings way back to the shadows of the bony storeroom in my mind.
On the way home, I couldn’t help myself: I turned the radio back on.
I listened to the latest reports on Jamal Kashoggi’s death.
I heard about a Houston police officer, Amber Guyger, who shot a man in his own apartment. She thought, Guyger said, that he was in HER apartment. Guyger, at the time I was listening, had just been placed in jail.
I learned that three more pipe bombs had been discovered in the mail of three prominent persons,—persons who, along with seven others who’d received similar packages the day before, had been named by the President as his enemies. I learned that some of the President’s more avid supporters claimed that the intended victims had mailed the bombs to themselves, eager to whip up anti-Trump sympathy.
Murder: the final and highly effective muzzling of a meddling journalist. Shootings and pipe bombs and angry accusations.
Warning signs, I thought, and I turned the heat on in the car because I was feeling chilled.
At home, I looked up global warming, and I found some significant things that I can do, that any person can do. I committed to turning things off, to consolidating trips, to trying to eat less meat…I vowed to insulate and layer, lower the heat, and reduce my carbon footprint. I might not be able to change a corporate mind, but I can live mindfully and join with others making changes.
And I can vote, and hope that process is protected and straightforward, that my vote will be counted as it should be. I am not yet ready to let go of the belief that one vote and one voice can make a difference.
But that thought does hover.
On Friday morning, early, I warmed up the car, and I drove it down to the service center. Mike, one of the mechanics, came out to talk to me, and I showed him my Hyundai.
“My wife drives one of these, too,” he said, “and she has the same problem every year. We’ll take a look for you.”
He ushered me inside, where it was warm and bright and clean, where there were comfortable chairs and a Starbucks coffee machine, and he told me to relax a minute while he looked things over.
I sank into a cushioned chair and opened my book. I hadn’t even finished a chapter when Mike was back, smiling.
“You’re all set,” he said.
He walked me out to where he’d parked the Hyundai. They’d taken a look, and everything was fine, he said. They put a couple of pounds of air in the tires, and he didn’t think I’d have any more problems.
“Now when you fill those tires,” he said, “make sure you set the pump to 32. And you ought not to have any more trouble.”
Mike shook my hand and declined to charge me and waved me on my way.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I realized the flat tire Emoji had disappeared.
I just felt better with that warning signal gone.
I wonder what other kinds of fixers I can call on to make the other warning signs fade away.