When we got the new Mega SUV last year I found out that one of the newfangled features it has is a low tire sensor. If a tire or tires is low it lights up a yellow light on the dashboard and the computer information system displays “LOW TIRE PRESSURE”. Which I thought was a grand idea. Then over the ensuing months I figured out that this thing was sensitive. At first beep I’m off to check the air only to find it one or two pounds low. Also found out that otherwise well inflated tires appear low to the sensor when the temperature drops. Sensor ignites at first, only to go out once the tires warm up halfway to the service station to air up. Which brings me to my point. Every service station on every corner in America used to give air away. Free. Gratis. De nada. Thanks for your business.
I’m not so ancient as to be unaware that times have changed. I’m not yet curmudgeonly enough to constantly bemoan “how great things were back in the day” as opposed to now. But as someone who’s newfangled tire pressure sensor goes off frequently I’ve been a more frequent purchaser of compressed air this year. We’ve all seen the machines like the one pictured. It seems pretty straightforward. You drop your 75 cents in the slot and the compressor runs for 45-50 seconds enabling you to get a whiff of air while you remove the valve stem cap.
But what if you don’t have quarters? At our first stop the question was moot. Someone had neatly severed the nozzle off the end of the hose. Wonder why someone would do that? Failed attempt to find air number one.
Here’s something I didn’t know…the “system” at 7-11 prevents them from opening the cash register to give change. At least according to Mahmoud, the evening shift “manager” aka the night guy. He tells me I will have to wait for someone to buy something. One look around the completely empty store and desolate parking lot (save for one Mega SUV with a low tire) tells me that might be awhile. Failed attempt number two.
Head down the street to the Shell vendor where Abdul looks up from his book to tell me that air is free. I relate that this information conflicts with the sign on the machine which clearly indicates in 2.5 inch Arial boldface font that it costs 75 cents. He points to a button beside the door, tells me to punch the button, turn around in a circle three times, click my heels, blink twice and shout “YAHTZEE!!”. This he assures will enable the air compressor. I comply, walk back out to the truck. Doesn’t work. I go back. A laughing Abdul says “Just kidding. You didn’t really have to blink.” I try again. No juice. Aware that there are security cameras and this will probably be on the youtubes before I can stow my air gauge, I split. Failed attempt number three.
Last and final attempt. If this doesn’t work I’ll just use the foot pump that came with the air mattress or pray to the tyre g*ds to allow the Esposa to survive the 150 mile daytrip to Tyler and back tomorrow with only 30 psi in the right front tire. Friendly attendant Ahmed tells me “You no need change. Just push button. Air come on.” I’m skeptical. I look around for the Punk’d cameras or Ashton Kutcher. Probably should have thought of that at the last place, but you know twice burned once shy or however that goes. I go out. Push the button. Air compressor fires up. I get my 2 psi. Light goes off. That was easy.
I consider going back to the last two places, pulling out the Kbar folder and slicing the air nozzles off their hoses. But the cameras stop me. They’re everywhere.