Dangerspouse Rides Again

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Garage - Track

Jan. 26, 2015 - 6:37 p.m.

You Don't Know Jack

Like the swallows to Capistrano, like the retards to BronyCon, DangerHouse also has its annual tradition.

Every year, on the night before the first major snowstorm, DangerSpouse smites his forehead and says "Oh my god - I forgot to put the snowtires on the car!"

And every year it's a race against time to get the last lugnut tightened before the first flake falls and white death descends upon the land. So far I've won the race every year. Some years it's been close, finishing in the dark with only a few minutes to spare, but I've won.

I won again this year, but almost at a terrible cost.

The good thing about this year's first snowfall was that it was fell on a Saturday. When it happens on a weekday, it's a race against bedtime as much as the weather. I generally have just enough time to drive right home from work, swap the tires, throw NewWifey(tm) a quick one, hit the sack, and drive back to work. I'm lucky if I can even squeeze in an episode of "Powerpuff Girls".

But the first snow this year was due to arrive early on Saturday. That meant I could come home from work on Friday, sit down for a leisurely lunch, throw NewWifey(tm) a quick one, then head out and change the tires without worrying about having to get to bed by 7:30.

I should mention for the car types here: when I say "change the tires" I mean "swap the wheels". I keep a set of snow tires mounted on steel rims in the garage. Come winter, I pop off off the car's summer tire/wheel combo and pop on the winter shoes. Reverse that in the spring.

It's a pretty easy procedure, if slightly harrowing because there is no flat surface on our driveway. Its whole length is pitched pretty steeply, so any car being worked on has to be chocked around every wheel that's not in the air. But I'm used to it.

Now here's the thing: this was going to be the first time I was doing the wheel swap on Faith (our new/used Subaru Forester). I don't have a winter wheel combo yet for her ($$$), but I do have the set I usually mount on Stanley (a Subaru WRX). (For the auto geeks again: I was downsizing from 215/60/16 to 205/55/16 with this swap. The wheel offset is different, but not so much that it rubbed the brake assembly, so it's cool.)

Subaru Foresters have a pretty impressive amount of ground clearance. I can get down on my hands and knees and practically crawl on all fours under the car and not scrape my back. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but compared to my WRX - which seemed like you could barely slide a credit card between the road and the bottom of the side skirt - it really looks gargantuan.

To help me in this yearly endeavor I have a hydraulic lift. I purchased it, at great expense, the day after I first made the winter tire swap using the scissor jack that comes with the car. That was an experience I continue to live out in nightmares all these years later. In addition I have the wheel chocks that I mentioned, and a set of jack stands.

If you're not familiar, the process goes like this: place wheel chocks around every tire that is not going up in the air, slide the lift under the frame behind the wheel that IS going up in the air, pump the handle until the wheel is off the ground, place a jack stand under the frame rail next to the lift, then gently lower the lift until the car is resting on the jack stand. You don't want to leave your 3 ton car elevated on just a lift, because the lift has wheels. Jack stands don't. On a sloped driveway, that's a critical difference.

So one after the other I chocked the wheels, slid the lift, pumped it up, dropped it onto a jack, and made the swap. Bingo bango bongo. Went smooth as silk for the first three wheels.

Come the fourth wheel, and something glitched. The last tire to go was the front right. With the Forseter backed into the driveway, the front of the car was pointed downhill. I had the thing jacked way up - with its crazy tall ground clearance you practically have to pump it til the body is at a 45 degree angle before the wheel lifts - so the vast majority of the car's weight was bearing down on the front left tire. No problem, but I thought I'd note that for you. There was a lot of stress on that front left quarter.

Anyway, so the other three wheels popped off and on pretty quickly, with no snags. This last one, though, decided to be a bugger. The summer rim popped off just fine, but when I pushed the winter wheel onto the lugs in its place, it didn't seat right. For some reason the wheel wouldn't push all the way on. I'd already checked that the brakes would clear, so I couldn't think what it might be.

I got onto my back and scooched under to take a look.

Hmmm. No good. I couldn't really tell, since the shocks were sagging from the car being lifted, and that angled everything out of my view. I needed to get more of a peek from underneath to see what might be catching. Only one thing to do: I had to get that corner of the car up higher.

So I scooched back out, positioned the lift again, pumped again, and raised the car another 3 or 4 inches. Back onto my back, and back under the car.

Forgetting to raise the jack stands.

The entire car was now being held up at about a 55 degree angle by a hydraulic lift with four steel wheels, on a nearly 25 percent slope.

But not for long.

I had just positioned myself in the perfect spot to see what might be hanging up against the rotor, propped up on one elbow with a penlight clamped in my teeth, when I heard a high pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" right next to my head.

I knew immediately what it was. I swung the penlight over my right shoulder and was horrified to see the 4 inch gap between the top of the jack stand and the bottom of the frame rail. And the bottom of the frame rail was moving.

I simultaneously spat the penlight out, rolled to my stomach, and pushed backwards as hard as I could.

No good. I don't think I'd even managed to clear my belly button when, in a split second, the Forester skittered 2, maybe 3 inches down and to the left. It would have been more, but the chocks held. Still, that was enough. The torque of that move levered the lift's arm down and to the left also, and when THAT happened, all hell broke loose. The lift canted over on two wheels, with the full weight of the car pressing against the very edge of the lifting disc.

Imagine putting a chicken wishbone down on a table with one arm lying flat on the table and the other arm sticking up in the air. Now imagine pushing down with your finger the end of the wishbone that's sticking up in the air. NOW imagine the wishbone is made of steel. As long as you push straight down, nothing happens. But if you rotate your hand and push down diagonally, guess what happens?

I'll tell you what happens: the lift shoots sideways like it was fired out of a cannon and drops a Subaru Forester straight down onto your head.

It happened so fast I didn't even have time to flinch. All I could do was process it in retrospect, maybe 5 seconds later, and that's when I started screaming.

Then I stopped, once I realized I was still alive enough to scream. What happened? Why wasn't half of my head on the other side of a Subaru frame rail?

Turns out it was the jack stand - the one I'd forgotten to raise when I pumped the lift again. The wide mouth at the top just caught the edge of the Forester as it dropped, and it held.

I've never spent a better $24.99 in my life.

Now, moments after I stopped screaming the front door of Dangerhouse opened and NewWifey(tm) stuck her head out.

"What the hell is going on out here" she yelled. "It sounded like a gun went off, then a girl started screaming. And you look white as a sheet!"

"Honey! Honey!" I said. "I was under the car and the lift collapsed and the Subaru would have fallen on me but the jack stand caught it at the last second and I was almost killed!!"

"Oh is that all" she laughed. And she pulled her head back in and closed the door.

'Oh is that all'? 'Oh is that all'?? Is THAT all she had to say about a falling car missing her husband by the width of a cunt hair?

The color rushed back to my face and I ran up the stairs.

"Waddaya mean, 'Oh is that all'?" I yelled. "A car almost fell on me. Didn't you hear me? If that jack stand had been a half inch farther over you would be looking at two half-husbands right now. I was scared to death!"

"Oh, stop being so dramatic. Cars fall off lifts all the time. When I lived in Kansas City there was probably one accident a week with them. Guys would get together, have a couple PBR's*, and one would say "I got a rattle in my U-joint. One of y'all wanna take a look?" They'd hoist the thing up without even putting the parking brake on sometimes." She looked away and added almost whistfully, "I lost my favorite uncle when he perched the front end of his F150 on a plastic milk crate so he could jack up the back end at the same time...." She trailed off and looked back at me. "Now are you gonna finish putting those wheels on, or what? The snow's gonna start any minute." And she went back to playing Candy Crush.

Hmmmph. Well. They breed hard womenfolk out there, apparently. Good thing she swallows.

But she was right, ultimately, no matter how insensitively she put it. I needed to have that last tire on before the neighborhood was coated in more white than a Republican tea social. I gathered both my nerves and the jettisoned hydraulic lift from my neighbor's yard, then got back to work. The Forester was still balanced on three wheels and a jack stand, so it was a snap putting the new wheel on (whatever caused the original hang-up must have shot out with the lift, because the wheel slid on all the way down the studs). 10 minutes later everything was tightened up, I got the lift back under the rail and hoisted it off the jack, then dropped it down. Just as the first flake fell.

I rolled her into the garage, then went inside and had a PBR. Seemed fitting.

The next day, Saturday, we woke to 9 inches of snow on the ground. Not bad for around here, but since it was the first of the season it was depressing. All the moreso because I had to shovel it. I know what you're saying: "But shovelling snow is NewWifey(tm)'s job!" That's true, it is...when she doesn't have diverticulitis.

So I fired up the snowblower and spent an hour figuring out how to get the blade to rotate. Then another two hours blowing snow into the path I'd already blown, and having to do it again. But finally I got it all clear, and could get to the store for more PBR.

So why is it I'm posting this entry NOW, on a Monday night? I hardly ever post lengthy, stupid, boring entries on weekday nights. I have to go to bed so early it's almost impossible.

It's because I'm still at work. And will probably BE at work for the next 3 days. You see there's a MOTHERFUCKING MONSTER, WORLD EATING, AS-FORETOLD-IN-REVELATIONS KILLER BLIZZARD BEARING DOWN ON US LIKE AN ISIS OF SNOW! Or at least, that's what the media is telling us. And by "media" I mean "me", of course. I'm obligated to go on the air just like everyone else with the correct amount of panic in my voice and the proper level of hyperbole so that people will be too scared to turn the dial. I'm a whore, but at least I'm a talented whore.

Although, in truth, this looks to be a pretty bad blizzard. No hyperbole is really needed on my end. That's why we were all told to be ready to be snowed in at the studio for at least three days, and plan accordingly. So just like when I was stuck here during Hurricane Sandy, I'm all set. I've got my roll up sleeping mat, some porn, an extra sock, my Nintendo DSi, and a leg of lamb. Bring it, bitch.

Oh, and a 6 of PBR. Just in case anyone wants their U-joint checked. Safety first, you know.

Ok, I guess I should wrap this up and go watch more porn. I haven't met my MDR yet, and it's getting late.

Don't forget to jack it, kids. Later.




*"Pabst Blue Ribbon". The choice of rednecks and anyone who likes alcoholic pee.


PS. Hey comebacktome: thanks for the shout out. I feel your pain - not having notes is frustration incarnate. You can always drop me an e-mail, though, if it's pressing. Check my previous entry for the addy.

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