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Sometimes I wonder about new ways of doing things. Sometimes progress is real progress. Sometimes I'm not so sure.

A few days ago, my wife and I had an unusual adventure out in the country. We were out for a drive beginning out on Ark. Hwy. 127, exploring a part of Benton County that we had never traveled before, when we had a flat tire on the right front of our van. We had driven south from Garfield, then west on Posy Mountain Road, turned north on Walnut Hill Road, passed the Walnut Cemetery, and were on Sugar Creek Road coming toward Brightwater when the car started making distress noises. I first thought the sound was a front wheel bearing going bad, but when I stopped and looked, sure enough, the tire was flat as a flitter. We have owned this car since 2012, and have never had any kind of road emergency or problem, at least until now. Although in my earlier life I spent several years as an automobile mechanic, I had not lately paid attention to such fundamental points of knowledge about the car, such as, where is the jack? And where is the lug wrench? And, most importantly, where is the spare tire in this car? And, since I hadn't checked the little doughnut of a spare tire any time during the past seven years, I questioned if it would still be holding any air pressure?

So, initially I thought to call a towing service to come and tow us in. I had my cell phone, and it was charged enough for making a call, but I had no idea what number to call. So, I thought, aha, I'll call my brother and ask him to look up the number of a towing service for me. Well, when I asked Ben to look up a number for me, he, being the helpful brother that he is, asked why don't I come and bring the air tank and see if we can pump up your tire temporarily to get you back into Pea Ridge?

Ben's suggestion became the plan, but I set about taking the wheel off the car so we could try and see what kind of leak we were dealing with. I found the jack and lug wrench in a pack in a panel in the inside rear of the van. It was a screw-type jack, which works very well, although one feels like you crank on it forever to raise the car. The next thing was to locate the pad under the car where the jack should be placed to raise the right front. I couldn't find any such pad. Looking at the jack, I saw it had a slot at a puzzling place, and I wondered if that was supposed to slip over the rib that I could feel under the car. Sure enough, on consulting the car operator's manual, that was exactly the way to position the jack.

So, after cranking on the jack for what seemed half-an-hour, the wheel was raised. Then I had to look for the lug socket which removes the safety lug nut which prevents just anyone from taking off a wheel. Without it, I wouldn't be able to remove the wheel; the safety system would protect the car from me, as well as from car thieves. After a little search, I found the needed socket, and proceeded to remove the wheel without further issues. With that move completed, I began looking for the spare tire, thinking that we might put it on for the drive home. So, where is the spare tire in this car?

First I looked under the car at the back, where the spare tire was stored in trucks of the old days -- no spare there. Then I looked under the left side -- nothing there either. The same I found on the right side. So, studying again in the car manual, I discovered that the spare tire is supposed to be under the center of the car. How do you get at it? First, you remove the console between the seats. That's the storage unit that holds your cup holders. The book says, remove the console!

So what does the cup holder thing have to do with the spare tire? Hmm, OK, with the console removed, you take out the plug which hides the lift bolt, then you turn the bolt to lower the spare tire unit down under the car. Then you take the grab tool which was supposed to be in the same bag with the jack and lug wrench, (but wasn't), and with it you pull the spare out of it's case and out from under the car. OK, with no grabbing tool available, I decided I wasn't going to crawl under the car while it was jacked up and with one wheel off.

Fortunately, Ben and Ann arrived about that time, and we put some air in the stricken tire so we could look for the leak. We found that there was a serious cut in the middle of the tread. The tire obviously was not going to hold air even temporarily. So, we changed our plan and decided to make a trip into Rogers to get the tire replaced. The new plan went well. The only thing was, the price tag for the new tire boggled my mind a bit, and made me think of the times when I used to buy a tire for my first car for $30, or have a tire retreaded for $20. I'm thinking, I may live to see the day when a new set of tires will cost $1,000.

I'm thinking that storing my spare tire (doughnut) under the center of the car is very dubious progress. Although I like my car pretty well, and it has always been reliable, and all that. But, going through such a rigmarole to get at the spare tire just doesn't compute. I'm resolving to take better care of my little doughnut spare, and am planning to remove it from its hiding place underneath and to keep it in the back behind our seats. I feel sure it will be handy there and I can check its air pressure from time to time.

I'm wondering if the same engineers who designed my spare tire storage are the ones who are designing those self-driving cars? I'm having second thoughts about how much of that progress is progress?

•••

Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at joe369@centurytel.net, or call 621-1621.

Editorial on 01/30/2019

Print Headline: When is progress progress?

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