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The time had finally come.
My father had—in theory—prepared me for this moment years ago, just after I got my license and was heading out to Nordegg in his red “Chevy shitbox” for a weekend yoga retreat.
“You have to know how to change a tire,” he told me, and gave me a vague driveway demonstration, as much as one can while not actually changing a tire. “Just in case something happens on the highway.”
But only on the highway, because I could just call him if I was in the city, right? At least, that’s how I used to think.
Fast forward to springtime in Edmonton, six years later. I stride through the cold apartment parkade at 8:26 a.m., heading to work with plans to pick up a coffee on the way. Snow hit mid-April and the roads are shit, but my reliable 2017 Honda Civic will get me there.
Except, the goddamn tire is flat, rim resting on the cement.
Standing next to me, my partner says he will help me change it to the spare after work. I square my shoulders and guffaw. He didn’t even ask if I needed help, he just assumed I would need it! I retort, as any six-foot-tall, perfectly capable feminist would, “You can show me so I don’t break anything, but I’m doing it myself.”
After all, I remember what my dad told me six years ago. I was prepared for this moment! But for some reason, I am nervous. Possibly because I had never actually changed a tire. So, it was equally possible that I might benefit from a less theoretical lesson on precisely how to do this. I begrudgingly agree to wait for his help and book an Uber to work, foregoing that much-needed coffee.
Later that night, it’s time. The girls in the group chat hype me up with offers of turning on power tools for background inspiration, but I know better: dad’s demonstration didn’t require power tools, just elbow grease, a car jack, that X-shaped tool thing, and maybe a plumber’s crack. Elbows are greased, tools are in the car, but instead of the plumber aesthetic, I’m wearing my bubblegum pink sweater with my bedazzled denim jacket over top and a pink scrunchy holding a pile of curls on top of my head.
Feeling cute. Let’s change a tire.
Down in the parkade, just before sunset, I collect the tools, pull out the spare donut tire and get the jack put together. My partner helps me find the right spot (on the metal, so it lifts the frame and not the plastic). I sacrifice my sweatpants to the cause (a feminist knows when form must give way to function) and I kneel down in the water pooling under my car to line it up. I start cranking and as the car lifts in eighth-of-an-inch increments, my arms start to get tired. It’s just because I cleaned all day at work; I’m strong enough for this! My partner offers to take a shift at cranking, and I protest until I struggle to make the next rotation. But fear not, fellow feminists: I took over again for the final hoist.
Next step: loosen the lug nuts. Addendum: learn what a lug nut is.
He warns me to keep my knuckles away from the wheel, palm facing the hub, in case I slip. I’m prepared, positioned and ready.
I push on the wrench arm. I stand over it—pulling my sparkly sleeves up so they don’t get dirty (I’m a feminist, not a plumber)—and push with both hands, trying to get as much of my 200-pound frame overtop of the lever as I can, pink scrunchy struggling to keep my piled hair back. I put my foot on it, and I damn-near stand on it, before the bolt gives and the wrench clatters to the ground. I stand triumphantly, my bejeweled jean jacket gleaming in the flickering parkade lights.
Only four more to go, of which he loosened all four. I spin them off, pocketing them in my newly-dubbed tire-changing sweatpants.
I insist on pulling the tire off by myself.
“Where do I hold it? Can I hold it here? How heavy is a tire?”
I struggle to remove the tire and stand in defeat. My partner demonstrates how to turn away from the car and kick back at the tire to knock it loose from the mount. He props it against the wall. If he wasn’t both right and helpful, I’d accuse him of mansplaining.
No matter, I’ve got the spare and I can at least lift this one.
I allow him to help me align it, but only because we’re in a cramped stall and it’s difficult to see—otherwise I totally would have been fine on my own.
I start to tighten the bolts and he stops me, explaining I should put them on in a star-like pattern for even tightening.
It’s so annoying listening to a literal mechanic. I want to impress him by doing it all by myself—I want to be able to brag, like a toddler who put their shoes on the right feet. I flip-flop between wanting to be appreciative of my car-loving partner, but I also want the feminist bragging rights: “I did it myself, without a man.” Still, he brings up sound, logical points that are helpful. Almost as if, given my absolute lack of expertise, he is just explaining something, despite being a man.
By the time we’ve finished, the only things I’ve done by myself are lowering the car and heaving the flat tire into the trunk.
Changing tires is annoying. Still feeling cute.
Am I glad I know how much physical strength it takes to change a tire? Yes. Am I annoyed that my tires are considered super light even though my back hurts from lifting one into my trunk? Also yes.
Granted, now, I really do know how to change a tire and, if I was ever stuck on the side of a highway with a flat—or even in a parkade—I suppose I could do it myself. But maybe I had it right all along: just because I’d rather let my dad—or partner—help me out doesn’t make me a bad feminist, and just becuase I can change a tire doesn’t mean I need to risk dirtying my bedazzled jacket.