The air apparent

The Luddites were a secret group of early 19th-century English weavers who, when machine looms were put in the mills, saw the end of their highly skilled (and high-paying) profession.

In retaliation, for a short while (all too short for them), they broke into mills, smashed machinery, shot up some mill owners, raved, ranted and generally raised holy hell.

The Brit government then embarked on retaliations of their own. They hunted down any and all Luddites they could and sent a bunch of them to either the big house, the gallows or Australia.

The term Luddite now means someone who opposes new technologies.

Ironically, I’ve been called a Luddite. I say “ironically” because I’m not one.

My position on technology is, to use a word currently in vogue, nuanced.

I think some new technologies are wonderful, if not miraculous. And I think others are downright stupid … and stupid-making. To me the important thing is to know the difference. After that, it’s a matter of knowing which gadgets are cost- and lifestyle-effective, and to then buy intelligently.

For example, everyone has a cellphone. Even I have one. But mine is an ancient flip phone – a hand-me-down from my brother (who generously put me on his family plan and picked up the sawbuck monthly fee. Mazel tov!).

To most people, my phone seems less like a phone than an archeological relic. But it suits my purpose just fine — something one of the fancy high-tech phones wouldn’t.

And what is my phone’s purpose? Emergencies when traveling. I keep it in my car in case the car breaks down, since I don’t count on anyone stopping in these days of rampant fear and paranoia. Also, since there are no phone booths anymore, I can use it if I need to get in touch with someone while gone from home. The rest of the time it’s turned off, since the last thing I want when I’m driving is to get a phone call. I don’t know if I can text with it since I can’t text, nor do I want to start.

An iPhone, on the other hand, would be a disaster for me. I know myself, and I know if I was shlepping one of those suckers around, I’d be on it all the time. If I wasn’t looking up the final score of the New York Giants/Baltimore Colts championship game of 1958, I’d be checking the origin of the dollar symbol, or sending out photos of my lunch, or texting drivel to some guy I barely knew in boot camp.

I’m not saying those high-end phones are a waste, only that they’re a waste for me. Having one would cost me money and time and focus I’d rather spend elsewhere.

Creature discomforts

Cars are great for having all kinds of gadgets and gimmicks we’ve come to depend on but don’t need at all.

One of the best is electric windows. Yeah, sure, it’s easier to push a button and send the window up or down. But it was never a strain to crank a window by hand. Plus, the electric windows are nefarious. First, they can break down. And if they do, you better be ready to cough up some serious mazuma. Plus, even if they never break, they still add a nice chunk of change to the sticker price – whether you wanted them in the first place or not.

Now I’ll tell you the car “upgrade” that I find a royal pain in the prat. It’s the tire inflation warning light on the dashboard. Actually, it’s not the warning light itself but what it takes to light it up, namely some sensor that’s in the tire.

And why is that such a pain? Well, for a couple of reasons. One, the sensor costs a bunch of bucks when it croaks, which inevitably it will. And second, I don’t need to be told if my tire pressure is low. If it’s a sudden flat, I’ll know immediately, since there’ll be a sudden floppety-floppety-flop-flop-flop of flat tire on pavement. If it’s a slow leak, I’ll also know because I check my tires’ pressure the way I always have — with the tire gauge I paid a buck for in 1972.

And last week, after checking my tires’ pressure, I found a couple that were a bit low. OK, no biggie – I drove to Hyde’s to their air pump.

I pumped up one tire – no problemo.

Then, midway through the second tire’s inflation, I heard a sudden whooshing noise. It clearly was the whoosh of air coming out the tire. I immediately pulled the hose fitting off the valve stem. No more air came out, but some came out of me as I breathed a sigh of relief.

Figuring that was some kind of fluke, I put the fitting back on the valve, hoping this time the tire would fill, tickety-boo. It didn’t. Instead, some more air came out. I looked at the valve, and when I did, I saw a metal nut on its threads. I had no idea what it was. But after lengthy thought, I figured it had been screwed on the valve stem and it pressed on the hose fitting, letting air in the tire. But it had somehow come loose and wouldn’t allow the pump to fill the tire.

As far a car disasters go, on a scale of 1 to 10, this was a .005. The tire wasn’t leaking, so I’d just head over to Adirondack Tire and let The Titan of Tires, Greg Mace, take care of it.

When I got to Adirondack Tire, I told Greg what had happened.

“Are you losing air?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said.

“OK,” he said. “Drop it off first thing in the morning, and I’ll check it out.”

“Great,” I said.

“But don’t tell anyone I let you in,” he said. “I’m booked solid for the next two weeks.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I won’t. I swear. Boy Scout’s honor.”

(Note: In case you couldn’t figure it out, I wasn’t much of a Boy Scout.)

The small things in life

The next morning at the crack of 0900, as per the instructions of TToT, I left the car at Adirondack Tire and stumbled off in search of coffee.

A few hours later, I came back, and when I did, Greg emerged from his sanctum santorum, a twinkle in his eyes, a tiny puckish smile on his lips. He held out his hand.

“Is this the nut that you thought came off the valve stem?” he said.

I looked.

“Yep,” I said. “That’s it.”

“Well,” he said, “it didn’t.”

“It didn’t?” I said. “Then where’d it come from?”

“It broke off the hose fitting and ended up on your valve stem.”

I processed that a bit, before a bulb lit up — a very dim bulb, I might add.

“Oh, so the air came out, not because of the tire valve, but because of the hose fitting itself?”

He nodded.

“So my tire’s fine?” I said.

He nodded again.

“How much I owe you?” I said.

“Twenty-five thousand bucks is about right,” he said. “I charged the last guy thirty-eight thousand, but I’ll give you a break.”

Again, the twinkle and puckish smile – each a bit more pronounced … but not too much.

“You take IOUs?” I asked.

“Only if they’re good,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Mine’s not.”

And thus concluded that rarest of events – a quick and happy ending to a car problem.

Now a relevant question: Did I feel foolish not realizing the nut never was on my tire in the first place?

After all, I’ve looked at hundreds of valve stems over the years and never saw any nut on one, so why would I have thought there was one on this one? Simple, because I really don’t know anything about tires.

And guess what?

I never need to know anything about tires, either … at least as long as Greg and Adirondack Tire are in business.