The Tri-State Trips Me Up One Last Time

I can’t explain why. The Tri-State Tollway has a grudge against my current car. In the previous four years of driving the 25-mile stretch from Riverwoods to Westchester in the morning, and back again each evening, my Audi has sacrificed three tires and a windshield to the constantly under-construction roadway. And now, in the last month of my daily commute, the beast has struck once more.

In the dark morning yesterday, I was nearing my exit lane when I caught a glimpse of an irregularly shaped object just ahead of me. My front left tire caught it full-on, and I heard the crunch. The car limped the last half-mile to the lab, an ominous rumble growing with every wheel revolution. I parked in my favorite space in the parking lot, opened the door, and gazed at my pancake-flat front tire. The Tollway never loses.

The morning proceeded much as can be expected. The first call to AAA brought out Jeff, a tire-change expert. First, he struggled to remove the lug nut covers Volkswagen and Audi put on their autos. Using the flimsy stool provided in the tire change kit, he was able to remove all five covers—by breaking them.

The lug nuts themselves came off easily enough and using an industrial-size jack, Jeff lifted the tire off the ground. And then he came to the next challenge. He tried to pull the wheel off the axle. It would not budge. He had me turn the wheel to the right and he pulled again. No luck. I turned the wheel to the right. Jeff pulled with the same result. He used the jack handle as a mighty lever. No progress.

“You know–you are going to have to call a tow,” Jeff told me as he sailed away.

After another call to AAA and a short wait, Andre showed up with his flatbed truck. He lowered the ramp and I drove my car onto the deck. After some grumbling about “nowhere to attach the hook” Andre semi-secured the car and we set off for my chosen tire store.

We drove at a steady 25 mph pace with Andre telling me that he hated this truck because it wasn’t his, complained about the size of some of the houses we passed (admittedly, there were some horrendously ugly double-wide McMansions,) and finally filled me in on his weekend visit to the neighborhood gun store.

“They didn’t like my FOID card and they wouldn’t sell me the three AK-47’s I wanted. So I went to a different store and got ’em.” I didn’t question him. I didn’t ask what he planned on doing with 3 high-power rifles. I didn’t say a word. He was a very large man, he had my car on the back of his truck and he owned at least 3 assault weapons. I didn’t think a lecture on gun control was going to change any minds…

We got to the tire dealership without any shots being fired. The manager honored an “all-causes” tire warranty I had purchased after tire blowout #3 and the replacement was made without an issue. I was home in time to pick up the pooch from daycare.

This morning I faced the Tri-State Terrorizer again. I drove a little slower than usual, kept to the right lanes, and breathed a sigh of relief when I parked in my spot in the lab parking lot. Only 16 more daily commutes. I pray the God of Expressways let my tires (and me) survive.