The Tire Pressure Light Is On – A Tale Of Unattended Anxiety
The engine turns and the car cranks up. The dash lights turn on and flash a time or two and then turn blank. Except for the tire pressure light. You stare at the orange light with the obnoxious exclamation point inside that strange curvy figure. The light wasn't on yesterday. You know because you check every single time you start the car. The temperature has dropped almost thirty degrees since your last drive, so that may explain the light's appearance. You're cutting it close as it is. If you take the time to air up your tires now, you'll almost certainly be late for work. You can't afford to resolve this inconvenience at this moment.
The tires need to warm up. That'll fix the problem. A few miles on the tires will make the light go away.
You put the car in Drive and you're off. You creep through the neighborhood and approach a stop sign and you come to a complete stop. You look both ways. No one around. You look at the dashboard lights. The tire pressure light is still on. Of course it is, there's no way in hell the tires have warmed up. You resume driving and turn onto the main road.
The road is bumpy. The car rides low, so you can't help feeling every rumble, every rough texture vibrating on the back of your legs and your ass so near the ground. You turn the radio off even though your favorite song is playing. You can't afford to sing along today. You need to be tapped in, undistracted, fully aware. Your tire pressure is low, after all. This drive could get ugly.
You're extra cautious when merging onto the highway. No point in being reckless, you tell yourself. You settle on a speed that feels right, about 10 miles under the speed limit during the morning rush. You don't want to tailgate today. Your tire pressure is low. You don't need to take any unnecessary risks.
You look at the dash again. The tire pressure light is still on. You wish you had aired up your tire before you left, but it's too late now.
Your grip on the steering wheel tightens. You feel the steering wheel vibrate with every change in the road. It's because the tire pressure is low, you whisper to no one.
Another car—a sportier model—closes in on you and rides your rear end. You hear a light thud. Has your tire popped? The driver flashes his headlights at you.
I'm in the slow lane for a reason, you yell into the rearview mirror.
The sporty car swerves into the left lane and passes you, the driver flipping the bird as he speeds by. Are you so cocky when your tires are properly aired?
You take your exit and continue toward the office. You find comfort as you pass through a school zone.
You get to work and pull into a parking spot. You sigh relief.
In the breakroom, in the line for the coffee pot, your co-workers share their morning commute horror stories.
I was sitting still for nearly 30 minutes, Sharon says. Bill complains about having to take the toll road. Deborah reveals that her irritable bowel syndrome gave her plenty of reason to worry during her last mile and a half. She always shares too much.
My commute was pretty good, you say as everyone else gives you an envious stare. You take your coffee and head to your desk and start your day.
You spend the first hour and a half of the workday browsing the internet and researching how long you can drive with low tire pressure. Though the specifics vary, every site tells you the same thing: not long.
Of course they have to make it sound bad, you reason. They just want to sell tires. You decide to forget about the low tire and get about your day.
At lunch, you and some co-workers stand in the lobby of the office and decide who's driving.
My car's running on empty, Nathan says.
Phyllis has a couple of car seats in the back and she doesn't want to bother with taking them out. Nathan and Phyllis look to you, waiting for your excuse.
My tire pressure light is on, you mumble. The three of you agree to walk somewhere for lunch. As you walk, Nathan tells you about his cousin's friend from church, whose car flipped when her tire blew out when her tire pressure was low.
The light had been on for only a couple of days, Nathan says. Her car flipped when she was going over an overpass. Her car flipped over the railing and crashed onto the street below. The roof of her car caved in. My cousin said her family didn't recognize her after the accident.
Is that true, you ask.
Are you calling my cousin a liar? She goes to church twice on Sundays.
I hear this place has amazing chicken fried steak, Phyllis says as you approach the restaurant. Nathan grumbles that it wasn't so great the last time he tried it.
When you return from lunch, you try to verify Nathan's story. You stalk him on social media in an attempt to identify his cousin. You can't find Nathan's saintly relative, so your trail runs cold. You can never trust anything Nathan says.
Before you know it, it's quitting time. You decide that now—at this very time on this very day—might be a good time to stay late and catch up on some loose ends you've been neglecting. You hear a ding on your computer alerting you that you have a new email from IT, informing the office that emergency maintenance will be performed in a few minutes. The internet and the internal network will be down until tomorrow morning.
This is why I can never get ahead, you blurt to no one as you shut down your computer.
Sitting in your car, you consider driving to a gas station with one of those air fillup hoses, but all the gas stations will be busy at evening rush hour. And you don't have any change, so you'll have to go through the trouble of going to an ATM and breaking a 20-dollar bill.
I can make it home, you tell yourself. I can do this.
Shortly after you've departed, you hit a bump. The car feels off. The tires are affecting the ride.
You hit traffic. You sigh relief at the slowdown. Everyone in the left lane is negotiating their way into the right lanes. There's an accident up ahead. You can see flames. As you creep past the scene, you see a car the same model as yours flipped over and burning. You try to get a good look at the car's tires, but it's hard to do so without causing another accident.
As you continue home, the image of the burning car replays on an infinite loop in your head.
When you get home, you grab a drink. The day has been especially stressful. After a few sips, you realize you should fill up your tires. But you're tired and the sun is already setting. And the cold is especially bitter now.
I'll take care of it tomorrow, you say.