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When you go to buy tires but the brain wheels are not turning


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My wife insists that some stories are better left untold. Perhaps, but if newspaper columnists adhered to that rule we would have very little to say. This story is about tires, tire stores, and, I’m going to say, tiredness.

I decided many years ago to steer clear of tire stores, mainly because they are no fun and I was tired of waiting. Tire stores employ honest and hardworking people who provide a needed service but nothing is quite as mind-numbing as spending an hour or two in a tire store waiting room.

In a perfect world, tire stores would have fleets of loaner vehicles so customers could run other errands while having new tires installed. But overhead like that would make tires even more ridiculously expensive.

So unless you have someone to pick you up, it’s stale coffee with the dusty plastic Michelin Man and a background chorus of pneumatic power tools.

At least that’s the way I remember it. Tire store waiting rooms might have improved by now, but it's too late. I abandoned them after discovering that Kmart could do darned well at installing new tires while I browsed household products or enjoyed a snack at the lunch counter.

Sadly, Kmarts have all but disappeared. During the years we lived in eastern North Carolina, I found an unconventional replacement with awesome service and great prices. I discovered Jimmy's New and Used Tires in Grimesland, N.C., through my friend Jeff Phillips, who works there most Saturdays.

Jeff could hook me up with new tires at far better prices because of the high-overhead waiting room at Jimmy's. “High” as in the only thing over your head is the sky. The waiting room is four plastic chairs under a pine tree. “The free WiFi comes in better that way,” Jeff would say.

Since we moved back to Tennessee, I've taken to buying tires at Sam’s Club. It’s basically Kmart with bigger camping equipment.

So last week, I headed off to Sam’s to buy tires for my little Chevy truck. After walking in through the tire center area, I picked out the tires I wanted and even discussed with the friendly desk clerk how I had bought the same tires at Sam’s before and was very satisfied with their performance.

After leaving my truck keys with the attendant, I walked into the store area and called my wife, Sharon, who was already pulling into Sam’s to do a little shopping herself. We were going to have a hotdog or a slice of pizza together. At Sam’s.

Sharon said she was walking toward the tire counter, and we hung up. Turning and not seeing my wife, a wave of realization swept over me, and I called her back.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“Ummm,” I stammered. “Looks like I’m at Walmart.”

Next time I need tires, I’m thinking about driving the 350 miles back to Jimmy’s. I’ll ask Jeff how he’s doing, and he’ll say, “I’m hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit,” and I’ll know I’m at the right place.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.