A Box of Soap
By DON VOWELL

I need new tires.  I had a frightening dream about it last night.  Management of a tire store had been taken over by the medical community.

I parked, entered the store, and went to the front counter.  A cheerful young woman welcomed me.  Here for the two o’clock tire replacement appointment, I told her.  She asked me to fill out forms containing questions about driving on underinflated tires, failure to rotate, scraping of curbs through careless parking, other deleterious driving habits, latex allergies, and more of the same nature.  Oh yes, and a few about my tire insurance.  The receptionist thanked me, asked me to have a seat anywhere, the technicians will call my name soon.

After a thirty-eight minute survey of newsmagazines valuable for their antiquity, my name was called.  I was taken to the tire examination room.  More questions were asked by the RN, (rubber nurse).  She wanted to know when tread loss symptoms began to affect driving.  She measured pressure, tread depth, asked about leaks and any previous tire replacements.   Satisfied with all that, she said that it would only be a short wait until the tire technicians performed the operation.   Another wait, this time thirty-one minutes in the exam room. Why hadn’t I remembered to bring a book?

Finally the car was lifted and the tires replaced.  It was a surprisingly short procedure.  I was not anesthetized, and so was able to peek into the operating room to watch the operation, which was reassuringly professional and progressed with a speed that can be attained only by efficiency and competence.  One of the technicians returned my keys to the front counter.

Slightly grumpy about waiting well over an hour for 12 minutes worth of work, I was mollified by learning that there had been couple of unexpected roadside emergencies squeezed in ahead of me.  I was presented with my bill. $2,645.  A little surprised at the cost, having seen the tires advertised at $320, I was foolish enough to ask how we ended up at $2,645.

As if to a dull child, she explained that there was a facility cost for the state of the art building, fees for the two tire technicians who installed two tires front, two tires rear, a fee for the inflatiator who maintained proper pressure throughout the procedure, a fee for the balancologist who made certain there would be no wheel wobble, lab fees for the pressurized gases and testing equipment, and a small hoist fee.  You can’t argue with that.  Everything she had listed was crucial to my continued driving safety.

Slightly depressed at the calculation of all the things I would have to do without in order to pay this fee, I was greatly cheered when the receptionist told me that insurance would pay for all but $315 of the total.  I woke from this dream relieved at how the bill had been reduced so much by someone else’s money.

Then I remembered that I am scheduled for a cataract surgery on Monday.

Don Vowell lives in Keizer.