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In Which My Husband Tries to Explain Car Things to Me

Have you ever noticed that certain things seem to come with their own vocabulary?  This is especially true with hobbies or newly-learned trades.  I remember adding selvage, seam allowance, chain piecing, fat quarter, and in-the-ditch to my vocabulary when I learned how to quilt.  When we first started roasting green coffee beans, we discovered a world that included first and second crack, City and Full City, and chaff.

I’ve been getting an education the past few days, not really in new terms per se but rather new meanings for words I’ve been saying but not really understanding.

It all started a few days ago, before the Polar vortex swirled its way into the western suburbs of Chicago.  Dave and I had ventured out in the snow to Ross and TJ Maxx in search of linen sheets, a traditional gift for our upcoming 12th anniversary.  (We didn’t want silk sheets, ick.)  I was hopeful, but all they had were the usual cotton sheets.  (We did end up getting these sheets from Restoration Hardware, at $100 off the regular price, so our search is now over; I’m excited to find out if sleeping on real linen sheets is all it’s cracked up to be.)

As we trudged back to the car, I glanced at the tire on the front passenger side.  It was hard to tell with all the snow, but it looked flat to me.  I stopped and called out to Dave, “Hey hon, this tire looks flat.”  He glanced at it and said, “Nah, it’s fine – I just checked them.  It just looks that way because of the skinny tires we have.”

When we first bought the car, the wheels were one of the first things Dave noticed.  They do make the car look sporty, and they’re definitely attractive.  Dave has had quite a few guys stop and comment on them, which really surprised me at first, but I guess wheels are the kind of thing guys notice.  The thing is, the tires are super skinny, 17” versus the usual 15” tires you’d see on a sedan like ours.  This does make it hard to tell if the tire is going flat, and it doesn’t give them as much cushion when we’re driving.

Shortly after we bought the (used) car, we replaced the tires.  Dave kept the same wheels because they were expensive and cool-looking, but it made him uncomfortable.  He really didn’t like the skinny 17” tires that much, but they were the only ones that fit on our wheels.  We don’t do that much driving, though, and he decided to leave well enough alone.

Yesterday he noticed that the tire on the passenger side was, in fact, flat.  He filled it up, figuring it was a slow leak.  We’ve had those before; the wheels get dented from hitting potholes and then we’d get a slow leak in the tire.  He’s always keeping an eye on the tire pressure because of that.  This time, though, the tire kept going flat.

This morning he sat me down for a chat.  “So, that tire keeps going flat.  I think I’m going to have to fill it up, run to Wal-Mart for some Fix-A-Flat so we can drive on it, and then we’re going to need to go somewhere for new tires.”  I interrupted him to confirm that he didn’t mean today, because the temperature at the time of our conversation was -11 and I had no intention of leaving the house.

After he agreed that we would stay house-bound for another day, he continued.  “Now, I know you like those wheels.  But we’re going to be doing a lot of driving this year, and if we hit a pothole we could blow the tire.  I think it’s time to get new wheels.”

“Okay,” I agreed.  “But you already told me you need new tires — that’s cool.”

“No, not tires, wheels.  We need both tires and wheels.”

I frowned.  “Well, what’s the difference?”

“The wheel is what attaches to the car and the tire fits onto the wheel,” Dave explained patiently.  “The wheel is the part that everyone thinks looks so cool.”

“OH!”  I nodded.  “But I thought those were the rims.

“Well, rims and wheels are the same thing.”

At this point I thought I had the terms down pretty well.  Dave did some research online and found the tires he wanted, as well as a local place, with good ratings, that carried them.  He showed them to me before he made the phone call.

“Now, this is what the wheel looks like.  You’ll probably want to get wheel covers later on,” he warned.

“Wheel covers?” I asked.  “Why don’t you just get a wheel that looks good and save the hassle of buying something else?  And wait, is a wheel cover the same as a rim?”

He grinned and explained again that wheels and rims were basically the same thing.  “The wheel cover just makes it look pretty, and you can get them at a lot more places.  You can put them on yourself.”

I frowned.  “Well, what’s a hub cap then?”

“That just covers the hub, a small section in the middle of the wheel.”

Then he went back to my earlier question, explaining that he wanted steel wheels so they wouldn’t bend as easily as the pretty, sporty wheels we currently have.  I still don’t really understand it, but I think he was trying to say the steel wheels are all pretty ugly.  But sturdy!  And sturdy is good.  I guess.

In any case, I have had to stop and ask him to clarify every few words as I wrote this.  I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole, to a world where none of the words I thought I knew actually make any sense.  I want to call them tires, darn it – the whole round thing that spins on my car is a tire.  Once you add in wheels and wheel covers and rims and hub caps, my eyes glaze over.

We still haven’t picked out wheel covers yet.  Heaven help us.

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