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Everybody’s Stupid, CXII

Admittedly, playing it safe can be dreadful. So, let me tell y’all how “smart” I am! Honestly, I’ve been tired of thinking so fucking much lately. I was contemplating desisting from writing and other thought-demanding activities for the entire month of January, just so I can relax a little more. I haven’t been feeling overwhelmed really, just unfulfilled. As someone who goes above and beyond to ensure that I always make the most propitious decisions, sometimes I get in these moods where I just want to shake shit up, live a little, and roll the dice. In other words, I occasionally just stop giving a fuck, but in a very responsible way. Recently, I drove a wheel right off my car. Do you want to hear the story? So, I purchased this awesome classic car from a man who lives approximately an hour and a half away from my house. The guy stated that the engine was running rich and that he would recommend towing the car away. But being the superlative, experienced hobbyist mechanic that I am, I knew that a rich air/fuel mixture wasn’t enough to deter me from driving a car home. When an engine’s mixture of air and fuel is “rich”, that means there’s a greater amount of fuel than air in the mixture’s ratio. And a rich fuel mixture is generally safer for an engine than a lean fuel mixture, “lean” meaning more air than fuel. When I asked the seller if that was the only problem with the mechanical operation of the vehicle, he insinuated that there were no other mechanical problems. When I arrived to see the car, that I knew I was going to purchase regardless, it was what I expected. The car had a nice set of brand new wheels and tires, a killer engine and transmission setup, and a few minor repairs needed. The seller stated that the brakes needed to be bled, so I took it easy as I drove the car around his neighborhood just to make sure everything was fine. Other than the engine needing a quick tune, everything seemed okay. The brakes were typical for a classic car with stock brakes, and I’ve owned approximately 30 classic cars, so I’m familiar. I bought the car, shook the seller’s hand, and drove off feeling a level of excitement that I can only equate to “a kid in a candy store”. I drove the car from the seller’s house to an empty parking lot and began fiddling with the engine’s fuel delivery system until I had the car running well enough to hit the highway. Once I was satisfied with the quick tune, I began heading home. About 18 minutes into driving, shortly after I got on the highway, I began to hear a loud knocking sound. My heart sank, thinking that I had spun a bearing or had a catastrophic failure inside the engine. But as I listened to the engine, the exhaust note, and the knocking sound, I realized that the sound wasn’t coming from the engine. I was instantly relieved, but that meant the sound was coming from either the tire, the wheel, the brakes, or the suspension parts surrounding the front driver’s side wheel—where the noise originated. I pulled over, looked at the wheel, and saw all five lug nuts present and the wheel wasn’t leaning. I didn’t have enough room between me and on-coming traffic to touch the wheel, so I got back in the car and intended to drive to the next exit. As the sound persisted, I pulled over again, before I made it to the next exit. Once more, I saw that none of the lug nuts were missing and the wheels was still straight. Right then, I contemplated getting a tow truck. But I was over an hour away from home and I knew the cost of a tow would be exorbitant. So, believing that the sound was unrelated to the lug nuts, I got in the car and continued to head toward the next exit.

Yes, the sound continued. Yet, I believed that maybe the shock had failed or something had gotten jammed between the rotating parts of the wheel and rotor area. The car wasn’t shaking or anything. Thinking that some type of debris was stuck somewhere near the wheel, I felt safe driving the car while hoping that the suspected debris would clear itself and the sound would stop. Guess what, as I cruised down the highway wishing that everything would be alright, the obnoxious sound ceased. Ecstatic, I began to give the car a little more gas, just to hear the engine roar. And before the corners of my lips could complete an upward curl to form a smile, I felt the front of the car slam to the ground as I watched the whole wheel roll off into the grass in my vision’s periphery. In hindsight, continuing to drive the car after hearing the noise was stupid on my part! Instead of weighing every option and taking the safest route, like I’d normally do, I gambled and lost. As it turns out, one of two things happened. First, it’s plausible that all the lug nuts were evenly loose and the wheel slid forward on the studs as the lug nuts backed off, giving the illusion of tightened lug nuts. Second, it’s possible that one of the lug nuts was overtightened, which weakened the one stud that eventually broke, subsequently causing the other four lug nuts to back off the studs. Even when the wheel came off the car, there was no noticeable wobbling. Fortunately, both my car and the wheel only suffered minor damage. My fender is a little dinged up, I’ll have to replace the brake rotor, and there are a few superficial scratches on the wheel. And luckily, my pride is still fully intact. The tow ended up costing me near $500, and that was the cheapest company. Per my logic, from the beginning of the journey after initially hearing the noise, I decided that I was either going pay for a tow while potentially not needing it, just to play it safe, or I was going to wait until I needed it. I did expect the worse, but I was hoping for the best. And this story is an example of why ignoring warning signs can be calamitous. Go ahead and question my intelligence, I anticipate that. And I’ve been roasting the fuck out of myself since this incident occurred. Although, I was neither sad, mad, or shocked when the wheel fell off. In the back of my mind, I knew it was a possibility. So, why did I keep going? It’s because I’m not a fucking quitter! “Push it to the limit! Lim-met! Walk along the razor’s edge! But don’t look down just keep your head, or you’ll be finished! Open up the limit! Lim-met! Past the point of no return! Reached the top, but still you gotta learn how to keep it!”. Exhilaration can be dazzling and addictive. And if there’s anything in the world that I want to be, in addition to being intelligent, it’s exhilarated! I was so happy and excited that I purchased such an awesome car, I just wanted to get it home—even if it wasn’t in one piece. I know, that sounds ridiculous, especially coming from me. But I keep telling y’all that I’m human as fuck! With the money that I spent on the tow, I could’ve just rented a truck and trailer from U-Haul to transport the car home from jump, but where’s the fun in that?! Shows like Top Gear, Roadkill, and Vice Grip Garage depict the satisfaction that car guys get from taking sketchy road trips in newly purchased project cars. Tentative trips in iffy cars is just par for the course for gearheads like myself. And now that I’ve had a wheel fall off on the highway, I can sew that figurative merit badge to my metaphorical “car guy” vest.

Needless to say, don’t do what I did in this situation. If you hear a weird noise, even if it seems like there’s no major problems, just stop driving the car and seek assistance. In Georgia, the number to the Department of Transportation’s free emergency roadside assistance request line is 511. If you’re in Georgia, you should consider saving that number in your contacts. Also, if you see someone having a problem with their wheel on the road, keep in mind that they can’t see the wheel from inside the car. A noise or other problems may not be as noticeable inside the car as they are from the outside. Instead of pointing and laughing, judging, or recording, try to alert the driver and attempt to prevent injury or damage to said driver and their car, and all the other commuters. And now having experienced driving with a loose wheel, I can tell you that the car may not shake, the wheel may not lean when stopped, the lug nuts may appear to be tightened and seated properly, and the noise that the loose wheel makes may not resemble anything that you’d expect. Am I embarrassed? No, I am not. Do I believe the decision to persist was foolish? Again, yes, I do. But the last thing that I would do after fucking up is deny that I fucked up. Because how do you learn from a mistake that you don’t acknowledge as a mistake? The type of people who pretend like shit doesn’t or can’t happen to them are weak, period. I’m not deterred by judgement or discouraged by opinions because I fully understand how full of shit everyone is. And a lot of people dislike me because I’m not demoralized by my humanity. I can admit to anything and not feel diminished. Additionally, I’m real enough to check myself and clown myself when I deem it appropriate. Even if perfection wasn’t impossible, I would never want to be perfect. The most suitable or satisfying decisions aren’t always the faultless ones. Any time you take a risk, calculated or not, you’re exposing yourself to danger. And every time you say “fuck it”, you’re likely about to fuck up! For me—again, feel free to pass judgement—I needed that “fuck it” moment. Yes, even though I fucked up. But no, I’m not about to “crash out”. Saying “fuck it” when it wasn’t advisable deepened my belief that everybody’s stupid. In my opinion, people need to be stupid sometimes, to improve and/or maintain their mental healthiness. Ultimately, I said “fuck it” because I didn’t want to lose the intense elation that I felt after buying my car. Calling 511 didn’t even cross my mind until the wheel had come off. Regardless of what I suspected the issue was, the complimentary roadside assistance could’ve proven helpful, especially considering that I didn’t have anything to torque the lug nuts with. But I was distracted by happiness! Distraction has such a negative connotation because of the implications. To distract is to prevent from giving full attention to something, and that’s not a good thing when things require your full attention. Nevertheless, happiness can distract you from unhappiness. Happiness is pleasurable, and pleasure means to feel happy, excited, and satisfied. Who in the right fucking mind is going to avoid happiness?! We fuck ourselves to be happy! Obviously, I’ve learned a lot from this, right? What would you have learned from my mistake if I were ashamed to explain how and why I made it? Don’t fret, if nobody else is going to keep it real, you can always count on me! At the end of the day, I was revitalized by fucking up. I’m not depressed or angry, my replacement parts are on the way, and I can’t wait to turn some wrenches. Some people believe that we should live life “till the wheels fall off”. But my question is, why stop there?! Peace.

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