Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fixing a Flat on Father’s Day

I went to my sister’s house to celebrate Father’s Day. When I asked her about the boxed bicycle tube on the kitchen counter, she said my nephew had a flat tire on his bike and was working on fixing it. But he didn’t really know how.

Justin is 16. His answers to my questions are always one-word long and come with an attitude that tells me he wishes he were somewhere other than talking to his aunt. So when I offered to show him how to fix his flat after dinner, I was shocked when he readily went to get his bike before we had even finished dessert.

I showed him how to undo the quick release, look for the cause of the hole in his tire, replace the tube without pinching it, pump it up to the proper pressure, and put the back wheel on under the chain and derailleur. When the whole process was done in 7 minutes and our four hands were filthy, I think he was slightly impressed.

Then I noticed his rear brake was rubbing, so I grabbed a screwdriver and re-centered it. I saw his chain was dry and starting to rust, so I dripped some lube on it and showed him how to rub off the excess. I felt his seat slip down, so I explained the quick release wasn’t closed properly and showed him how to adjust it.

I’ve probably helped hundreds of women fix flat tires on their bikes, but I’ve never felt such satisfaction as I did when I helped my nephew. For about 12 minutes, we actually connected. I’ll never be a mother, but on Father’s Day, it felt wonderful to be an aunt.

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