I've hit many potholes in my life, but none of those previous experiences could have prepared me for my most recent encounter. I was driving my usual route home from work, I would like to say I was minding my own business, but in truth, I was somewhat attending to my business, while vocally criticizing the business of those around me. I was in the right-hand lane of a two-lane road that was narrowing to one lane and there was one car ahead of me. This car was moving at an incredibly slow rate of speed, so he was going to have to be passed before the merge down to two lanes, which was coming up quickly. Employing my usual caution (none), I whipped into the left lane and sped past the offender, momentarily glimpsing the object of his speed reductionÖBAM!

This was not a pothole; this was a cauldron hole. Ants probably travel from all over the globe to stand at the rim in gape-mouthed wonder of its size and depth. To say it was jarring would be like saying electrocution is uncomfortable, if my car had been a fighter jet, lights would have been flashing, buzzers would have sounded and the altimeter would have wildly started spinning it's way to zero. After the initial impact, a torrent of profanities poured out of me like water from a hydrant. I swore long, loud and creatively, I'm pretty sure there was a point where Jesus and God themselves peered down from a cloud wondering what the hell a pothole was and why it needed to be damned to hell so vehemently. I eventually had to stop screaming to assess the damageÖnothingÖthen, thudump, thudump, thudump. The profanities came again, pretty much the same lines as the first diatribe, but with "tire" replacing "pothole", I guess my creativity had been exhausted. Along with the interest of God and our Savior, because they obviously weren't going to be helping me out on this one.

I didn't want to actually change the tire. For one thing, it was fairly cold outside and it was snowing. For another, I was in South Chicago and am not an active member of the Latin Kings street gang. And last and most importantly, my mechanical aptitude falls somewhere between a three-year-old child and a mentally disabled orangutan. As luck would have it, there was a service station right where my tire went flat, as my of luck would have it, it had closed for business somewhere around 1984.

As I was bundling up to face the harsh winds and snow, I noticed a taxi sitting in the parking lot of the Supermercado just south of my tire changing location. He had turned on his headlights and his "TAXI" dome was also lit. I took this to mean that he doubted my tire changing capabilities and was signaling to me that there might be a better course of action. If this was a challenge, I was going to meet it head on, "sit in your warm taxi and watch how a real man handles a problem."

A smart person would take the time to get to know a vehicle after coming into its possession. But if there's one thing you can take away from this column every week, it's that I'll never have to suffer the recruiting efforts of Mensa or any other groups where intelligence is considered to be a prerequisite. I'd never really read this car's manual or even bothered to see what was in the trunk; the car is German, surely such an engineering-minded race of people have taken steps to make a simple tire change a snap. The trunk was orderly, I'll give them that, every tool had its little compartment. I located half the jack, but couldn't seem to find the other half that would actually make it stable. After searching the trunk and cursing the wind for 10 minutes, I noticed the jack had a diagram on it. The diagram seemed to suggest that this slight piece of metal was the jack, the whole jack and nothing but the jack, those savvy Germans had done it again!

To my astonishment, the jack actually seemed to be working, right up until the moment the tire left the ground. Then the car rolled forward and the jack collapsed sideways. My curses now fell squarely on the German people, no wonder they lost two world wars! Incompetence, mechanical incompetence! I then collected myself and assumed it was my placement of the jack that probably caused the problem, this time I angled it to compensate for eventual rolling of the vehicle. This accomplished one thing very well; it allowed me enough time to get the tire halfway off, so that the next collapse wedged the tire between the ground and the wheel well. I launched into the Germans again, and may also have kicked the jack a few times for good measure. Throughout this entire ordeal, the taxi remained where he was, like a damned lighthouse calling out to a lost ship at sea. Although, at this point I suspect his motives may have shifted; it was probably damn good entertainment from a distance.

I attempted the angling method about three more times with the same results, pausing to sit reflectively in the cold between attempts. After the third time, even the taxi driver gave up and left me, so I decided it was time to consult the manual. Yes, I had avoided doing so up to this point. As I leaned in to open the glove compartment I steadied myself on the emergency break handle, and that's when a German-accented voice called out to me, "Uz zee emergenzee brake, dumkoff!" Yes, I saw it now, the Germans had designed the jack for people who had common sense and the ability to consult a manual, what arrogance.

After discovering the magic brake, I was on my way in about 5 minutes. I was so happy to be finished that I apparently left the key to my locking lug nuts on the ground somewhere near the "crash site". So, now I'm navigating these war-torn streets with no ability to change a tire, which isn't too far from where I started, if you think about it.