After nine Ottawa winters, I finally broke down and bought snow tires today. The threat of another nasty winter storm, plus my Mom’s dire warnings that I was putting my life at risk driving on bald tires, led me to conclude that new tires might be a good idea. Besides, what else was I going to do with $500 at this time of year?
With the knowledge that half of Ottawa was likely planning on getting snow tires installed this weekend, I decided it was probably a good idea to start early. Here’s how it went…
I throw on some clothes and head out in search of tires. It’s cold, windy, and there are flakes in the air already. My all-seasons spin on the packed snow – hopefully for the last time.
I arrive at Walmart, which I chose because they were the first shop to open (yes, I’m aware that Walmart is the embodiment of corporate evil, but they have great hours). Unfortunately, the tire centre opens at 8:00 instead of 7:00 as posted on their website. At least I’m the first one in line. I’ll be home by 9:00.
A guy shows up and sighs when I tell him I’m looking for tires. He tells me they’re booked until Wednesday, and he doesn’t think they can help me today. It will be up to his boss to decide. I picture his boss as a kindly older man who will happily make room for such an eager customer.
His boss shows up – a 19-year old sour-faced kid. Without making eye contact, he mumbles that I’ll have to come back in five days. I vow to never step foot in a Walmart again.
I pull into the Canadian Tire parking lot. There are a handful of cars idling by the entrance, but nobody has lined up yet. I resist the urge to get out and stand by the door – I don’t want to be the guy that starts the line and forces everyone else to line up for 45 minutes in the cold (it’s -16 and windy).
A few more cars arrive, and I start getting antsy. Another guy gets out and heads towards the door. I follow after him quickly, and within 30 seconds there are five of us in line. We quickly swap stories – one guy stopped at Costco and there were 15 people in line at 7:30. Conversation dries up, and we all shuffle our feet in a feeble attempt to stay warm.
The parking lot is getting full, and the line is getting longer. Some people drive up, see the line, and squeal off in anger. They lack commitment (and foresight).
A grumpy mechanic shows up and tells us they still have 11 cars to finish from yesterday, so we might not get tires today. We scoff at his pathetic warning – with a big storm coming, there’s no way any of us are going home to tell our significant others that we didn’t get tires (the line is all men).
We all check our watches. Time is standing still. The funny guy says “It was 8:40 an hour ago” and everyone laughs. Back to shuffling…
There are at least 16 people in line. Grumpy mechanic no. 2 arrives and barks that he has 22 cars to do before he gets to any of us. A couple of guys actually believe him and leave, dejected. They are weak and don’t deserve tires.
The doors finally open and I head for the service counter. The clerk tells me they only have one model left in stock. By this point, I could care less – if all they had were gold tires with diamond studs, I would gladly pull out my credit card without asking the price. I’m told to come back in six hours.
Two buses and a 20 minute walk later, I’m back to pick up my car. The new tires look fierce, with lovely big sticky treads. I immediately peel out of the parking lot and race down the snow-packed roads. After years of cautious driving during the winter, I’m looking forward to driving aggressively for the next three months, confident in the knowledge that my magic tires will protect me from harm.