When the spot came up I really wasn’t paying much attention. I usually tune out when commercials come on, preferring to save my gray matter for more important pursuits.
But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tire roll up. It wasn’t a commercial for any of the tire companies ‘cause there weren’t any blimp pilots yapping or cartoon characters running around or children’s toys driving about.
No, there was a hand, and it was holding a tire gauge, and the voice was talking about the importance of regular inflation pressure checks.
“Huh,” I muttered. “What’s up here?”
House came back on and I re-engaged on the complicated case facing the troubled genius’ diagnostic team. The patient was suffering from bouts of intense dreaming even while he was wide-awake. Some oddball neurological malady brought on by drinking an off-brand soda when he was a lad of 12, I surmised.
The next day, coffee in hand, I dove into the morning paper. The headline slapped me in the face: “New Law Makes Tires Safer.”
The president signed legislation making it illegal to drive on tires with less than 4/32nds tread depth. Not only that, but the federal government would apply highway user tax money to support state-level inspection and enforcement. “So how did it get through Congress and to the White House so quickly?” I wondered.
“I didn’t even know that this was on the Hill,” I said to myself. Thinking it was some kind of misprint, I hit the Interwebs, finding countless wire service stories that said the same thing. “Wow, that one got under the radar.”
I was really feeling ill at ease. I don’t know everything that’s going on, especially in that parallel universe known as The Beltway, the emerald-colored Oz to my simple black-n-white Kansas farm house.
“Good,” I concluded. “Now I can focus on something else for a while.”
Flipping through the latest Sports Illustrated later that evening, I saw the same tire, hand and gauge from that TV commercial. The ad was from a group called KnowYourTires.org. I set the ad aside for the next day’s work, when perhaps my head would be in a better place.
KnowYourTires.org, my InterWebs told me over a cup of morning java, had an extensive – almost stupefying – amount of brilliant consumer tire education info. Videos about tire selection, purchasing and care. Sections about tire technology with really cool graphics that explained how every square inch of a tire contributes to reliable, safe vehicle operation. Unbiased materials about pressure and tread depth checks, and how to properly wash tires. I was absolutely stunned that so much great material had been pulled together in one place.
My forehead now throbbing uncontrollably, I tried to find the source of KnowYourTires.org, but no contact info was given. There was an e-mail address, so I dashed off a congratulatory note and asked them to contact me at their earliest convenience. If I didn’t know about this group, I figured no one else did either and I was going to play it for all it was worth!
It’s very quiet in our office first thing in the morning. Not unusual, frankly, as it takes us all a few cuppas to deglaze. The silence makes it a bit easier to deal with the endless string of overnight e-mails. One in particular surprised me, though. It was an 1,800-word story from one of our contributors titled, “Tire Aging: What the New Rules Mean to You.”
“That’s not on the assignment list,” I thought, flipping through the assignment binder to double check. Nothing there, so I asked Denise Koeth, our managing editor.
“Yeah, don’t you remember giving that to him last week?” she said. Not at all convinced that it was registering with me, Denise tried to help.
“I was there when you called him to do the story. Did you hit your head or something?”
Sure that there was no frontal lobe damage – at least there were no bumps or blood – I opened the document and started reading. The RMA and TIA went to NHTSA with an actual plan, deciding that tires that were six years old or older had to be taken out of service – and out of inventories. Right out of the Japanese and European tiremaker groups’ playbooks!
Troubled by the events of the past 24 hours – as though I had been in some kind of a weird blackout – I took my blurred and banging head home.
Maybe I needed to see a doctor, a brain scan perhaps. Or catch up on my sleep; I had been on the road quite a bit, after all.
Or maybe I was that guy on House.