Tire Center Christmas (Part 1)

A Writer waited in a corporate tire center for a warranty service he didn’t comprehend. He knew nothing of tires. In fact, he’d never changed a tire in his life.

As he waited, he polished an essay for a slick Zen magazine about noble, silent caring for the world. In his case, caring meant accommodating honeybees building a hive in a wheel well of a vintage Airstream that served as his irony-free writing studio. The essay’s payoff was the delicious ending where he harvested the honey, slathered it on butter he churned himself, and the biscuits made from scratch. Anyone could do it. They just had to notice, care and act. Action.

The Writer didn’t churn butter. He made biscuits from a box. He would never harvest the Airstream honey nor any honey. It didn’t matter. The essay would move hearts and minds, serve the greater good, the larger cause. He, along with many other writers, felt perfectly comfortable making things up, because, well, most writers practice empathy on the page and never in real life. It’s really easy that way.

It was the early afternoon of December 24th in Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast. Outside the tire center, a near freezing rain fell. If the temperature dropped another degree, everybody’s Christmas would be shot to icy hell. They’d have to spend the holiday alone or seek out strangers within sliding distance and break figgy pudding with them.

He sat next to a big window overlooking the parking lot. Needles of rain battered the glass. The lot was full. The center was packed. Twas the season for new tires, tire repair, tire rotations, studded tires. Young men in coverall uniforms wearing Santa hats and reindeer horns ran around, rolling tires, checking with customers, trying to expedite service and get people moving on their merry way. It was all sort of a festive madhouse, but those in the waiting room were oblivious because everyone, including small children, fiddled on their devices. Coloring was dead. No talking. No eye contact. No reading magazines. No one even watched Fox News blasting out commentary defending the President’s mocking of a quadriplegic liberal reporter falling out of her wheelchair at a rally because one of the President’s fanatics tipped it over. It was really funny. She’d shit herself, too.

A fake Christmas tree, fresh cedar bows and a myrtlewood Nativity scene atop a straw-filled monster truck tire comprised the holiday decorations. Free coffee simmered on a warmer but nobody cared because everyone sipped sweet $9 holiday espresso concoctions and thought they tasted swell. Drip coffee was dead.

The essay was going well. Words like dappled and glinted flowed effortlessly from tapping his fancy tablet. He had no problem tuning out the chaos of the tire center because he was listening to classic country Christmas music on headphones. He had no idea what was going on around him. He knew everything the essay needed to sing, to soar, and earn him a tidy three grand and a free week long retreat at a Buddhist compound in the Wallowa Mountains. He wasn’t even a Buddhist! During the retreat, he’d write an essay about gathering wild lavender in a nearby Native American cemetery and making peasant lemonade from it. He’d sell that essay lickety-split to a glossy magazine extolling the gritty virtues of peasant life.

Oh what a Christmas Eve it was going to be in Lincoln City! His Yoga instructor girlfriend was driving over the hills and through the woods from Portland for a tasteful bacchanal, and his fans had bought thousands of his books, $19.99 softcover tomes exuding the benefits of practicing empathy. The books were purchased as gifts to instill caring. No one would read them. But they would Instagram the holy living shit out of the book’s cover and let all their world know they were kicking ass making the world a better place. Instagram makes it so easy.