Of all the industries that are in dire need of reform , the “Air” industry should be at the top of everyone’s list. You know, the industry that serves people who pull into a gas station to purchase fucking air for their tires.
“Hi, what does your company do?”
“We sell air!”
The first thing to keep in mind when you pull up to Air, Inc. is that most Air, Inc. stations only take quarters.
No one carries cash anymore — I buy gum with a credit card. But Air, Inc. doesn’t even take paper money. Quarters only.
If you’re one of the few lucky customers who has the requisite four quarters, congratulations, you’re now on to the next level of sorrow.
The Air, Inc. machine turns on immediately after you insert the fourth quarter. For a machine that operates air, it sure is loud.
You’re now on the clock.
You have anywhere from 3 – 5 minutes to inflate four tires. You have to execute this shit perfectly like a NASCAR pit crew, or risk running out of time.
You grab the hose, squat in front of tire #1, unscrew the cap, and secure the nozzle to the valve stem. But there’s a catch: you cannot just willy-nilly pump air all over the fucking place, lest you over-inflate your under-inflated tires in a stroke of pretty lame irony.
No, you have to release the handle in intervals in order to check the gauge to see what the pressure is. Counting those little lines isn’t easy, but if you have perfect eyesight and a vague recollection of learning to read rulers in 6th grade, the archaic non-digital reader shouldn’t hinder your progress too much.
You finish tire #1, quickly move to tire # 2, and repeat, until you get to the last tire.
Because it’s the farthest distance from the Air, Inc. machine, you have to tug the hose as far as it’ll stretch over your car (the hose is not long enough to stretch around your car). The three valve caps from the other tires you’re holding in your hand limits your dexterity and makes the task of gripping and tugging the hose more difficult. (Note: putting the caps in your pocket isn’t a good option, because you don’t have those three seconds to spare.)
As you tug, the hose slams on the hood, bounces off the windshield, and finally wraps over the roof, leaving you just enough slack to pump the last tire.
At this point, your internal clock activates and starts ticking down the last 10 seconds. 10…9…8…7…This is the same internal clock a basketball player relies on when there’s 10 seconds left in the game and his team is down by 1. Except the basketball player also has an external clock telling him exactly how much time is left. You do not.
3…2…The gratuitously loud rattling abruptly stops. You’re off by a second, and you cannot tell if the tire has enough air.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me!” you yell in unbridled exasperation.
The only way to determine if the tire is properly inflated is to put four more quarters in the machine. But you don’t have four more quarters. NO ONE WALKS AROUND WITH EIGHT QUARTERS.
And unless there’s an arcade next door that hasn’t already transitioned from quarters to cards, your only viable and terrible option is to pull money out of the ATM and ask the gas station attendant to change a $20.
He’ll look at you in the most annoyed look he can contort into, and contemptuously ask, “What do you need, a 10 and two 5s?” You look him dead in the eye and with lips trembling, mumble, “actually, I need one 10, one 5, four 1s, and four quarters.”
He will hate you. And you will hate yourself. Weary and defeated, you feed the machine four additional quarters so that it may start to rattle violently once more.
At long last, you finish inflating the last tire. After clumsily wrapping the hose around the dreaded apparatus, you drive away to the cacophonous rattling that you imagine is the mocking laughter of that now pointlessly running Air, Inc. machine.