By Mike Shopmeyer
Got a flat tire on the Jeep the other day. Not totally flat, just a nail and a steady leak. Actually found a Goodyear store out near the highway after a relatively short search time. Although they informed me they could not repair the tire for safety purposes (I had never heard this before), they would certainly enjoy replacing it with a new one for me. I opted for some air in the tire and a further search for a Vulcanizadora (tire patch repairman). After driving the obligatory time required for searching for new things, people or places, I spotted a large, worn out tractor tire with the word “Vulcanizadora” sloppily hand painted around its circumference in large white letters.
The Vulcanizadora’s shop was nothing more than a rundown space located between two other equally ramshackle and non-descript buildings. Pulling into the slip, I observed my ersatz tire technician and what I assumed to be his girlfriend in a somewhat sensual embrace. Neither of them seemed to be overly concerned or pleased about my arrival.
Although I was parked only a few feet away from them, they paid no attention to me whatsoever. As I waited patiently in my car for some form of recognition, their embraces became more arduous and passionate. Feeling uncomfortable as well as somewhat embarrassed but not willing to go in search of another Vulcanizadora, I decided to wait them out. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity for me to read my Jeep owners manual while waiting. After five or ten minutes of titillating reading about tire pressures, roof racks and engine capacities, I suddenly felt my car shaking up and down. Okay, get your minds out of the gutter, it was not the Vulcanizadora and his girlfriend although at first, I too wondered. It was the Vulcanizadora and his trusty jack.
Having spotted the leaky tire, he set upon its repair with great vigor, not bothering to consult with me before he began. Using his pneumatic air hammer to remove my lug nuts and tire with one hand and chomping down a sandwich of some sort with the other, he quickly removed the tire and carried it to his workbench, continuing to eat as he worked. I was never able to determine whether the one hand repair job was an effort to impress me, or merely an act of efficiency or multitasking. Not being all that familiar with efficiency or multitasking here, I chose instead to believe it was primarily to demonstrate to his girlfriend that he could change a tire and eat at the same time. Expanding on this theorem, one could assume that he could eat and do other things at the same time as well. The girlfriend did not seem unduly impressed and I noticed she began to apply some additional makeup as he finished up the repair.
The entire repair from start to finish not counting waiting time took only five minutes and cost 50 pesos. There was also no worrisome mention by the Vulcanizadora of any safety factors to consider like I received at the Goodyear store. I liked that. The overall experience was not exactly like Les Schwab Tires back home but not bad for here in Playa and oddly enough, on the whole, rather pleasant. As I backed out of the driveway, the Vulcanizidora grabbed another sandwich in one hand and placed his other arm over his girlfriend’s shoulder. She smiled seductively at him and he winked at me and nodded as I drove away.
By the way, Vulcanizadora is now one of my favorite Spanish words and I say it aloud whenever I see it written, especially when I am eating and “Cupcake”, my wife, is with me. However, for some reason, “Vulcanizadora” just doesn’t do the same thing for her that it does for me!