Flat Tire Conversations
Wrote this article for SB Nation's Minor League Ball site about how topics as simple as radio, smartphones and minor league baseball bonded total strangers.
Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" blared on the radio in the garage of the auto repair shop I pulled up to on Saturday evening. My mom's van had a flat tire and I was happy to find a place that was still open that late on the weekend.
"I'm eighteen and I like it, love it, like it," sang Dave the auto mechanic as he prepared to pull the tire off the van. "Wouldn't it be great to be eighteen again?" he asked me.
Yes and no. There's that whole not knowing what you want thing that doesn't sound all that appealing to me. "Do you ever wonder if songs like that will be on oldies radio stations one day?" I asked. "Can you imagine listening to Alice Cooper on an oldies station in the nursing home?"
"This is the oldies station."
I thought it was a classic rock station, but who was I to argue?
As Dave, who looked to be in his late 50s, talked, he worked on the tire, dipping it into a tub of water, examining it for bubbles. We exchanged a series of radio station call letters and while I consider myself to be a radio guy, I'm a novice compared to Dave. He named radio personalities and stations that have changed format multiple times so easily that I think he's been waiting to have this conversation for a while.
"Are you a radio app guy?" I said. "Do you listen to iHeartRadio or TuneIn? Or maybe Pandora?"
Over the next five minutes he rattled off his opinions about all three. For the record, he's a big fan of TuneIn, not so much of the other two.
"Ah, there it is," he said. He pointed to a place on the inside of the tire, next to the wheel. "That can be fixed."
"Good to know."
As he pulled the tire off the wheel, the conversation flowed naturally toward smartphones and the waning need for personal landlines.
"I kept my landline at home while my parents were still alive," he said. "I was always afraid of missing that call in the middle of the night and I didn't think I would hear my cell phone. They are both gone now, so I didn't need the landline any longer."
"Sorry to hear that."
"So you look old enough to have gone to concerts when Rosenblatt Stadium was still around," he said.
"I saw a few in my day."
"Some bands just sound better in outside venues, you know? I loved going to concerts there. Have you been to the new stadium?"
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