INot that he expected to get through life without changing a wheelbarrow tire; is that I never suspected that such a task existed. Before it happened to me, I didn’t even know that the wheelbarrow tires went flat.
“The truck has a flat tire,” my wife says Friday morning, leaning toward my office shed and pointing to where she left the fully loaded truck on the side of the house.
“What do you mean?” I say. “Did you take it to the roads?”
“I haven’t gotten it anywhere,” he says.
I inflate the tire with an old bike pump, but it goes flat again before I can lift the handles.
“Do you think it needs a new inner tube?” I tell nobody. My wife, it turns out, has entered. “Is there such a thing as an inner tube for wheelbarrow tires?”
Turns out, yes – I’m browsing a surprisingly wide selection of truck inner tubes on my computer when my friend Pat calls.
“Have you already been vaccinated?” he says.
“I do not say. “Why did you do it?”
“It’s weird being too young for something isn’t it?” he says.
“I know,” I say. “Especially if you could see how I’m spending my morning.”
“Not that I’m worried,” says Pat. “Or that he ever wanted to jump the line.”
“No, of course not,” I say, ordering a forklift inner tube.
“But I keep hearing about people younger than me,” he says.
“Yes,” I tell him. “David Cameron got it and he’s younger than me.”
“So do we wait for them to invite us or what?” he says.
“I guess,” I say.
“It’s not that I’m worried,” he says.
“I do not say.
The next day, my new inner tube arrives, giving me a new problem: how do you remove a wheel from a wheelbarrow? In this case the answer seems to be: tear the truck to pieces.
An hour later, I am sitting on the garden bench with my head in my hands, surrounded by wheelbarrow components, unable to contemplate the second step. I wish I had taken a picture of it when it was still a wheelbarrow. My phone rings. It’s Pat.
“Remember when I said we had to be guests?” he says.
“Yes,” I tell him.
“Well, someone told me that you can reserve your vaccine on the website,” he says.
“They must have lowered their age since I last looked,” I say. I’m not saying: it was late last night.
“So I have mine next week,” he says.
“Actually?” I say. “I have to go.”
My wife walks by while I am sitting in front of a laptop in the kitchen.
“When do you want your vaccine?” I say. “I will reserve us.”
“Are we allowed?” she says.
“As of today, we are,” I say. “They have Wednesday.”
“I have a call from Zoom on Wednesday,” he says. “Make Thursday.”
“Are you crazy?” I say. “I won’t wait until Thursday. Cancel your call. “
“It’s important,” she says.
“Well, I’ve done everything I can for you,” I tell him.
“How is the wheelbarrow?” she says.
“Reduced to its smallest components,” I say. “They are basically atoms.”
On a rainy Wednesday morning, I find myself in a community center that I never knew. With the mask on, my glasses fog up quickly, which always seems to perversely leave me a little deaf.
“Sorry?” I say.
“I just need your reference number,” says the man at the door. I hold the piece of paper to my nose, but I still can’t read it.
After my temperature is taken, I am taken to a small socially estranged waiting room filled with silver-haired men, all of whom seem to know how to change a tire on a wheelbarrow. I would like to corner one of them to describe my Saturday in some detail, but the whole operation is proceeding with great efficiency. Everyone is on the move. I feel nervous, a little excited, very relieved, and extremely old.
A woman comes up to me with a vaccine brochure and sticks a sticker on my lapel. It says: I HAVE HAD MY COVID VACCINE.
“That’s for being a good boy,” he says.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism