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Tire Shopping: Some of the Scariest Moments of my Life
A few years ago, my dad’s car was the one given to him by his employers at Unilever. It was a big, red, 1998 Ford SUV, complete with grey-on-gray interior. No matter how loud, smelly, and awkwardly sized this car was, my dad loved it.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time we spent together involved this atrocious vehicle, which by the way, we still own today. My least favorite chore with the Ford was buying new tires.
There are about 4 tire shops around here, and only one of them isn't run by an intimidating Italian man. This was Town Fair Tire, the chain, and for the sake of it they had to make sure none of their managers had a criminal record, but it was to expensive for my dad. There's Fetzer Tire as well, and whenever it was actually open, a bunch of sleazy creeps were in charge, and they rarely got the job done right. Also a place we avoided.
Lets not forget Tires and Wheels, which was run by a buff unshaven fellow who was either Roman or Venetian, I couldn't tell. We never actually stopped in, but my dad already hated him due to his obnoxious commercials, stating: "I'll beat Town Fair Tire, Wholesale Clubs, and the Mail Order Guys!! At Tires and Wheels, we'll DO THE D***ED THING!!" Lovely, right?
So, lets get to the final of all the tire shops, DeSante Tires. DeSante Tires was in Bridgeport, the city next to our town. Bridgeport, aside from the marina neighborhood of Black Rock, is the scariest place for a young white boy who isn't inclined to fighting. Anyway, DeSante Tire:
My dad seemed to know Lou DeSante, but probably just because he had purchased tires from him before. DeSante always wore a dark blue tracksuit, like Victor Zakhaev or an Arab electronics salesman in New York. He was monstrously ugly, and had glasses and thick black hair.
I involuntarily spent hours in DeSante Tires, so much that with a good lawyer I could probably successfully sue my dad for it. In the main office, there was a single chair open for patrons, and I was always in it. It was one of those ones with the grey tweed cushion and chrome frame, like you might find at a Church rec. center or something. Ancient tire posters lined the walls, and further up were the floor models of tires themselves. DeSante still sold whitewalls.
My seat was about a yard from DeSante's control center, and I could smell his BO and lunch perfectly. Every few minutes he would pick up the phone, yell at someone in English, then swear at someone in English, then remember I was in earshot, and swear at someone in Italian.
My Dad always liked to watch the car being worked on, mostly just to make sure the colorful characters in the shop weren't pilfering parts from our car. I didn't want to join him in the shop area, for the workers were even scarier than DeSante and the strange customers who wandered in. Between the office and the shop area was the Employee Lounge, a room with 2 tables, a Coke machine, and a tiny TV. Scary tattooed shop workers would enter, stuff their faces with McDonald's, and wash it down with a Pabst. They then threw the beer can over their shoulder, and left the burger box for someone else to clean up. Pretty routine.
One of the first times we were there, a septuagenarian biker and his obese girlfriend came in. He seem to be a Hells Angel, he had the jacket.
"Hey!" he said and stuck his arthritic finger in my face."You like stuffed animals?"
What the heck? DeSante found this hilarious, or it must've been something the obese woman said to him. His laugh oddly sounded like Phyllis Diller's. I had to reply to Dinosaur Biker. What if it was the kind of stuffed animals where you kill one, then stuff it? Think fast—
“Oh, ‘cause I got a lot in my car. See?” He pointed out the door, and I saw he was not a biker at all. He drove an early 1970’s Mercedes-Benz, which had a cache of beanie babies in the rear windshield. Weird.
Another time, Dad didn’t bother to drop me off in front but led me through the shop. I was right to be afraid. You had to dodge heavy machinery and sparks with every step. Nearing the exit, there was a heated argument between two workers. Apparently, one had stolen the other’s McDonald’s, and he was retaliating. He reached for something in his back pocket, but hesitated. He looked at me, then back at the Big Mac Thief. He said,
“You’re lucky there’s kids around, or I’d cut your sorry a**.” After leaving the potential murder scene, I went into the office, and noticed my chair was not there. I looked around and found it within DeSante’s control center. It was under a makeup caked blonde girl, wearing a blue fleece tracksuit to match DeSante’s. She had huge breasts for her small stature, and was wearing, underneath the tracksuit, a very low cut shirt or nothing at all. She was too old to be his daughter, but too young to be his legitimate girlfriend, so the safest assumption is she was a prostitute. Yeah, the ladies weren’t exactly chasing after DeSante. I didn’t want to ask her for it back, so I just stood where the chair used to be. Eventually, she peeled her bubble butt off MY chair to whisper something to DeSante. She left, but in the direction of the shop area. Maybe she’d been purchased by one of the workers, maybe even the one with the knife. Creeps. I dangerously neared DeSante and pulled my chair back to its home. I sat down, and then realized it was disgustingly warm. So, I got up and wandered around admiring the Pirelli and Michelin posters like Fine Art. Maybe, this all is art in a way.
I haven’t been back since then. I wonder if DeSante Tires is still in business, there you can find bikers in touch with their feminine sides, homicidal mechanics, and heinous DeSante himself.