Kicking Tires

Torturing an 8 year old boy is a good way to spend a Saturday

I don’t know if it was a common expression, or if it was a Midwest expression, or if it was something my dad made up; but there were many Saturdays during my childhood that my father would gather up my two brothers and me and we would go “kicking tires.”

It meant that we were going to look at vehicles. The vehicle we looked at the most was a motor home. My dad loved the Airstream. The Bullet. I knew he really wanted one. I didn’t know that if he ever bought one my mother would wait until he was asleep and smother him with a pillow. For some reason, going on vacation and having to do dishes, for my mother, was a contradiction of terms.

To an 8 year old boy such as myself, the thought of having one of these was possibly the coolest thing in the world. Sure, I would have rather had a travel home with those cool captain chairs as drivers seats, but a Bullet wasn’t bad. Every time we would all go out and look at them at the dealer, my father assured me we were there to buy. And every time I believed him. For some reason my brothers knew the truth.

We never bought an Airstream.

It didn’t matter, though. I bought the possibility every time, and every time I came home disappointed. My dad explained to me that that was what ‘kicking tires’ was all about. You went out, for some reason you kicked the tires, and you went home with the same things with which you went out. I’m guessing the term ‘kicking tires’ was a synonym for ‘just looking.’

Perhaps that’s why, now that I am of adult age, when I go out shopping for anything, I never come home empty handed. I must buy something. Even something as high end as a car. There are very few times that I went out to buy a car and I didn’t buy a car. I didn’t have the heart to disappoint the eight year old who was still inside me.

Then there was the period that my father was dead set on getting a Harley Davidson motorcycle. They didn’t cost as much as an Airstream, so there had to be a distinct possibility we were going to buy a motorcycle. I was still only around eight years old, and this was truly exciting.

Again, I didn’t take into account my mother and that damn smothering pillow.

My brothers and I piled into my dad’s Oldsmobile and we went to the Harley Davidson dealership. We were going to kick some motorcycle tires.

I walked around the showroom with my mouth open. These were truly beautiful machines, and my dad was surely going to buy one. My brothers and I would split up and check out the different bikes. My dad had the salesman explain specs and prices.

I saw a Harley I liked and I called out, “Dad, come look at this one!” He did and he complemented me on my taste.

We went home without a motorcycle, and I went home disappointed. My brothers knew the game. The mere shopping was the fun of the trip. Being with the family was the objective. It was all bullshit to me.

I fell for it every time. Every time there was a Saturday that my father announced we were going out to kick tires, my brothers and I immediately headed for the Oldsmobile. I left home hopeful. I came home disappointed.

I loved my days out with the men.

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