Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's with "winter tires?"

We’re entering our second winter in Germany so we have been through this transition before but honestly, everything was so strange last year that I didn’t really stop to think about it until now. Here I am in a climate that is milder than any of my previous addresses throughout the upper Midwest. Average temperatures probably range from around 30 in winter to 75 in summer, and virtually no snow. But as soon as we arrived back from our month in the States my friend asked, “Are the winter tires on your car? Once it gets below 50 degrees you should switch them.” Seriously? 50 degrees calls for winter tires?

Okay, I haven’t actually looked into this so there could be a very good reason, and knowing the safety-conscious and practical Germans there probably is. For all I know there is a law about having the appropriate tires on your car. But really, I lived in Madison, WI, and drove in the same tires year-round. When it was zero degrees with a minus 15 wind chill and when it was 90 with a heat index of 100 the same tires carried me safely wherever I went. And in Michigan with snow drifts up to my hip, I scooted around town in my all-season tires. So it seems like a bit of a scam, getting tires switched twice a year and paying the dealer to store the off-season set.

But even with all this I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye, except that this time around Aaron asked me to call and set up the appointment. Yeah, just casually asked me for a favor, like it was no different from washing his lucky socks for the big meeting or something. You’d think that after living here for over a year, we’d finally be good with all the language stuff but you’d be wrong. We have learned a lot. Aaron has his vocabulary that allows him to comfortably navigate his work world and I have mine, with which I can small-talk and get to the post office, grocery store and bakery. But talking on the phone is a completely different level of comfort. For one thing, you can’t use hand gestures, which turns out to be a large part of my vocabulary. For another thing,…, well, I can’t think of anything else but I panicked anyway!

Well, you know how the story turns out. I made the call, spoke to the nice lady at the Ford dealership, even told her about a warranty recall letter we’d received and set up the tire swapping date. And I’m a better person for the experience. But I still think the tire thing is dumb.

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