José Luis looks like a man who has been working on cars for decades. His shop is small, simple and dirty – you know, that greasy feel of an old school mechanic, where tools are scattered but you are sure within seconds he could find anything he needs. There is no waiting area. No free popcorn like at the Les Schwab center in the States.
No other employees are visible. José is greeter, fixer and cashier.
“Tengo una llanta pinchada.”
“I have a flat tire.” That was the phrase I needed to learn that day.
Still challenged by the language, pointing worked better than my annunciation.
Not surprisingly, Todos Santos has no tire stores that are familiar to me. I didn’t want to randomly find one; which would be my same mantra no matter where I lived. Some things are better found by word of mouth.
Moving to a new town requires finding repair people of various specialties, and often not in advance. Something breaks (or deflates as the case may be) and you need it fixed then. La Escondida came recommended from my neighbor, with a second nod from a tennis friend.
The (now) funny part was getting slightly different directions from them. One said it was on the right, the other the left. Each had different landmarks to look for. With all of it you would think I wouldn’t miss it. Yet, another U-turn.
Email directions said: “At the bottom of the hill, on the right a place called lantern Escondido. Right before the stop light, when there was a stop light.”
What I didn’t know is autocorrect changed llantera to lantern. Had I known llantera meant tire, I might have figured it out sooner. And having never lived here when there was a stoplight meant that piece of information was useless. Plus, Escondida was changed to Escondido.
In person directions mentioned something about a hospital, which took me a while to figure out the relevance since I didn’t know that building was a hospital, and a fish taco place.
I never would have found this repair shop on my own.
Ironically, or not, la escondida translates to “the hidden one.” That it was.
For the most part, changing a flat tire is the same anywhere. Jack up the car, get the lug nuts off, find the leak, plug it and put the tire back on the vehicle.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association probably would disagree.
Here in Baja California Sur, though, it’s old school. There was no taking the tire off the rim to check on the integrity of the entire tire. I’m not sure they care where on the tire the hole is. Got hole, fix hole. It’s simple, efficient and it works.
I didn’t need fancy. I needed fixing. José was the man for this particular job. Eighty pesos (about $4) and I was on my way.
José fixed the tire how I remember it being done decades ago. Then I believe a spray bottle was used to figure out where the leak was. José had a square concrete container full of water that he rotated the tire in until there were bubbles. Problem found.
What appeared to be heavy duty pliers were used to pull out the nail. A screwdriver of sorts temporarily plugged the hole as José went into the area where he keeps supplies. He brought out a device I remember from long ago that he used to twist some sort of patching material into the hole. Sealed. Tire back on and inflated.