Getting To Know My Tire

The Tire Pressure Monitoring System sensor.

This morning, a curious emblem in the shape of a horseshoe, lit up on my dashboard. In the next instant, another one crackled to life: a visual of a tiny car with a tinier bar blinking on its port side.

I haven’t had the time to get well-acquainted with my new car. So, I wasn’t sure what it was alerting me to, but I had an inkling of what it could be.

The instrument panels of modern cars—built in the Noughties and later, much like those of modern aircraft, have so many features—though far fewer in number, of course—that it’s hard to know the whole caboodle unless you take the time to sit down and read the manual like it were a college textbook.

My guess was correct. The pair of illuminated diodes was, indeed, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (T.P.M.S.)—a warning to tell me to pump more air into the tires.

Back home, after I read the relevant section in the Quick Reference Guide, I walked down to my car and looked for what’s called the “Tire and Loading Information” label. I found it without difficulty on the door frame.

A piece of small, but terribly technical decal, it has, among other things, a key combination of numbers and letters, which, when deciphered, like a code, tells you much about the car’s tires. It looks like this: P195/55 R 16 86V

P. The letter “P” denotes that the tire was made for a passenger car.

195. This number, preceding the slash, tells you how wide the tire is under normal pressure, in millimeters. This one is 195 millimeters wide, which works out to 7.67 inches.

55. This number, after the slash, known as the aspect ratio, is a measure of the height of the tire (from the rim to the tread.) This tire’s height is 55 percent of its width, which equates to 107.25 millimeters or 4.2 inches.

The lower the aspect ratio, the more the ability of the car to remain stable when moving, particularly, when turning a corner at high speed—that is, the better is its “road holding,” but a side-effect of that is that it can lead to a less of a comfortable ride.

R. This letter refers to the construction of the tire. “R” refers to a radial structure. The “D,” which stands for a diagonal structure, has now been abandoned and is only to be found on vintage cars.

16. This number, expressed in inches, indicates the diameter of the wheel (a sturdy, circular frame made of metal or alloy) on which the tire (the rubber band that grips the road) is mounted. When getting a new tire, you can’t get one of a different size.

86. This is the Load Index. It lets you know the amount of weight that an individual tire can safely bear. 86 stands for 1,168 pounds at maximum air pressure.

Multiply that by four tires to get your car’s maximum load capacity, which in this case is 4,572 pounds. But there’s a catch. Even though the tires can, in theory, support a lot of weight, the “combined weight of occupants and cargo” of this car “should never exceed 848 pounds.” Even so, never install tires with a lower load-carrying capacity than the original tires that the factory installed on your vehicle.

V. This letter indicates the Speed Rating—that is, the maximum speed for which a tire was made. Each letter corresponds to a certain maximum speed. The lowest rating, typically, found on passenger car tires is “Q,” which means 99 m.p.h. The highest, “Y,” is good for 186 m.p.h. and when enclosed in parenthesis, as in “(93Y),” it means “in excess of” 186 m.p.h.

A “V” rating means that this tire can handle speeds up to 149 m.p.h., which, by the way, is a lot.

I waded through so much knowledge—happily so—without getting to know how much air the tires had lost. But I did learn that the maximum “cold tire pressure” should be 33 PSI or 230 kPa.


An Ode To A Princess

Red Fez, February, 2017.

It’s hard to know what to write when your heart is heavy. I’d been out all day on December 27, 2016, a difficult day, when I began to scroll through my phone as I waited at the Yankee Stadium stop for the subway to arrive. The feed began with a dark headline about Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia in “Star Wars.”

On the platform, as twilight darkened into nightfall and a chilly wind blew against my face, a whiplash of disbelief ran through me. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I felt as though I’d lost a dear member of my own family. A thought flickered through my mind. Princess Leia had now transformed from matter into energy and become one with the Force, “an energy field,” which, as every fan knows, “surrounds us and penetrates us and that which binds the galaxy together.” There, she’ll be … forever.

Emotions poured out of me like oil out of a well. More than 35 years have passed since I saw “A New Hope” (1977) for the very first time. But it sure doesn’t feel like it happened a long time ago. Over the past decades, I hadn’t been like one of her younger fans, camping out outside movie theaters, waiting to catch the release of each new installment, hot off the reels, but I’d ardently watched every one of them at home, with fresh excitement every time I did.

At a teen, growing up in the decadent Eighties, I feasted on every blockbuster science-fiction that came out that decade: “E.T.” (1982), “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), “Star Trek III: “The Search for Spock” (1984), “Back to the Future” (1985), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Aliens” (1986). Sure, they were all thrilling. But none were powerful enough to make a mark as indelible as “Star Wars.”

It was a science-fictional fairy tale. But Leia was the “princess” who didn’t need to be rescued by a prince charming. In fact, it was she who went to rescue Han Solo, a man who looked every bit the prince charming, but was a debonair smuggler. Leia was the princess who became a senator; a senator who became a rebel leader; a rebel leader who became a general. And her hair? Braided into an unorthodox coiffure of two lateral buns, framing her ears. Leia was a princess who didn’t quiver to wield a blaster gun; who sat comfortably in a spacecraft as it make a jump into hyperspace, where it hurtled through interstellar space faster than light.

Much before Katniss Everdeen of “The Hunger Games” fame came along to liberate an oppressed nation from a cruel dictatorship, Leia was fighting to save the Old Republic from the evil clutches of the Sith lords and restore democracy in an entire galaxy, let alone a nation.

As a kid, so mesmerized was I by the “Star Wars” saga that I wanted it to pop out of the cathode ray tube. To that effect, I put up life-size posters of Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker on the walls of my room. My parents got me my very own Millennium Falcon, which I parked on top of my bookcase.

This was a tale I loved so much that somewhere along the way, I didn’t grasp that these folks that I adored were people living on Earth and not in a galaxy far, far away. Princess Leia was Princess Leia. Who else could she be? It’s embarrassing to admit that when it came to “Star Wars,” I almost never wanted to believe that it was, after all, a movie made in Hollywood. That Princess Leia was a “role” played by an actress named Carrie Fisher dawned on me way into adulthood. In my mind, one had melded with the other. This sowed the seeds of another notion: that she could never be touched by mortality. She was supposed to transcend time, wasn’t she? That she should go so soon is what deals it all the more of a blow.

But she’d want to make us to smile, in the knowledge that she “drowned in moonlight, strangled by [her] own bra,” as she wrote in her book, “Wishful Drinking.” But not before she strangled a slimy crime lord with her golden bikini.

Food, I.M.H.O.

Bagel And Lox

On a recent windy evening, M. and I had bagel and lox at the Russ & Daughters cafe in the lower basement of the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue. We shared “The Classic,” a board with Gaspé Nova Scotia smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, onion, and capers.

Bagels and lox is a staple that’s as American as the burger, though lesser-known. For some, the dish isn’t complete without onion rings and a sprinkling of capers. Neither the bread, nor the fish originated in the U.S., but their pairing happened in New York.

Smoked salmon is commonly called lox. But not all smoked salmon is lox. The salty, pickled, belly meat of cold-smoked salmon is what traditional Jewish lox is.

Lox comes to us by way of the Scandinavians. It was they who mastered the art of preserving salmon in brine. The bagel, a cousin of the pretzel—which is boiled before it’s baked—traces its roots to Polish Jewish bakers.