I was having my engine shampooed – the key is to rinse and repeat – when I asked my mechanic about my winter tires.
They're in good shape, he told me, noting that coincidentally it was three years to the day that I had purchased them.
Considering the significance of that date, he should have baked me a cake. Or had a coin minted. The reason is that my purchase three years ago ended more than three decades of driving through snow and sleet on rubber designed for dry pavement.
There were plenty of good reasons for my reluctance to buy winter tires. One was a quality I refer to as wise shopping, though my wife calls it "cheapness."
But the main factors were my experience as a winter driver and my innate cynicism, or what my wife calls "a penchant for lunatic conspiracy theories."
On the former, I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont., and spent a few years in Montreal, places where snow was measured in feet not inches, people installed snow tires just after Labour Day and didn't remove them until the last threat of snow – often July.
So when I landed in Southern Ontario, where winters consisted of a few days too cold for golfing, I decided that I could do without winter tires.
I admit there were challenges. My 1983 Mazda RX7 was as suited to winter driving as Rob Ford was to being mayor, but a 22-kilogram bag of cat litter in the hatchback kept it from fishtailing – most of the time.
The RX7's lack of traction briefly had me wavering, as did new advertising that claimed those all-season radials were for all seasons only if you didn't count winter as a season.
I was tempted, but convinced myself that this was all just a marketing ploy to promote tire sales. I was certain that the claims that regular tires started to harden at 7 C was as valid as that million dollars you supposedly need for retirement or the claim that 60 per cent of adults need Depends. All marketing.
At least I thought so until I attended a friend's barbecue and met his son, who worked in the tire business. Tell me the truth, I implored: It's all just a sales ploy, right?
But he swore that it was all true and that rubber on all-season tires begins to harden at 7 C, meaning less braking power and control. The fact he said this while his father stood nearby holding a carving knife was enough to persuade me he was telling the truth.
At least I was convinced until the next morning when doubts crept in, especially when I looked at the prices.
But later that day, something happened to seal the deal, something that could be described as the hand of God, though I think it was the foot of a UPS driver.
He stopped short in front of me, causing me to brake hard. As I slid dangerously close to his bumper all I could see was the read-out on the dash: 6 degrees.
A sign from above or not, I purchased winter tires two days later.
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