A Clear Case of Lost Productivity

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

TALK about impact journalism.

I was driving one night on a snowy four-lane when my front wheel hit something. Something big. It knocked off my hubcap and flattened my tire. The car shuddered and shook as I coasted into a parking area to put on the spare.

I'm not sure what caused the flat. Debris in the road? A pothole? Later, the garage man sympathized. The other day he had lost a tire and an expensive alloy wheel to a pothole. But his sympathy stopped well short of the bill: $156.63 to replace the tire and hubcap and pound out the dent in my steel wheel.

It wasn't just the money. I lost 30 minutes putting on the spare and three hours waiting for the tire change.

I used the time as productively as possible, writing part of the infrastructure story above. But I headed for home carefully, keenly aware of every bump and hole.

And wouldn't you know? Suddenly the car was shuddering in an all-too-familiar way. Same wheel. Brand new tire. Flat as a pancake.

I still don't know what caused the second flat. It wasn't a pothole. And the garage didn't charge me for its replacement. Nevertheless, I'm now an unabashed supporter of more highway maintenance, especially if it can save me seven hours of limbo and $156.63.

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