No, they don’t go on that way.

Being an intelligent former Californian, I knew that, when I moved to Washington state, there would be this thing called winter. Unfortunately, winter doesn’t come with an instruction manual. At least, not a very good one.



Being an intelligent former Californian, I knew that, when I moved to Washington state, there would be this thing called winter. In California, winter consists of a couple of rain storms that break-up the monotony of sunshine and trips to the beach. Washington, I knew, would be different.

So, before embarking on the journey, off I went to the local auto parts store to acquire snow chains. After all, you can’t be too careful. While I can adapt to the possibility of snow, my truck cannot: It’s a wannabe four-wheel drive-looking thing that really isn’t a four-wheel drive. It just looks cool when you go to the California beaches in-between the rain storms. After all, Californians shouldn’t worry themselves over silly things like the weather, as long as they can get to their auditions, the gym and the liposuction clinic.

Now the first thing anyone will tell you, if they know their snow chains, is that you should make certain that they are the right size for your tires. I had that one covered. I checked the measurement information on the side-wall of the tire, and the under-aged, minimum-wage clerk at the auto parts store, who was more interested in girls than his job, never really put chains on a vehicle because he lives in southern California, and, in fact, doesn’t even own a car, assured me that the chains he recommended were the correct size. So I stuffed them in the back of the truck and never gave it a second thought. I was officially covered in the snow chain department.

After arriving in the great Pacific Northwest, I learned that there was a “big storm” a year or so ago, but nothing since. The winters had been mild, and the “big storm” was a rarity. Thus I was complacent, and the chains were shuffled around in the truck to make room for more important things like groceries, the dog, and various blankets that seemed important to keep in the vehicle, “just in case.”

History has a tendency to repeat itself, and even the weather must comply occasionally. On my third year here in Washington, we finally had another “big storm.” It really wasn’t bad or frightening, but you had a real hard time getting out of your driveway with only a two-wheel drive vehicle. It was obviously time for the snow chains. Out I went to open up the previously never thought about package of chains.

Now, understand, I was told by the non-driving, sex-starved party hound at the auto parts store in California that for my bad-ass vehicle, I should get the best. Don’t deal with those silly cable things that you just drive up on, connect and go – no way. That just wouldn’t do. I should get the real-deal. Actual chains. That’s what I needed.

And there I was, with chains in-hand. Real chains. Big, complex-looking chains that were tangled into something resembling chain mail. And I played D&D once – I knew my chain mail. After untangling the things, I was faring no better. They still looked utterly foreign. Thankfully, there were instructions. They were printed in full-color, with pictures, on a large plastic sheet that they insisted you should also use to put your knees on while you installed the chains. I thought that was a nice touch: They even thought to include a mat.

So I read the instructions. Then, I read them again. I looked at the pictures. I double-checked to make sure that I was on the English-language side of the sheet. The words, pictures and actual chains sitting next to the truck did not seem to resemble each other in the least. I attempted to do as the instructions asked, but, somehow, the chains never really wound up on the tire. Behind the tire, in front of the tire, half-way around the tire with the other half dangling precariously – No configuration that I could manage to get them in around the tire actually looked safe, or even legal. So, still being at the house, I decided to head back in and consult the great internet oracle, Google.

Amazingly enough, the thoughtful company that included the plastic instructions/knee mat, had videos right on their website. They explained that the chains could be put on a tire in only three minutes. I laughed. But, then they slowly went through the steps one-by-one, and the little pilot-light in my brain started to glow a little brighter. After the step-by-step portion, the gentleman putting on the chains went through the steps in “real-time,” showing that, indeed, it was only three minutes per tire.

I went out re-charged and excited. I had wasted an hour and a half with useless fumbling, but I now knew the score. I was about to actually put on snow chains like a pro.

I knelt down on my instruction mat, and started to work. After only three minutes, I realized three things:

  1. The video was shot in California.
  2. On pavement.
  3. In sunny, 70-degree weather.

And then I cursed the snow chain gods. Obviously, it was some kind of conspiracy. No one in their right-mind could do this correctly without a degree in engineering, and I suddenly felt for every poor schmuck who had to get out of their car in the middle of a blizzard and kneel in penance on the holy snow chain instruction mat, praying for a traction miracle.

Two-hours and two completed tires later, I slowly drove my truck out of the driveway. Proud, but wanting to throttle someone. I didn’t know who, but someone should suffer the way I suffered.

Maybe that kid in California. Once my hands thaw-out.

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