The guy at the service station I go to was on my case about my tires for a while. He'd replaced one that had a slow, persistent leak with a good used tire – there’s no way I’m shelling out for new tires on this car, which I hope not to own for too many more years – and every time I stopped for gas he’d ask when I was going to get the rest of them. I’d already agreed that I needed to, since they were all ancient and balding, but I’d been dragging my feet on it for a while.
Finally a few weekends ago I conceded. “Look,” he said, making me walk around the car and examine the shiny smooth edges of the remaining ones, “I’m not just trying to sell you tires. You shouldn’t be driving around on those.” Obviously he was trying to sell me tires, but I took his point.
It was one of that last string of warm, sunny weekends, and I hung around outside while they worked on my car. It’s a pleasant enough garage, and the guys who work there are polite, and best of all, they have chickens.
Some service stations have a resident cat that lounges around on the pavement in front of the office, some have an ugly but friendly junkyard dog. This place has chickens – three grey hens and a brown rooster – patrolling the joint and generally keeping out of trouble. I watched them emerge from the garage, single file, and make their rounds of the premises, giving the cars a good wide berth but looking, for the most part, unconcerned. They scratched around under the chain link fence. They walked out to the sidewalk, then back. They found a cache of old fried chicken bones, and pecked at those, which didn't bear thinking about very hard. And eventually they retreated to the rear of the garage where they settled down among the engine parts and hoses, the hens roosting contentedly watched over by the rooster.
A woman walked out of the office with a can of Coke and told me that the hens were originally white, but that life in the garage had dyed them a permanent sooty grey. That didn't bear thinking about very hard either. Still, they looked pretty serene.
Sometimes having a camera in my cell phone is just a pain in the ass – I'm always turning it on by mistake when I pull it out of my purse and end up taking a photo of the underside of my chin, which is nothing I want a record of. But sometimes it's a very good thing. Because every so often there are chickens when I'm getting my tires changed in the Bronx, and that is worth remembering.