MORE ON THE DECLINE OF MANUAL SKILLS: Reader Scott Methvin emails:

For the last 13 years I’ve been an over-the-road truck driver, although I was trained as an aircraft pilot and aircraft mechanic. It’s been my impression for some time now that there is an epidemic of un-handy-ness among automobile drivers. I don’t mean “I never learned how to gap spark plugs” type of mechanical non-competence. I mean “my tire went flat and I will sit on the shoulder of the road for 3 hours waiting for AAA to arrive, open my trunk, and install the spare tire” type of non-competence. It always seemed obvious to the people I grew up with and went to school with that every driver should know how to change a flat tire, even if they chose not to get dirty doing it.

The number of nearly new, and presumably mechanically sound cars and SUVs I see parked on the emergency shoulder with just a flat tire seems to grow every year.

As a professional driver, it’s not that the rampant ignorance of the motoring public has surprised me recently. Your mention of growing ignorance of the most basic and likely to be needed skills reminded me of this observation. Hey, when did “Keep Right except to pass” become “Keep Left until you hear gunfire or see your exit?”

Yeah, I wonder about that, too.