‘We go high’

Tire-changing clinic to be held in response to vandalism

 

Hannah Burlingame

Review staff

 

It’s not something many worry about until they have to do it themselves — changing a tire. 

For some West. St. Paul residents, mainly women who’d been vocal about charges of sexism that surfaced on the city council this spring, the need to know how to change a tire came out of necessity after they found screws in their car’s tires, likely put there by someone on purpose,

Wendy Berry, a candidate for the Ward 3 city council seat, found a screw in one of her tires after speaking up at a council meeting earlier this year. The apparent vandalism has spread to even hit Berry supporter state Sen. Matt Klein, and now she’s organizing to do something about it.

Berry helped organize two tire-changing clinics in West St. Paul — both are being held at Zak’s Auto Service at 955 Dodd Road on Saturday, Oct. 28. The first is at 1 p.m., the second at 2 p.m. You can register in advance by going to www.eventbrite.com and searching “WSP Tire Changing Clinic.”

Berry said the idea originated in a conversation withinin the Women of West St. Paul Facebook group, “as a way of empowering women by teaching them how to change their tire.”

When the incidents first started happening, Berry said she was appalled — she also thought it would stop shortly after it started. 

“It’s to the point now where over a dozen people have experienced this, some twice. To me and to many other victims, it’s scary. It’s threatening and it’s unsafe,” she said.

Berry added the thought behind the clinics is in line with former first lady Michelle Obama’s phrase, “When they go low, we go high”

“It was pretty clear there was someone out there going, well, as low as our tires, because they were intimidated or feeling inferior or irrelevant,” she said. “And why match that with equally as immature and childish behaviors? So we went high. We decided to educate and to empower.”

Logistics were tricky at first. Berry said it was important for her that the clinic be in West St. Paul. It was also important to have someone conducting the clinic who identified as a female. This is where Sam Wicks came in.

 

A helping hand

Wicks said when she was 20 she “accidently” became a tow truck driver — prior to taking on the job she knew nothing about the field and had to learn quickly.

“I was just stubborn and determined. Every call I arrived to my gender was a point of discussion,” said Wicks, who later went on to be a mechanic in the military and is now a diesel mechanic for Metro Transit.

Wicks said she’s not a fan of the sexist stigma associated with her being a female mechanic, adding she likes to empower women. Someone shared Berry’s post with her, which was looking for a female mechanic, and Wicks messaged her, offering her services.

“I think it’s brilliant,” Wicks said. “I’m really passionate about what I do and I’m a huge feminist. There’s some misogynistic crap happening right now and I feel this is a really smart way we show strength and support for each other.”

Berry said after hearing from Wicks, and how passionate she was to make sure women could handle a punctured tire, she knew right away she was the perfect person to help.

Wicks said those in attendance at the clinics don’t have to participate in the hands-on portion, but that’s how she learns. 

“I knew zero about cars nine years ago and now I have rebuilt engines, so I think I explain things in a relatable way for someone who hasn’t ‘spoken car,’ or what have you,” Wicks said, adding she promises the clinics will be fun.

Wicks recommended Zak’s Auto Service to Berry as the space for the clinics.

Zak Metzger, who owns the business and works there as a mechanic, said the shop thought the clinic was a “wonderful idea.” He said a few months ago, he offered to repair tires at no cost for those in the area who had been victims of the vandalism. 

“We want to do everything we can to help our neighbors. Not only is our business located in West St. Paul, but everyone that works at the shop lives in the area too. We are very invested in the community, both personally and professionally,” said Metzger. More practically, he added people attending the clinics should wear something old and warm.

Berry said the response to the clinics has been great. They’re geared toward women, she said, “those identifying as female, or gender non-binary folks, and there have been complaints of the sexism that might portray.” 

Because of this, she said male allies have committed to hold a similar event if there becomes a rise in men finding screws intentionally placed in their tires. 

Berry said there’s a vision to turn the clinics into a series in order to educate each other on topics beyond changing tires, all with aims of empowerment.

 

-Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillinews.com.

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