Snappy comebacks aren't my forte. That's not entirely true. I often think of witty, stinging responses to impertinent comments ... several days later. Thankfully, I'm rarely in a position to need to. Still, every once in a while we all become the target of a snide or belittling remark that leaves us struggling against a rising tide of anger, embarrassment or hurt and, in my case, hopelessly tongue-tied. At times like these, 'Oh yeah?' is usually the only comeback I can muster, followed by a long, vacant pause while the aggressor skips smugly off into the sunset. With such a lacklustre record of pithy self-defence tactics, it's perhaps no surprise that I fondly recall the one time I did manage to get my own back. I was driving to a wedding in the midwestern US where I grew up and stopped to buy a card. While trying to parallel park my father's car I managed to puncture the right front tyre by pulling too close to a high, sharp-edged curb. Luckily, there was a tyre shop within walking distance. I committed the brand and model number of the tyre to memory, repeating it silently to myself as I headed for the garage. As I explained my problem to the mechanic, he pulled out a clipboard and gave a heavy 'Here we go again' sigh. I instantly got the feeling he was used to, and preferred, dealing with men. I know so little about cars I would have sighed right along with him but for what happened next. I can't be sure whether it was my frilly outfit and high heels or simply my gender, but he launched into what appeared to be a well-rehearsed routine. 'Well, little lady,' he said angling his head back so the other workers in the shop could hear, 'what kind of tyre do you need? No, wait! Let me guess. One that's black and round!' He doubled over laughing while the other mechanics swapped knowing grins. I was suddenly grateful I hadn't mentioned just how I had popped said tyre and provided him with even more merriment. I smiled patiently while he caught his breath, rattled off the information and watched, fascinated, as the colour rapidly drained from his face. As his co-workers laughed even harder, he scribbled something down and mumbled, 'Ready in half an hour, ma'am.' The fact I'd been feverishly memorising my response without realising the impact it would soon have did nothing to diminish my sense of victory. As a rule, I don't hold with finding pleasure in another's misery, but this time I was only too happy to let the air out of someone else's tyres.