According to the manual, there is an occasion in which the car will vibrate, make a strange noise, and will have some difficulty steering. Just as the manual said, it happened to M2. So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to have a look. And there it was, a flat tyre.
Great! A chance for me to pull out my Mazda-issue toolkit and get some hands-on working on a routine maintenance procedure. One thing about Mazda's toolkit: it's cute, handy, packs away easily, and is almost completely non-functional. Specifically, the tyre iron is far too short and too fragile to unbolt the tyre from the axle. So try as I might, I couldn't get enough leverage to budge the nuts even a little.
So despite having figured out the jack and having my emergency wheel on hand, I still had to seek assistance. Thanks to Amy, I got hold of our local AA, though it was rather strongly impressed upon me by the Association that I should pay for my own membership rather than sponge off someone else's.
It was a case of tyre iron envy when I saw the equipment the AA guy was lugging around. But even then he had to use a makeshift lever extension to get my nuts loose [ok, now this is starting to sound rather rude -- whatever you're thinking, stoppit].
The emergency wheel is certainly no replacement for a proper road wheel. It's a dinky little wheel off a toy car, designed to get M2 to the nearest tyre shop for a new tyre asap. The nearest one was at the Caltex station opposite Nee Soon camp. Quite good service by Mr Shiok (yes, that's his name). He quickly replaced both front tyres and took the trouble to clean up the emergency wheel before stowing it back into it's compartment for me.
What caused the flat? Normal wear and tear, apparently. I'm just relieved it wasn't because I ran over a cat or some other clawed animal. So now I'm running 2 new Falken tyres in front (tyres get replaced in pairs). That, plus AA membership = $300+. It's enough to make me reconsider public transport...