So, THAT Happened Again--A Lesson in Car Confidence


If there's one aspect of my life I feel confident about, it's my transportation. Everything else may be falling to pieces, but when I get into my trusty Ford Focus and turn the key, I have complete faith that it will start up and get me where I need to go and back again--with at least 34 average mpg. 

This trust is misplaced, obviously. It's a car, and it will break down eventually. I mean seriously, the dang thing is like a ticking time bomb. At least I can see my clothes fading or the soles of my running shoes wearing thin, but for the most part I can't tell when my car is going to fling my misplaced confidence right back in my face and refuse to go anywhere.  

Case in point: Saturday night. While my car didn't refuse to start, it did almost refuse to get me home. 

I was happily flying by slow people on the highway when a light dinged on my dashboard--low tire pressure. The last time that particular ding occurred, I immediately drove to 7-11 (which, thankfully, was right across the street) and tried unsuccessfully to fill one of my back tires with air before a nice man in a pickup truck took pity on me and offered to help. It was he who discovered the large nail wedged deep into my tire, from which I could hear air escaping quickly as it deflated right before my eyes. 

So this time, when the "low tire pressure" light started flashing, I had a pretty good guess about what had happened. Unfortunately for me, I was in the middle of the highway going 70, miles away from my house, and nowhere near any gas station that I knew of. I got off as soon as possible and pulled into the Whole Foods parking lot, figuring that if I was going to be stranded, this was the place to be. 

[Important side note: Have you ever been inside a Whole Foods? If not, go immediately. It's a haven of expensive, organic fruit. And other things too, but the fruit is my favorite part.]

I hopped out of my car and checked the tires one by one. The back passenger tire was noticeably flat, and I, recalling my previous experience, bent down to check for a nail. I was proud of myself for knowing what to look for.  

Sure enough, there was a sizable nail in my tire.

I bent my ear near the puncture wound and heard a hiss of air. That's when I started freaking out. If you know me in real life, you've most likely seen this in action. I am absolutely the worst with directions and get lost more often than I don't. (When I was little, I thought north was whichever direction I happened to be facing at the time, and I'm still not much better.)

I don't handle getting lost well. It usually results in tears and shouting at whoever happens to be talking to me at the moment. I'm not proud of this. 

I tell you that to say that my getting-lost reaction is similar to that of something happening to my car. It's fair to assume that the intensity level of my reaction is directly proportional to my confidence level. And since I've admitted that my confidence level is high, my reaction is as well. 

So there I was, in the Whole Foods parking lot, watching air escape from my tire while I fought the urge to burst into tears. Again, not my proudest moment, but sharing stories of my failure to be a confident female on my blog is what keeps me humble. 

Jordan was less than helpful when I called him for help. He will admit this. Our one-year anniversary is coming up next month, which means there are years and years left of learning how to handle each other. I am not easy to handle and will therefore require extra practice. Saturday night was another learning opportunity for both of us. I'll leave it at that. 

This story is already longer than I intended, so I'll skip a few scenes and jump ahead 20 minutes. 

I found myself in a Hibdon tire parking lot in an unfamiliar part of the city. It was Saturday night at 6:35. Hibdon was closed, and I was alone except for a blue SUV parked two spots down. The fact, however, that directionally challenged me had found my way to the parking lot of a car-fixing shop felt like a major success, though an actual solution was still out of sight. 

During my previous nail-in-the-tire episode not barely five months ago, I had stood by and watched while a stranger changed my tire. At that time, I had observed pickup truck man carefully and determined that changing a tire was not difficult, and I could definitely do it myself should such a need arise. I then vowed to redeem myself.

"You can do this!" I said, clutching my keys in my hand and raising a fist in the air. "You can do this."

I felt empowered. Excited, even. I pictured myself arriving home and nonchalantly telling Jordan, "Yeah, I changed my tire. No big deal."

I hopped out and practically ran to the trunk to pull out my spare. It took me a good two minutes to collect all the tennis balls that had rolled out of the bag, and then I had to move the books and bag of clothes I'd been planning to take to the thrift store for a month.

And then I was ready. 

I pulled out the spare tire and leaned it against the bumper. 
Then I grabbed the jack, leaned down, and placed it under the car. 

Just then, a white pickup truck pulled up, and a girl in khakis, wearing a blue shirt and a name tag, jumped out and walked over to the SUV. The driver of the pickup truck pulled up to me and said, "Do you need help?"

I wanted to say no. "I've got this. I'm fine. I'm just about to change this tire. No big deal." That's what I wanted to say. But what came out was a plea for help from a nice stranger in a pickup truck. Then I watched, torn with self-loathing and gratefulness, as he changed my tire. 

His girlfriend came over, and I apologized for ruining their night. "I was going to change it myself," I told her, trying to convince myself that I actually believed I would have been able to do it. 

She laughed and flipped her long brown hair over her shoulder, her eyeshadow sparkling in the fading sunlight. "Oh don't even worry about it. There's no way I would ever change my own tire." 

I sighed inwardly and turned to thank pickup truck man.

It had happened again.

I'm not at all trying to speak negatively about the kindness of strangers. The fact that there are still people willing to put aside their personal plans for the moment and help out a stranger gives me hope for the world. But seriously. I must fix this. I will learn to change a tire, and then the next time I am stranded and a strange man in a pickup truck offers to help, I will wave him along and say I've got it under control. 

In the meantime, I will take my car to the shop and have the kind mechanics fix it while my car confidence continues its steady decline.
Katie Dupre said...

I had a very similar experience in college, and what I learned from it is this: it is great to know how to change your own tire. In fact, I was very proud of myself at the time because I knew exactly what to do (before my dad would let me drive when I was 16 I had to demonstrate on all four tires that I knew how to change them. But the thing is, all that knowledge is absolutely useless when the tire you want to change has been tightened to the point that you are physically unable to unscrew the lugnuts. My helpful stranger couldn't even do it. We had to take it to a gas station so they could use the air pressure tools. And that's when I got AAA.

Anonymous said...

I really loved this story. I think my favorite quote was, "I am not easy to handle and will therefore require extra practice." Too funny.

Also - how AWESOME that the person who owned the only other vehicle in the closed shop's parking lot pulled up with a burly, able, helpful, and kind man who could change your tire for you!

It is a good skill to know. But it's also awesome that you've been fortunate enough to receive the kindness of strangers both times this has happened to you. And, good job on diagnosing the nail. I probably wouldn't have gotten that far. I would've been like "no way that would happen twice..."

And yes, this is coming from a girl who DOES know how to change her tire and who had to do it three times in the course of one year while still living in OKC.

Apartment complexes are EVIL, I tell you. Except for the time my tire got slashed, my other two flats happened while construction was going on in my apartment complex parking lot. Careless workers dropping nails and flattening our tires are NOT cool!!


PS Next time tell Jordan to shut up and come get you. ;)

Jason Unrau said...

Properly inflated tires help you spare gas cash, help the earth and keep you safe out and about. Regardless of the possibility that the auto has a tire weight observing framework (most new autos do), you ought to still do a manual check at regular intervals. Tire weight is likely the last worry of most drivers however here's the reason you ought to dependably attempt to ensure your auto's "shoes" dependably have the appropriate measure of air in them.