Driving over the bridge, with nowhere to go but onto the highway, the crazy antics of the guy in the pickup truck next to me made my heart race.
There was no flirting going on, there was only flattening.
I thought something wasn't right with the car's handling, but there wasn't the tell-tale thumpity-thump of an off-kilter chassis. It was just a feeling. Of course I did what anyone in denial would do: I turned up the radio and drove a little slower (just in case).
But I couldn't ignore the man making funny faces as his lips mouthed the words "FLAT TIRE" silently through the glass. I had to pull over.
Not all-the-way flat just considerably more flat than a tire should be, which means with a little luck I can get the car off the highway, into a service station and fill it with air before I’m scraping sparks along the asphalt.
The idea of having to change the tire goes through my mind, but I know such a thing means wrestling lug nuts with the large probability of failure, and I haven't yet given up hope that that it’s just a slow leak.
And, don't you know, the last thing I wanted to do was call my husband.
Reason #1: I've left my cell phone in the diaper bag, which is with my parents and the baby.
Reason #2: I don't want to admit (in reverse order) that I’m having car trouble, need help and that I don’t have the phone.
Reason #3: He would ENJOY being needed, which means, by the unjust rules of the universe, I need to assert my independence.
So I cross my fingers and ease back on the highway, caution lights flashing and all.
The first station I reach is closed. I check the trunk to inspect the spare, just in case, but I don't find the tire iron. I agonize a little about asking the women sitting on a nearby porch if I can use their phone, but decide I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I made it this far, maybe I can make it as far as the I-can-see another gas station.
I cross my fingers, chant "please-make-it-there-please-make-it-there" and pull back onto the roadway again.
Miraculously, I pull into the next station with the tire intact. I drop two quarters into the air pump and it comes to life.
I fill up the tire, but, having trouble with the pressure gauge, I check it over and over drawing the attention of a kindly biker who ventures my way to try and help.
"Thanks. I'm fine," I tell him. "It's just a low tire and I’m hoping it's only a slow leak. … My jack is missing a part and I don’t want to get stranded."
With no audible hissing I decide to venture onward. The biker draws my attention to the little black cap that I distinctly remember taking off at the previous gas station but somehow lost between there and here, and suggests it needs to be replaced pronto.
I don't mention I lost it mere seconds ago, the same way I lost the cap to the canola oil bottle in my kitchen and still haven't found it. I blame mommy brain and let it go.
Driving off I resume my chant — please-make-it-there -please-make-it-there -please-make-it-there -please-make-it-there -please-make-it-there -please-make-it-there — but I know there’s no way on Earth I’m going to make it there.
So I turn on my flashers, turn up the radio and drive to the furthest exit I can remember that has a service station and a payphone. When I get there the tire is flat again, and it's clear I can pump all the psi in the tank I want, it will be to no avail.
I call my father and let him know I'’m going to be late picking up Ittybit, who he and my mother have been entertaining for more than an hour now. ... And casually slip in the "could-you-possibly-come get-me?" question.
He tactfully tries to get me to ask someone to help me, and I misunderstand. I tell him it's not a SERVICE station, it's a CONVENIENCE store. There's no one here who can help. After all, this isn't convenient.
I explained I would have tried to change it myself but I can'’t find the tire iron. And he tells me it's wrapped in a little brown bag floating around somewhere in the trunk.
A light goes on.
Maybe I can fix it. Maybe I can do this myself.
I hang up the phone and rush back to the car. I search the trunk and find the missing tools.
Level ground, check; brake on, check; jack in place, check; lug nuts loosened … ERRRRRRRRRRR!!!! Ugh. They won't budge.
I sit down on the curb and stare at the wheel. Oddly, I feel calm.
I'm going to have to do it. I’m going to HAVE to call my husband.
Ring. … ring … ring …
“Hi, hon,” he says with a song in his voice. “Your dad called. I'm on my way.”