Today, I was a total girl and did not change my own flat tire. In my old life, I considered myself fairly competent in that area. I carried fix-a-flat in my trunk, and had one of those guarantees with NTB so that they would fix any flat for free once I bought the tires from them. Well, that just won’t work here on the island. When I tried to use the fix-a-flat, it just wouldn’t come out of the can and even if it did work, the closest NTB is at least a ferry crossing away.
So, here’s how it happened. I had left Jeff’s house and was calmly driving along listening to the dulcet tones of Nick Drake because I had watched the movie Garden State yesterday and heard some on the soundtrack. Also, I’ve had a tough couple of days emotionally and Nick Drake just felt right. It’s raining (of course it’s raining) which is actually a good thing because that means that it has warmed up and the snow is being washed away. So, I’m cruising along, happy not to be driving in the slush and ice that I’ve been driving in lately because, although there are four snowplows on the island, only one of them works. (You know you’ve grown up in Chicagoland, when you have a superiority complex about snow removal.) So, I’m fairly mellow and successfully watching out for rocks that have slid down the mountainside onto the road. In fact, I’m so successful that my hubris causes me to think that this next thing in the road is probably just a big clump of slush. Sorry, Odysseus, you should have paid a little more attention to the gods with that one. I hear a big thud, then a hissing, then I realized that if I let go of the steering wheel, I veered distinctly to the right. So, I pulled over right near the Studio 4:20, which is also a horse farm. The horses looked at me strangely as I got out to confirm, yup, it’s definitely flat.
To give myself, credit, I at least entertained the notion of being a big girl and fixing it myself. Hey, I’ve got a Saturn, the most user-friendly car in the world! I flicked on the blinkers, opened the trunk, pushed the ratty wool blanket, tarp, drop cloth, seal-a-meal and argyle rain boots out to the edges of the compartment and lifted up the flooring. I was off to a good start in that, yes, there was a spare tire under there with detailed instructions on the cover. As I began to skim the directions, however, some other part of my brain began pulling up little bits of remembered conversations. I think I remember someone once saying that you have to be careful where to put the jack or you’ll bend vital parts of the car. That kid yelling, “Oh, fudge!” in slow motion as he lost all those lugnuts on A Christmas Story. The feel of skinned knuckles that I was sure I would acquire since I would have to trial and error most of the screwing and unscrewing in relation to the ground. I realized that I was kidding myself. I’d never even watched someone else change a tire. On a sunny day when I had a recent history of being emotionally stable, sure I could take the time and puzzle it out. In the rain, after several days of crying simply because I took too deep a breath, I didn’t stand a chance. So, I closed the trunk, got out my Kermit the Frog umbrella and began walking back to Jeff’s house, reveling in the good spirits that I, now, wasn’t going to lose.
Earlier, when I attempted to use my fix-a-flat, I also tried calling Jeff to see if he would come out. Since the island is mountainous, there are lots of places where cell phones don’t get signals because those places are in what is called the shadow of the mountain. Studio 4:20 is not, however, one of those dead zones. Yet, still, I was unable to call Jeff. The reason for this I that I had earlier been stupid and had left my phone on while I drove the length of the island and back several times. Every time I crossed through aforementioned mountain shadows, my phone labored to find a signal for the entire length of the shadow, which runs the battery down pretty quickly. Needless to say, it was quite unoperational by the time that I needed it.
So, I’m walking in the rain and several trucks pass going the opposite direction and wave, since it’s that kind of place. After about a quarter of a mile, I hear a car coming up behind me and stick out my thumb. Don’t freak out, Mom, people hitchhike on the island all the time. In fact, I usually pick them up if I can. They make for usually pretty interesting conversations. So, that karma (ha ha, car-ma) must have been paying off because a little old man named Thurmond picked me up in his shiny new red truck. The cab was very warm and we talked a little bit about how he came to the island in 1946 after the war. It also took us a little while to figure out just exactly where I needed to be dropped off.
So, I made some coffee and did some dishes while Jeff got out of bed with barely a grumble. I did get to ride in his VW bug, which I’ve never gotten to do before because my car is so much nicer, we always take it. It has little miniature windshield wipers (read that last phrase in a teeny-tiny voice) and he has a little squeegee to wipe the steam from the inside of the windshield that occurs when warm wet bodies pile into a cold car. It also has no heat, so I was glad that I grabbed a pair of mittens. The rest of the story is pretty anti-climactic. Jeff changed the tire with ease and good-humor while actually instructing me in how to do it the next time, with helpful hints and the like. He was impressed at the engineering of the little tiny spare and the jack. The tire is now at the Shell station. They’ll call when it’s fixed and I assume I will have to put it back on so I’m glad I watched Jeff take it off.
So, another adventure on the island. There is no moral to this one or even many jokes. Just an experience I wouldn’t have had if there was an NTB around or even a house closer to the road than 500 feet.
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