My phone’s ringtone was hardly necessary this morning; it was 3:30 am and I’d barely slept. I tapped the screen for snooze; ten more minutes in my warm bed was preferable to the chilly air outside the comforter.
Christian’s flight back to college was scheduled for 6:10 am this morning. Last night we backward calculated and decided that we could leave at 4:00 am, make it to the airport in plenty of time even if we stopped at WaWa to get coffee for me and doughnuts for him. We sailed along I95 at just the right speed to avoid getting pulled over and were on track to make it to the airport in plenty of time.
I hate driving on I95; the closer I get to Philly the more I hate it. The minefield of potholes gets progressively dangerous the deeper you drive into the construction zone.
I made the mistake of driving in the middle lane, which turned out to be the most treacherous of the three available lanes. I won’t prolong the suspense or try and find a clever way to describe what it felt like to connect dead center with the pothole that ate my tire and then spit my car back onto the highway with a jolt.
“What was that!?”
Christian said, “I think we just hit a pothole. I hope we didn’t get a flat.”
The car balance of the car shifted and leaned toward the right front passenger side; the sound of air leaving the tire confirmed we had a flat tire. I won’t repeat what I said as this is a family friendly blog. :). I pulled over to the side of the road next to a construction barricade.
It was 4:30 a.m.
In theory I know how to change a tire, in practice I’ve never done it. I had sense enough to turn my hazards on and retrieve the jack, the spare tire, and the lug-nut wrench out of the trunk.
Christian figured out how to jack up the car and then Googled “how to change a tire” while I paced back and fourth trying to remember the trick to getting access to the lug-nuts. The lug-nuts on my tires are covered by a nice decorative cover, which is great unless you need to change a tire and don’t know how to take them off.
It was a good thing that I wore my white winter jacket instead of my black one; a last minute decision that kept me from blending into the pre-sunrise sky while I stood behind my car making calls for help.
My first call was to my parents because that’s who I call when I’m having a disaster and I hoped that because my mom has a Volvo they could shed some light onto how to get to the lug-nuts. My second call was to a 24 x 7 emergency road side assistance service that was 1 1/2 hours from where we were stranded.
Six rings into my third call Christian said, “Someone’s stopping to help.”
I turned to see a tow truck and a stocky, bearded man walking toward us, “This is a terrible place to change a flat tire! Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?”
I just nodded, hoping he intended to help and didn’t stop just to tell me how dangerous my situation was.
He tugged up the back of his pants and squatted in front of the tire. After a few failed attempts at removing the lug-nut covers with the factory provided tool, he retrieved a screwdriver from his truck.
It took more than regular muscle strength to loosen the lug-nuts. For each one, he positioned the lug-nut tool as a platform of sorts and forced the it free through a series of jumps and grunts.
He gave me instructions to add air to the spare and not to drive over 50 mph. I have no idea what his name is or what his company is, but I’ll always be grateful for the unexpected and free roadside assistance. I’ll also always wonder what he thought of our improvisation and that we used suitcases to block the tires. (if only we’d known that there were blocks for that purpose in the trunk)
As for the rest of the story, Christian missed his flight and will be headed back to St. Louis tomorrow. All of the flights were booked today; the airlines are still playing catch up from last week’s weather related cancellations and delays.
Christian took my tire in to have it fixed; turns out it’s not just a flat tire, I have a broken rim. It’s a bummer, but there are so many ways that it could have been much worse.
In case you’re wondering about the feature image; well I’d rather enjoy roses than think about flat tires. And after this morning’s mishap it was especially nice to have this cheery bouquet in my den.