This is the train that tried to eat my lug nuts. This is the tire store waiting room, where I am currently sitting. This is the chair I’m sitting in, a quite amazing lime green vinyl chair. I should preface this story with the confession that I am the flat tire queen. Since moving into my house in town, and living with nothing to lean on but my own devices, I’ve replaced three tires on my Volvo, after putting an entirely new set on in January. Yeah, I know. I don’t think it’s my fault. I work on a farm. I’ve picked up lots of screws from that road. Anyway, I’m leaving for work this morning, and walk out to find my tire flat. Again. Pull it out of the shed and get started removing. Crap. Of course. I remember now, the stupid Volvo has a magical nut in the middle of the wheel , which is different from all the other lug nuts, and requires a ½ inch socket wrench to remove. That’s right. The tire iron that comes with the vehicle won’t cut it. Sadly, every socket I’ve ever held in my hands has either belonged to, or been lost to, a truck belonging to a man in my life. Hmm.
I feel frustration rising, as I’m late for work, and not only do I not have a man around to smile at me over his coffee cup, or trace my rib bones with soft fingers, or make fun of all my stupid cuteness, I now have no default tire helper. (Woe is me.) I pull out the phone, trying to figure out which one of my chef/bartender/waiter friends to wake up from the neighborhood, or which ex-boyfriend or good friend to call at work and embarrassingly ask for a ½ inch socket. No. I won’t even. Not like I can drive to retrieve the tool, anyway. “So, hey. Yeah, it’s me. You got a ½ inch socket? Yeah, I have a flat tire. Can I borrow it? Actually can you bring it to me?” Geez. If that wouldn’t be giving in to the damsel in distress paradigm, I don’t know what. Hmm. Wonder if pliers will get it off? Nope. Pliers create a lot of tugging and cursing. I sit back into the driveway, cross my legs, and think. Duh! I should just go buy a socket. The Home Depot is right there. Yes! I take off walking.
Lovely day. The leaves are falling incessantly, like a rain of yellow flower petals. The air is cool, and the sky is cloudy. I keep my pace quick, in case it decides to rain. Also, when I was younger, and all the teachers were trying to instill the fear of womanhood into me, I retained a piece of advice along the lines of: If you’re a woman walking alone at night, or on a highway, remember to walk quickly, with your head up. Appear confident and fierce. While I realize this is total BS (much like the BS nut some genius designed to defy all standard tire tools in the center of my vehicle’s wheels), I do it anyway. It’s kind of great…anyway. Across the railroad bridge, into the store, I call work to say sorry. In and out of the store, now I’m clutching my new sockets, and I decide to open them up and make extra sure everything will fit on my wrench, which I cleverly brought with me, and like a total girl, took a picture of the BS nut on the BS wheel. Which I of course never looked at again.
So I’m crossing the lot, aiming for the side of the road, when lo and behold, this builder-man hits me with his truck. That’s right. My right hand is in my pocket, and this truck is suddenly right there. Bonk. It’s OK. I’m OK. He didn’t hit me hard. He jumps out, super apologetic. Hey, no big deal buddy. Yeah, it hurt a little but there probably won’t even be a bruise. He seems satisfied. Then, he looks at me with my package of sockets torn half open and my wrench in hand, and my phone. And my receipt. Did I need help with anything? No. No thanks. My tire’s flat, and now my arm hurts slightly from vehicular impact, but I’ll probably mostly use my hips and my legs to remove my flat tire anyway, like last time. And there is something slightly fun about hopping up and down atop a tire iron, using 115 pounds of lady to force the lug nuts loose, while acorns fall on your head. Thanks anyway, though. Onward.
Back up to the road, across the bridge, I’m still digging around in my pocket trying to get everything situated, when out flies one of my lug nuts, and begins to topple down. Down, down it goes, onto the tracks. Oh, and here comes a train. Perfect. Why did I do that? Ugh. Why did I even have my lug nuts in my pocket? Some stupid thing I have always done, to make sure I don’t lose them. Probably because when the Girl Scouts of America taught me to change a tire, they pulled out all the stops to make sure my frail brain took every precaution not to totally screw up. I wonder if a shortage of tools leading to a morning walk, and being hit slightly by a truck, and now watching a train roll over a lug nut (which was in my pocket so I wouldn’t lose it for crying out loud) means I have not entirely screwed this up already.
As the train comes to an end, I’m hopping down the hill to the tracks, trying to decide where to start looking. What a chore. The railroad bed is filled with gravel of course, each piece about the size of a lug nut. The lug nut is conveniently the same color as the railroad ties. The leaves continue to fall. I begin to laugh. It’s all so hilarious I can hardly stand it, and I realize that to anyone who might see me at his moment, I probably look like a lunatic. Hell, maybe I am a lunatic. I stop staring at the leaf and gravel maze and look up at the sky. I wonder how this morning has completely come apart at the seams, yet I am laughing in a ditch beside I-240, and the leaves are looking just lovely all the same. And how fortunate it is that I live within walking distance of the Home Depot. Perhaps nothing is falling apart anymore at all. Perhaps everything is working exactly as it should. I look back down. There’s the lug nut. Refreshing success.
Back to the house, I use my newly acquired socket to remove the BS nut from the BS wheel, put the spare tire on, load up my stuff, and drive down to the Discount Tire in Biltmore, where a charming older man receives me with a wink. He takes my BS car off of my hands, and delivers me to the delicious green vinyl chair in his room of hunting trophies and old gears. I mean, his Mountain Dew can cemetery…or, properly, his waiting room. He asks me if I want a smoke. How entirely old-fashioned and very kind, but no thank you. I probably should have said yes. We talk for a few moments, and he asks me about my work. He’s quite impressed.
You’re a good, solid country girl, that’s what you are he chatters at me. I realize that the winking is actually an endearing tick that he can’t help. He winks in time with his speech. I bet you take real good care of things, don’t ye? He laughed. You come back and see me, right? I’ll give you a good deal. Don’t see too many sturdy girls around here. I like you, honey. You come back tomorrow and I’ll have a new tire for ya, hear?
Yes sir. I like you too, sir. He runs my credit card through a decrepit old carbon copy slide machine, and chatters at the boys in the warehouse. I have an overwhelming urge to stay, here in this tire shop, in this green chair, for the rest of the day. Talking to these happy people, this winking old man. But then one of the attendants offers to pull my car out for me, so I walk the rest of the way to the bay door, bidding my new friend farewell. Have fun, hon! He hollers at me from within the cavern of the garage. I wave through the window and pull out onto the road. I realize how much of my morning has been de-fragmented, and simultaneously uplifted, by the fact that it is really very easy to change a tire, and I have done it many times, and people are entirely too impressed by women who can function, regardless of insane and doubtful fumbling. Fun is my middle name, sir. In fact, whenever that conditioned, BS damsel in distress inside comes rising up to the surface, it’s the epitome of fun to just kick her right in the teeth. What a brilliant morning. It’s going to be a killer day. If any of my lady friends want to meet for a 10am beer, to toast the veritable she-wolf in all of us, holler. I’m already late for work.