I Avoid Becoming Roadkill

Posted on September 19, 2012

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Monday September 17 2012 – 3:40pm

In the breakdown lane of US Highway 165 North in southern Monroe:

A View From My Monday

My grip on a rain and grease slicked crowbar slips and my left hand slams into the pavement. Again. Damn.

Water, water everywhere… to say I’m soaked would be quite an understatement.

I’m crawling around on my hands and knees in the mud by the side of a four lane highway as rain comes down in buckets and 18-wheelers send rooster tails of yet more water spraying over me.

Forty-five minutes earlier I was blissfully unaware of what lay in store for me as I made my way back to the office from lunch. 

But shortly after taking a northbound exit off the interstate, the right hand rear tire of my pickup truck gave up the ghost, literally falling to pieces and sending me scurrying for the breakdown lane.

I turned off the motor and sat there a few minutes smoking a cheap cigar, cursing my luck, the weather and dreading what was about to happen.

I was going to get soaked dealing with a tire. Again. For the second time today no less!

Rewind to Monday morning: I notice the front tire of my wife’s minivan is very low, almost flat in fact.

So driving slowly thru a Monday morning rainstorm I navigate my wife’s little blue mommy machine to a neighborhood convenience store.

After getting four quarters from the clerk I feed them into the squat air machine in the parking lot, it chugs to life and I pull the air hose over to the ailing wheel.

Kneeling down I pull off the valve stem cap and then… I see the metal end of the hose, the valve that delivers air to the tire, is hopelessly twisted, the air machine is toast and I’m out a buck.

Water dripping down my back I climb into the minivan and trek to the next store with an air machine.

But when I arrive… I realize I’ve left home without my wallet.

No money, no air, anyone else remember when air was free?

Gas was about $2.50 a gallon cheaper, my beloved Saints had yet to win a playoff game, CNN was the only cable news network, I’d never heard of a ‘Kardashian’ and air for an ailing tire was wonderfully, blessedly free of charge. Those were the days.

So, still sporting a nearly flat tire I made my way back home thru the rain.

By then, time had turned against me. So, back behind the wheel of my pickup truck (the one destined to throw a shoe a few hours later) and driving ever so damn slowly down rain soaked streets, my wife and son followed a drenched moi’ in the family minivan to yet another convenience store equipped with a stupid, greedy air machine.

Mercifully, the air machine worked and after hunkering in the downpour I managed to get the ailing tire back onto its feet and spouse and child back on schedule.

Soaked to the skin I made my way to work – after an emergency caffeine induction I summed up my morning in a tweet; ‘An ALMOST flat tire + broken air machine = soaking wet from head-to-toe and chained to a desk in a cube till dusk. Welcome to my Monday.’

Little did I know…

My shirt was still damp but at least my jeans had stopped sticking to me like an oil slick when I took lunch at two o’clock.

But that ‘dry spell’ was extremely brief.

Snuffing my cheap cigar in the ashtray I climbed out the passenger door (I got as far off the road as possible but cars were whizzing by a few feet away from the driver’s side) and pulled out the jack and a tire tool.

The first thing I had to do: get the spare out from under the truck bed.

That was lots of fun, as the rain fell and cars sprayed me like ships pushing a wake, I cranked the tire down all the while looking nervously over my shoulder at the vehicles that could smash me to a bloody pulp passing by just a few feet away.

This wasn’t my first, (or for that matter, my twentieth time) to break down on the side of the road.

I’ve had some crazy adventures on the highways and byways of America, once I navigated my Monte Carlo home with a cheap flashlight after my headlights died on a moonless Louisiana night in 1989. I sat on the side on Interstate 20 in east Texas for 7 hours waiting for help to arrive, once – in 1998 while driving an 18-wheeler (a brief but memorable career) I dropped a trailer loaded with 20 oz Coca Colas into a drainage ditch near Waco so deep the cab, tires, engine and all, were lifted 2 feet off the ground, I’ve changed flat tires in the blistering heat and in a snowstorm.

But for me nothing is worse than changing a tire or fooling around under the hood parked next to a busy highway.

My imagination runs wild, I imagine someone losing control and smashing into me, pinning me under the vehicle, knocking  me outta my shoes, shattering my bones, etc.

I think about unfortunate cats and dogs and squirrels and armadillos and opossums and fat, forty year old retired TV news anchors all splayed out as roadkill on the asphalt.

So that was my state of mind Monday afternoon, dripping wet and nervous as a long tailed cat in a rocking chair factory as I dealt with my second flat tire of the day.

Did I mention my jack handle is missing?

Yeah… so I was forced to use a crowbar on the scissor jack, a painfully slow and tortuous process that made the whole ‘pit stop’ experience take twice as long as it normally would.

Fifty-two excruciating minutes. That’s how long I worked in the rain changing that stupid tire this past Monday afternoon.

I climbed back in through the passenger door and sat there soaking my cloth seats and fired my cheap cigar back up.

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