Sunday afternoon I drove south on I-71 from Columbus to Cincinnati, feeling good and enjoying the road trip, highway driving being the only kind I truly like. It was my birthday and I was headed to the Moody house to eat cake. I'd talked to Kate on the phone earlier and she said, "Jeez, when I was your age Emma was a year old, does that make you feel old?"
I thought about it. No, it doesn't. Maybe the fact that I babysat Emma when she was six weeks old and is now IN COLLEGE makes me feel a tiny bit elderly, but whatever.
I was so absorbed by the highway that I caught myself singing along to pretty much whatever came on the radio, including but not limited to Jump (For My Love) by the Pointer Sisters. Right in the middle of Jump, you know these arms can feel you up the car started shaking. For a minute I thought it was a low-flying plane, a cropduster. I was surrounded by fields after all. I turned down the Pointer Sisters and realized it was definitely the car. I had a flat.
The last time I got a flat tire was in 1994, driving with Gail in Minneapolis. We drove very slowly to Tires-4-Less where someone else changed it. I changed a flat once in 2001 in Trek America training. And that right there is the entirety of my experience. So I called my mom. Mom gave me her AAA membership number but they wouldn't help me since I'm not a member myself. I got out my debit card and became a member on the side of the road. Okay, now come rescue me.
"Where are you?" Amanda, the AAA rep, asked. Great question, Amanda. In some fields.
"What's the last sign you saw?" she wondered. I don't know. Mile markers? Exit numbers? Nope. I was jamming, people. To the Pointer Sisters. I was busy.
"What can you see?" Amanda asked. Um, some grass, possibly corn, a barn. A green sign way off in the distance.
"Should I just walk down and read the sign for you?" I asked.
"No!" She screeched.
Amanda was very safety-conscious. When I first called, she answered the phone, "Thank you for calling AAA. Are you in a safe location?" She made sure I had the doors locked and advised me to only crack the window if anyone approached me. To "help" AKA kill me.
So not only do I feel dumb because I don't know how to change a tire and can't tell anyone where I am but I'm on the verge of being murdered AND I might wet myself. I look at the 24-oz Speedway coffee cup I just drained. I think about all the water I drank that morning in efforts to digest the Ohio food I'd been eating with Bova for the last day: fried sauerkraut balls, caramelized bacon, pigs in a blanket. I have to go.
I reflect on the time five years ago that I hitchhiked on a Mexican highway and jumped in a pickup bed of two refrigerator repairmen who I met killing a poisonous snake on the side of the road. With a machete. Real machete-wielding Mexican? Pleased to meet ya. Imaginary Ohio serial killer? Fear!
Amanda tries to locate me based on when I left Columbus but tow trucks in two counties can't find me. I field birthday calls and calls from the highway patrol dispatch but it's been almost three hours and I'm seriously considering unloading 24 ounces of urine in my Speedway cup when a State Trooper pulls up behind me, lights on.
He sidles up to my door, spits a nice long brown stream of chewing tobacco on the pavement, and asks me if I need a tire changed. "Yes, and a jump, please, because I left the accidentally lights on and the battery is dead." Aren't I awesome?
I'm not really good at the damsel in distress thing. But I want to be better at asking for, and receiving, help. I don't want to seem as stupid as I feel. I want my hero to like me and I, in turn, will overlook the fact that he just pulled a whole container of chew out of his sock and keeps squirting brown juice everywhere. But I'm pretty sure I've already blown it so I just concentrate on not having an accident in my pants and I rock back and forth on my heels and breathe evenly and sing happy birthday to myself in my head.