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Can you change a flat tire?

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There are a few things that I think every woman should know how to do. Changing a flat tire is high on that list. I know how and thank God, because I have had to call upon this knowledge many times. I am certain that I have changed a tire on my own vehicle a minimum of 5 times and for a friend at least once. Is this normal? How do I keep getting flat tires? For the record, I haven’t had a flat in over a year, and the last one wasn’t really flat. The tire split somehow and therefore couldn’t hold air. Thankfully I was .01 second from a Jiffy Lube so they did the dirty work.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I was just sitting here drinking my coffee, enjoying the quiet nap period and thinking about how life forces you to learn things you never expected to learn and how that knowledge can follow you to many different places. In my case, I learned how to change a tire on the side of I-95 one Sunny (read:HOT) Sunday afternoon in August. It was 1997. In fact, I remember it vividly because it was the day Princess Diana died. I however, didn’t find that out until much later that night because I was in Drama-Land, USA.

It might be helpful to give you a bit of back-story. That summer I was separated from my then husband, Micah and living in Florida. It was Labor Day weekend and I needed to get the H out of dodge so I decided to head north for a visit with family. I stopped in to see my Grammy in North Florida and she gave me $100 for my trip. This in itself was really amazing and wonderful because I really didn’t have the money for a jaunt up the coast. But I think we all knew that I needed it. I am the type of person that needs to clear my head by driving. I don’t know why but it has always helped me to put my life in perspective and return with a plan. So, off I went.

At the time, I was driving a Nissan Pickup truck and had never changed a tire in my life. I watched Micah change one on a different car once, but no one had ever done it on my truck that I knew of. OH and did I mention that I was 19? Yes. I was 19 years old. So, I’m driving up I-95 and I imagine I was listening to something like Boyz II Men or Mariah Carey when BAM_WHACK_THUD_THUD_THUD…my front left tire was in shreds. Somehow, and I am not kidding I don’t even know how because I was too busy peeing my pants, I pulled off to the side of the road to assess the damage.

Hmmm…I don’t think I am supposed to see the ENTIRE RIM. I mean you can’t drive it like that right? No, definitely cannot keep driving. So, this is no problem. I can deal with this. Where am I? About a mile outside Waltersboro, SC. Ok cool. I have AAA let me just get my cell phone. It’s 1997 you see, and I DID have a cell phone. However there were about 3.5 cell phone towers between Miami and NYC and none of them were anywhere near Waltersboro, SC. No service. ZERO service. I am also pretty sure my battery died after all my attempts, not that it mattered.

I think it was about this time that I went from ‘I am a woman on the side of the road who can handle this because I came prepared with a cell phone and AAA’ to MOTHER-EFFER what the $#)(*#!)($@#()#$ am I going to do now but DIEEEEE??? I am going to die on I-95. Or in those creepy woods! Some crazy psycho is going to drag me into those woods and back to Waltersboro, SC and I will never see my family again because I will dieeeeeeeee!!! And then the tears came. And the screaming at God thing. And of course the requisite beating the steering wheel with closed fists until I was sore everywhere. I mean I was 19 and about to get a divorce, sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with no one to help me. I think my outburst would be considered minor in that situation, no?

Ahh but this was one of those defining moments that one never forgets. And believe me, I will NEVER forget. I found myself that day. I wallowed for a little while and then decided I needed to pull it together while it was still light out. There has to be an owner’s manual. And I know there are tools behind the seat. It will be like Legos, just follow the directions one step at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself. You can do this.

I removed everything I thought I would need from the truck and got to the business of retrieving the spare tire. In a pickup truck, the extra tire is up under the bed of the truck secured by a chain. You need a tool to release the chain and then you have to reach under and unhook it. Yes, it is as difficult as it sounds. You see, I am doing all of it blind because it’s a good 4 feet in. Did I mention that there was no shoulder on the interstate? No? Well there wasn’t. My truck was on the left hand side of the road half on the asphalt and half on the grass. I was only a couple feet away from 80 mile an hour traffic on the fast lane side. The side where most semi-trucks drive and thus rocked my truck every time they WHIZZED by. Not a single person stopped to see if I needed help.

NOT A SINGLE ONE.

So, I am under the truck absolutely certain that I am going to die, tears streaming down my face and stringing together expletives that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush. It only took about 3 years to release the tire. I had a brief moment of victory but it waned quickly when I finally stood up and realized that my right foot was covered in fire ants!

#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.
#@^&%* FIRE ANTS.

I don’t blame you for laughing right now. It was the most pitiful display. Now I am jumping around trying to knock off the ants, swearing, crying, and getting a BIT hysterical because if I am going to DIE I wish we could just get on with it!

Once again I regained my composure, which wasn’t really composure anymore but a nice fat fiery rage aimed at the powers that be and THIS.STUPID.CURSED.TRUCK. Now I am mad and I will not be defeated. I have the tire, I have the jack and the truck is lifted. Now I just need to get these lug nuts off. CRAP. I can’t get them to budge. Especially not using the lug wrench with my hand. Which means I now have to lower the truck so the tire is back on the ground and I can get some traction. And stomp on that wrench with my full body weight. NOW we’re talking! I must have gotten a little carried away with the stomping because at one point, my foot slipped and I got a nice slice down my arch, because being from Florida, of course I was wearing my Tevas. That hurt but I was SO over it I just kept going. Once I got the lug nuts off it was smooth sailing. All told I think I finished in around an hour or 2, though it felt like at LEAST 37 days.

I am sweating, I am covered in ant bites, bleeding from the foot and puffy as I slowly amble to the next exit. I never thought I would fall in love with Waltersboro, SC, but I had never been happier to explore a new town. Thankfully they had a tire place right off the exit and they let me use their phone to call my parents. Resume with the crying. Now I was telling my story OUT LOUD in a mixture of tears and exasperation. My horrified parents listened quietly and tried to sort through my sobs for important details. I needed a new tire and to finish my trip asap. Cost of the tire? $80. Thank God I had the $100 from my grandmother. God works in mysterious ways. I made the rest of my trip and collapsed that night. When I returned home to Florida, I brought with me an entirely new level of confidence.

That day, I learned a lot of things, the least of which being how to change a tire. But isn’t it funny how even THAT served me later in life? Every time I change a tire or help a friend, I am reminded that I really can do anything. Even if I haven’t ever done it before. Life forces your hand sometimes and it’s amazing how God helps us figure things out. Even though I was screaming and cursing God in those moments, He was there with me. Letting me get frustrated and to my breaking point right before helping me figure it out. If my cell phone had worked and I called AAA it would have been much easier, yes. But would I have been able to say that I had grown through the experience? Would I even remember the time when all hope was lost and there was no one but me and God to work it out? I doubt it. Looking back, I am so thankful for that experience. Not only can I change a tire, but I know I can trust God to guide me through the darkest of circumstances. And THAT is a lesson worth learning.

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Tuesday 1st of April 2014

[…] story I told was about the time I was forced to change a flat tire for the first time on the side of I-95. I was 19 years old and had no cell-phone service and no one stopped to help. I […]

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Thursday 23rd of February 2012

[...] have actually written about this story in my post about changing a flat tire, but every time I have a chance to relive these moments, I am reminded that I am never really [...]

Jessica

Saturday 8th of October 2011

Andrea that was such a great story! I was literally laughing out loud:)

JDaniel4's Mom

Tuesday 27th of September 2011

Stopping from Time Travel Tuesday.

I have had this same life lesson. Thankfully I have been in parking lots and not on the road.

June Freaking Cleaver

Thursday 24th of September 2009

Never have doubt. When you need strength, or courage or wisdom, know that, in your heart, it is just waiting to be tapped.

I love how it feels to have that "I ROCK" sense of accomplishment!

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