Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The One About The Tire

An interesting phenomenon I have discovered since moving to Maryland:  a lot of people do not pull over for emergency vehicles!  I just don't understand this:  if it was you or your loved one that the emergency vehicle was responding to, would YOU want them delayed because some jerk who could get out of the way chose not to?


As I mentioned a few days ago, we recently had to deal with a flat tire.  We were slowing down for a red light at a busy intersection when we heard a siren blare, and in the rear view mirror,  see a police car speeding down the road behind us, blue and red lights flashing.  The Hubs, not a Maryland native, attempts to pull over to let the police car pass.  On this one way, two lane road, there wasn't a LOT of room to pull over without pulling into a ditch.  If the cars on both sides pull over, there is JUST enough room to make a third lane in the middle.

Anyway, the police car very aggressively nosed its way through the sort-of path created by the reluctant drivers - most of whom did not or barely moved their vehicles.  We ended up pulling off the road more than would have been safe had the ground not been frozen.

The police car passed, we pulled back into our lane.  Seconds later, another set of lights and sirens.  Fewer drivers were willing to get out of the way, so we actually changed lanes and pulled off on the other side of the road.  This time, the police car barely  managed to squeeze past.  When we pulled back onto the road, the light was green and we proceeded forward.

It was immediately apparent that there was a problem.

thump smack thump smack thump smack

The car was shaking.

thump smack thump smack thump smack

"I think there is something wrong with our car," I observed quietly.

I saw the Hub's hands tighten on the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white.

"I think we have a flat tire," I continued.

He didn't say anything.  I pointed ahead to the entrance of a subdivision on the right where we could safely pull over.

"We could pull over there to ch...." I began.

His voice curt, stern, emotionless, the Hubs replied, "I am making a U-Turn."

As he said this, he flicked the blinker on aggressively (he's from New Jersey, he can do anything aggressively if he wants to), changed lanes, and pulled into the left turn lane at the next intersection.

Stung by his curt response, I replied crossly, "Hey.  Don't take it out on me.  I didn't make the tire flat."

He didn't respond.  His knuckles on the steering wheel grew a little whiter.

I knew what was going through his head.  He wasn't really mad at me.  He was replaying the memory of the pothole, the loud metallic thunk as the right front tire dropped and rose a dramatic six inches.  The money spent at Firestone trying to assess and repair the damage.  The discovery that the car now shakes at 65 mph.  The additional money we were going to have to pay to fix a mistake that wasn't our fault.  And on top of that, everything else that has happened in the past year.

He still didn't say anything.

"Where are we going?" I asked, timidly.

The light turned green and he made a U-Turn.  After a moment, he replied, "To the gas station."  His voice was still curt, devoid of emotion.  In a word, terrifying.

See, the Hubs is generally a pretty jovial guy.  He tends to take things in stride and find the humor in situations that make me panic.

His ability to find amusement in not-amusing situations may or may not have resulted, at times in the distant past, in me stamping my foot and demanding that he "take me seriously right now, I mean it!  Stop laughing.  It's not funny.  NOT FUNNY!"

With the exception of his curt replies to my questions, my husband was silent.  I use that word because there isn't a word to describe a void of silence.  All sound was sucked into a joy-less vortex, the atmosphere a vaccuum.  The only sound that could withstand the black hole of his anger was the

thump smack thump smack thump smack

of the tire on the pavement.

A minute and a century later, we pulled into the gas station.  The clock said only sixty seconds had passed, but my soul lived 100 years in that moment.  100 years of

thump smack thump smack thump smack

and the sound-eating vortex that was the white-knuckled Puerto Rican sitting next to me.

In most situations where life deals us the two of clubs, I am the panicker, the anxious

arm waving
sky falling
chaos predicting

partner in this marriage.  The Hubs is my rock.  He keeps me level-headed(ish) and tells me everything is going to be okay.

Sometimes, very rarely, I am the sane one.  Usually, this happens when I realize that the Hubs is the one about to lose it.  During the drive to the gas station, I texted my mother-in-law to tell her what had happened.  She knows me so well, so she just reminded me to calm down, to trust, and that was it.  So by the time the Hubs stopped the car, I knew everything was going to be okay.

When his voice - rusty with a century of disuse - broke the dreadful silence, I jumped.

"Do you have change."

It wasn't a question.  It was a statement couched in a slightly-polite format, as if he were trying to remember the niceties of a more civilized age.  An awkward attempt to avoid my snappish demand for civility.

"Yes."  I replied.  "I have a dollar fifty in quarters."

Before I had completed my sentence, he was out of the car, standing next to my door.  The look on his face said his foot would have been tapping impatiently if he wasn't attempting to be polite.  It was clear that he was waiting for me to get out.  As I exited the car, he tilted his head to indicate the tire.

A visual inspection did not reveal any obvious tears or holes.  We couldn't even see the tire bulge that had been obvious for months.  A very brief discussion (I use that word loosely, it was more like a half a sentence and a grunt) saw him back in the driver's seat, backing up slowly, so I could inspect the part of the tire concealed by the ground and slushy snow.  I still didn't see anything.  He pulled forward.

I shrugged at him as he stepped around to my side of the car.  "I didn't see anything.  Do you want me to put the air in it?"

Having imagined the worst (both in my reaction and in the state of the tire), the Hubs seemed slightly puzzled for a moment.  Apparently, the universe was not actually crashing around our ears.  Gruffly, he replied,

"I'm going to go buy you something to drink in the store."

I had mentioned being thirsty much earlier, before the sirens, before the tire, actually, about five seconds after leaving the house.

It's a thing I do.

"Okay," I thought, "apparently, his humanity is returning."  Oh good.  No more crazy husband.

Well, almost.

It turns out that the tire had a leak.  I added air to the tire, we waited for five minutes, and then we drove around the parking lot once.

Unfortunately, a lady had the nerve to pull into the gas station to put gas in her car, which briefly delayed our return to the air pump as she had the right of way.

She even made eye contact with the Hubs.  It was a tense .2 seconds.

When we checked, the pressure in the tire had dropped from 44 psi to 35 psi.  His eyes briefly glowed red (normally, a delicious chocolate brown).  That's when I suggested fix-a-flat.  His agreement obtained, I went and purchased a can from the gas station.

Then I tried adding it to the tire.

I should mention here that I was wearing a knee-length dress, that the ground was covered with an icy-snowy-slush, and that there was a bitterly cold wind blowing.  I couldn't get the angle on the can right.  I made a mess.  The Hubs was not amused.  His silence speaking volumes, he added the fix-a-flat.  I chattered nervously in the background.  We got back in the car, and he asked me what we were doing next.

"Uh, the can says to 'drive slowly for three-to-four miles.'"

"What does 'slowly' mean?"

"I don't know, that's what the can says."

"Five miles an hour? Ten? Thirty-five?  How slow?"

"I don't know!"

Dear authors of the label on the fix-a-flat we used - I promise he didn't mean what he said next.  I'm sure you didn't hit every branch of the stupid tree on the way down.  And some rocks are really smart.

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