What the hell? I thought bad things happened in threes, not fours, and I certainly hope not fives and sixes :(
Its 1:15 in the morning, and the reason I am up is because we just got back from picking up P’s brother U from the bus terminal, but instead of taking us 1 1/2- two hours round trip, it took us almost 3 and a half–because our front driver’s side tire pretty much exploded on the way in to Boston, on the worse stretch of road possible, and the whole fiasco took us about an hour to solve. Let me rewind.
First things first. I don’t mind dealing with sticky situations, particularly when I am on my own. I deal with it and its over. The worst thing is dealing with a problem when you have an audience, especially an audience you want to make a good impression on. It makes the whole issue more stressful and feel 100 times more terrible (then it might actually be).
The week before P’s parents arrived I was trying to be as proactive as possible, not only with wedding prep (thank god I did that! I still have a few small things, but most is done, and I’m so relieved), but also with other things– like getting the car inspected for the year, getting an oil change, paying the car insurance, etc.
I was dreading getting the car inspected, because I was a little worried about the tires. With all the wedding expenses, the last thing I wanted to do was shell out for new tires, but if I had to do it I would. So I got my oil changed and asked my regular oil change guy to do a quick once over to make sure everything looked okay before I paid someone to do an inspection. The mechanic said it looked fine, that one or two of the car tires would probably need to be changed 6 months down the road, but we were good for now. P and I had recently noticed a whir whir noise from one of the tires and I asked the guy about it. He said that my alignment was probably off a bit, the tires were wearing down a bit differently, but it could be fixed later.
Okay, that sounded fine to me.
So the next day I took the car to the inspection place, paid the inspection fee, and hoped that this guy also felt the tires were fine. The car passed with no issues what-so-ever. I even asked him about the tires specifically and he said, “In a few months, but for now you are fine.” (He even said something like, “The tires fail at 2 or 3, your’s are at 7 or 8.”) Phew, just the answer I was hoping for.
So tonight, P’s brother was slated to get in to the Boston bus terminal at 10:30 from Philly. P’s leg has felt stiff all day, so I was happy to volunteer to go alone and pick him, but P’s parents hadn’t seen U in a few years, and they were eager to see him, and P had hinted that Mamu was nervous to stay in the apartment alone, so against my urgings the entire crew piled into the car for the hour and a half/two hour round trip.
Things were going fine. We even caught a good percentage of the local fireworks show while filling gas at the station before getting on Interstate 90 east towards Boston. There was more traffic than usual for that time of night, probably holiday traffic, but we were cruising along. P’s parents eventually zonked out in back, and we could hear their gentle snoring from the front.
Right as we passed the first toll booth upon entering the greater Boston area, right where the highway starts to narrow and the shoulder disappears, there was a loud pop (which woke up P’s parents and started them asking questions) and then everything got bumpy and loud. I was in the fast lane, and had to move to the right hand side of the road, but didn’t know what to do. The tire seemed to have completely collapsed, so I didn’t think it would make it even a few feet down the road (trust me, I tried, frantically) and I wasn’t sure where the road would gain a shoulder again.
Not sure what to do we put our hazard lights on, and I tried to call roadside assistance. I quickly popped out of the car and assessed the wheel before jumping back in. While I was distracted by the phone, I think P was busy watching all the cars zipping by and realizing how dangerous our position was on the road. He jumped out of the car, and had his parents jump out, and they climbed over the guard rail and up the embankment to give them and the car some space in case someone came whipping through and smashed the car. He kept calling for me to get out.
I was trying to get through to roadside assistance, meanwhile feeling completely mortified. I didn’t want P’s parents to think I was an incompetent driver, or had done something wrong. I knew I didn’t hit anything. A few minutes later a Peter Pan bus pulled up behind us, and I half thought that U had spotted us on the road and asked the bus to pull over and let him out, but the bus driver was actually pulling over to tell us to get out of the vehicle, “One tractor trailer comes through and doesn’t see you, and you are all dead. Get up the hill, I’ll call the police for you.”
So now we are all standing on the hill. I’m watching the sky (it was raining about 15 minutes before), and finally getting through to roadside assistance, when a police car pulled over and started yelling at us (what is with police and yelling at me this week?) I was trying to juggle the roadside lady on the phone and talk to the police, but instead of explaining anything he just kept yelling through his window, “Get in your car, get in your car right now and drive. You want to get us all killed?”
“But sir, our tire is flat.” I stammered, I was worried I’d start crying again, like with the other police officer.
“I don’t care if your tire is flat. Your car will drive clear to California on a flat tire, now get in your car and drive.This is incredibly dangerous. Never stop on an active road way. “
So we hustled P’s parents into the car and jumped in. I’m now super flustered, the police officer, with his lights on, is still yelling at us but now through his loud speaker, “drive forward, just drive.” And the tire is so broken the entire car is shimmying, shaking and rattling as I ease her down the slow lane. I’m still flustered, and mortified, and the police is still yelling at us through the loud speaker to “keep moving,” while P’s worried parents are asking us questions, “What’s going on? Isn’t that a police officer? Why is he yelling?” Somewhere along the line the roadside assistance operator asked me if she could put my call on hold–”What does that mean? Are you going to call back?” I asked. “No.” she said–and I dropped my phone somewhere in the car.
After what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, the cop advised us that the shoulder had widened enough for us to pull over. I promptly jumped out of the car and walked back to him. He said gruffly, “Never ever stop on the road. Your life is worth more than a tire rim.”
I said, “I agree, but I didn’t know it would keep driving.” (I was blinking back moist eyes again).
“The car will always drive… on a flat, on a rim, on a damaged rim… always keep going. I called a tow truck, you’ll be fine here.” And he sped off, offering little in the way of comfort or additional help/advice.
P had us walk back up the embankment. I again looked at the sky hoping it wouldn’t rain. The ground was a little wet, and I went to the trunk to get out the towel we usually have in the back seat for our dog to sit on so that Mamu, Daddy and P could sit down, but no one wanted to.
“The police officer just drove away?” P’s dad asked, bewildered. “He could have stayed with the lights, to keep us safe, no?”
“I think he was in a bad mood.” I offered, “He didn’t seem very nice.”
We sat waiting for ten minutes, and I said to P, “This is ridiculous, I know how to change a tire, lets just do it and get on our way.” But P was worried about the busy highway. No doubt he had visions of a car whacking me while I was on hands and knees changing a tire, killing me or injuring me a week before our wedding. It seems our luck is going that way.
I convinced him that if we could get the car on part of the embankment, and off the road, I could change the tire, and so we arranged the car. I whipped out the spare, and went to work trying to jack the car. Like I said, I’ve done this before– but not with P’s parents squatting nearby watching my every move. They were just trying to be helpful, but it was making me more stressed out, making me worry about failing in front of them.
And lo and behold, just as the car seemed nearly jacked up, the dirt embankment buckled and the car shifted forward, wedging the jack sideways. I had to unscrew it and readjust all over again. I found what was a solid spot, and started again, sitting in the dirt on the side of Interstate 90, twisting the jack slowly by hand. Just as the car almost seemed high enough to work, the soil buckled and the car lurched again.
I reasoned with P– we had to move the car so at least one of the tires was on the pavement. “Fine,” P agreed, but I think he was also loosing faith, and had started calling roadside assistance back. I started all over again, with P’s dad crouching near me.
I really wanted to get that damned tire off, and fixed myself. I wanted to be the hero to save our crummy situation. If I had to be humiliated as the driver when something stupid like this happens, at least let me be the one to fix it, and win some “Wow, did you know C could change a tire? How impressive!” points. But my two previous failures seemed to be making that less of a possibility.
Before I could get the car jacked a third time, this time on the pavement, a tow truck showed up (sent by the angry police officer). The guy quickly used his giant jack to hoist the car, changed the tire, and fit the spare. He showed us that in fact the inside of my tires were worn to oblivion (“But I just got my car inspected last week and it passed with no problems!” I told the guy, “Well, this shouldn’t have passed” he responded) and had literally blown open.
I felt like an idiot, P’s parents were watching, P was stressed out too, U was stuck at the train station (and supposedly “starving”– he texted us just after we left asking us to bring food, but we had already left. “It’s just another hour and a half,” I told P, “He will be fine until we get home. Then he can eat Mamu’s cooking” famous last words), and the whole thing took us an hour or more to fix.
I’m sure P and I probably felt worse about it then U, Mamu or Daddy. We were embarrassed, tired, and frustrated. The whole situation made it seem like our car is in bad shape, and we are reckless. They were quite chatty on the way home, while P and I drove in near silence. We were both listening to every noise, worried that another tire would blow. Why do these stupid things happen when you least want them to? Any other time would have been better… although as I write this, perhaps better now than next weekend on the way to one of our weddings!
As we neared the apartment a cat crossed in front of the car. “Bad luck,” U clucked in the back seat.
“One crossed in front of us on our way out too.” P said.
“Do you believe in these superstitions C?” P’s dad asked.
“No.” I said, “Do you?”
I was really thinking, Let’s all hope for no more bad luck!
So now tomorrow morning, instead of taking P’s parents to the white and red wedding venues (before my lunch meeting for work), we have to probably buy at least two new tires and try to get the alignment fixed on our car.
Can people send some good juju vibes our way?