The Flat Tire

My Mondays are ear-marked with three things: Food. Clothing. Shelter. I don my work clothes on Mondays and pull the curls into a messy bun, latching down loose ends with bobby pins. My shirt comes off the pile that all have holes in them. After a year or more, I realized that these “moth” holes were from working at the kitchen counter; the buttons on my jeans rubbed through on a dozen shirts. Otherwise, these are perfectly good shirts. Good for cooking, cleaning, and sleeping. My old denim capris are part of the Monday uniform. I think of them as new, but they are thinning. Some spots are rubbing into thin air leaving holes in places unseen – as long as I don’t try to clean under the couch.

Always, my Monday thought is to shower right before school pick-up. Always, I try to get one more task done and that 20 minutes for a shower is eaten up.

The pattern was the same this Monday. I threw on a thick sweater to cover the holes in my shirt and plunged my bare feet into furry snow boots. I tucked the short capris into the tall boots. I added a bit of eye brow pencil and mascara and a touch of bronzer to my cheeks. No way would I unleash the hair after it had been imprisoned all day.

After picking up the kids, I consider pulling myself together for the end of the day. Shower and shampoo. Make-up. Clothes without holes. But ten minutes before I need to carpool Liam and a friend to their gym class, I’m finishing up another task. As I call out, “Everyone in the car!” I am still dressed as I was that morning to take the kids to school: My work clothes to tackle Mondays' responsibilities and tasks under the umbrella of food, clothing, and shelter.

We had to make a short pit stop and as I pulled away from the curb, I felt my tire grind against something. In the rear view mirror, I saw a large lump of pavement. I believe my tire had made a 5 MPH exaggerated rub of this lump against the curb. Fifteen minutes later, I deliver the kids to the gym and know that the thump-thumping I hear and feel isn’t good. The front right tire was flat as a pancake. I limped into a spot where the tow truck could easily latch on to the front of the van.

The AAA dispatcher asked me what year the van was. 2005? 2007? Do you have a spare? I don’t know. Is it in the trunk? I don’t know. Can you look under the rear of the vehicle and see if it’s there? No, there are too many people in the parking lot for me to bend over right now. Shall I put the call in as a tire change with a possible tow? Yes. If the the tow truck driver can find the spare.

I was convinced the tire must be in a compartment under the storage in the rear of the van, aka: under the closet. I emptied the closet into the middle row. Quilts. Loose footballs, baseballs, Frisbees, tennis balls. Yoga mat. Baseball bag. Books. Plastic grocery bags. Plus all the miscellany normally stored in a family's mini-van. The seats were filled up to the headrests.

Forty minutes later the tow truck arrived. The driver looked like he just came on the shift; he was too clean. “So, you don’t know where your spare is?” Nope. We both looked at the floor in the back and agreed it probably wasn’t under the carpet. “OK, just a minute.” And he disappeared back to his truck. Was he calling someone? Referring to a manual?

Walking back to me, he stated, “I believe the spare is under the floor in the middle row.” Oh, where I just stashed all the stuff from the closet? “Yeah, best bet would be to move all that to the back seat.” I did my best to move all of it without bending over. He spotted the flap of carpet on the floor of the middle row. “Yup, just where YouTube said it was.” He took a nut off under a flap and the spare tire fell to the ground.

I stood aside and wrapped my sweater around me. I grabbed Liam’s sweatshirt and wrapped that around my shoulders then threw my purse over my head to hold all the wraps together. I had no gloves. I had no coat.

As it turns out, the driver was a college kid on spring break working for his dad. “I thought your shoes were awfully clean!” I commented. We laughed.

“I may be in college, but I’m not afraid of working and getting a little dirty!”

Me neither. I need appropriate clothes to go certain places, and sometimes I just need comfy clothes that let me get the job done.

In the future, I want to make different choices about what I wear where. And to make sure I have season-appropriate outerwear in the van. The very thing I harp to my kids when they leave in the morning.

Perhaps this will sway them:

A mugshot of a woman whose van closet held everything but the warm clothes she really needed on the cold early-spring late-afternoon when her van broke down with a flat tire.