“You’re taking all three kids out of town by yourself?” my patient asked, incredulously.
Yes, I was. I do it all the time, no big deal. Until it was.
I hustled out of work 20 minutes late, rushed into my sister-in-law’s, and hurried the boys out the door in an attempt to miss traffic. It was slow through the 696/96 interchange, but otherwise, our trip was going splendidly. Colin was screaming to turn off the radio and sing, “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?”, and asking if every single water tower we passed actually had water in it, and Sullivan was screaming at us to be quiet so he could take a nap. Brady and I were practicing division, only Colin demanded that we not speak to each other. We all laughed when I told Brady, “I’m sorry, but the Be-Boo has spoken.”
We were close to Grand Rapids when we heard something hit the car. Brady asked me what it was and I told him I must have kicked up some gravel. Then, an explosion. As I drove on, looking for a place to pull over, it sounded like the whole car might fall apart. It was so loud! I found a place to pull over. I remembered that my phone only works as a phone if connected to wifi. Don’t ask, something complicated about a wire that needs to be soldered that I have not gotten around to yet. I sent two quick texts, one to Mark to call for help for me and one to my sister to pick up the pizza that was ready and waiting to be picked up.
The cars whizzing by me made me afraid to get out of the car. When I did finally get out, this is what I saw.
I drove on, staying in the shoulder with my hazards on. I drove for about 1 minute before I was too afraid to go on, stopped for 2 minutes before I was too afraid to be a sitting duck on the side of the road, and continued the same cycle for about a mile until I finally made it to the nearest exit.
I made my way to a parking lot and waited. The kids decided ring pops would be a good dinner and I was in serious need of a potty break. A nice couple in the parking lot offered to help. The man jacked up the car and was trying to find the spare when he realized that he could not lower it because the tailgate on the car is broken and will not open and the access site to lower the spare is right under the tailgate.
Around this time, my sister showed up with her kids and the pizza. I had a slice, updated my Facebook status, and sent a text to Mark. The time had passed somewhat quickly when my hero, Nick French from Pop-A-Lock, appeared. We knew we could not access the spare, but no problem, my sister also drives an Escape and an Escape is an Escape and a donut is a donut, right? Spoiler alert: a donut is not a donut.
Nick jacked the car back up and tried to place my sister’s donut on the car to no avail. He asked if I was sure my tailgate was stuck. Yes, I was sure. It had not worked right in who knows how long. I was making contingency plans in my head when Nick hip-checked the tailgate and it opened! Success! I screeched, “I love you!” and we took this picture in our ecstasy.
But success was not to be ours. The winching mechanism was completely rusted out and Nick could not lower that spare. At this point, it was 7:38. I located the nearest Belle Tire, 10 minutes away, and realized it was closing at 8 pm. I called and begged them to stay open until I got there and he said, “Ma’am, we will not close before eight.”
I left my sister with all five kids on a grassy knoll while I rode off into the sunset to buy a new tire. The windshield wipers on her car were on, I did not know how to turn them off, but I did not care. I was on a mission and I had to focus!
When I pulled into Belle Tire, I saw a text from my sister saying I should have taken the old wheel because now I was going to have a buy a new rim. I did not even care in that minute. I think I would have spent $1000 just to get that car functional and my kids out of the parking lot at that point.
I returned to the parking lot with a new tire on one sweet chrome rim. Be jealous. By that point, my brother-in-law had arrived to take the kids to their house. Nick French was still there, waiting on the grass. He was the best thing I had seen all day. Within minutes, he had the wheel on the car and we were on our way.
What an experience! I am so thankful for the kindness of strangers and family, bathrooms in Belle Tires, and have a newfound appreciation for having a phone that functions as more than just a tiny computer.