It was a very flat tire, totally unexpected on Christmas morning. Sticklers for detail will point out that the tire pressure light was on when I started for church. That might have alerted me, but those lights are always coming on, and if you paid any attention to them, you’d never get any driving done.
I thought that if I left the car alone with time to collect itself, the tire might experience a spontaneous healing, and the light would disappear. But when I rushed out of church after the service, there sat my car, on the flattest of flat tires.
I am pretty sure there is a jack and one of those teeny tiny tires in the trunk, but I was reluctant to start moving these cleverly stacked bundles of irreplaceable items on top of them, for fear of starting something like the lava flow off Mount. St. Helens. I was staring fixedly at the trunk, hoping to move things by telekinesis, when a young man came up to me with a can of Fix-a-Flat and offered to give my Impreza emergency CPR.
“Let me reimburse you,” I offered.
He looked at me with reproach. “Don’t even think of it,” he said. “We’re standing in the church parking lot, and you’re holding a book about Mother Teresa. And it’s Christmas morning. I wouldn’t dare do anything less.”
I hadn’t had a flat in years, though The American Automobile Association says there are 220 million flat tires a year in the United States.
My new husband and I had a flat tire on our wedding morning, 63 years ago. It was the day after Christmas, and everything was closed, even the gas stations. We stood about in our wedding finery while a member of the wedding party, less splendidly attired, changed the tire for us. In those days, of course, the spare was a full-size tire. Much easier to find.
It’s natural to feel uncertainty or even anger about events like this. In my family, anger management has never been a viable concept. Why would you want to manage anger? Settle back and enjoy it, is our philosophy.
I once watched all eight of my aunts and uncles engage in a butter fight in which they ran back and forth through their Oregon ranch house throwing handfuls of freshly churned butter at each other. This epic battle left indelible stains on all the curtains and gave us something to talk about for many holidays.
Nevertheless, over the years, I have collected a few practical techniques to use in times like these when the tire goes flat or the election goes wrong:
Keep a mirror in your desk drawer. If you have to speak to someone disagreeable on the phone, you can just slide open the drawer and make faces into the mirror while you’re talking. If you’re skilled at obscene gestures, these can be tastefully inserted. The person on the phone will never know, and you’ll feel so much better. Probably better not to have your phone on FaceTime for this.
I have a friend who keeps a big, fluffy pillow and tennis racket in a private room at work. Under stress, she simply excuses herself, goes into the other room and spends a happy five minutes beating the stuffing out of the pillow, which she names for her adversary. If the situation is really critical, she draws the offender’s face on the pillow with a felt tip pen. Then she beats the stuffing out of him or her. She returns to work smiling serenely.
So now it’s 2017. I’m trying to make realistic resolutions. I expect to have the Christmas decorations down by Valentine’s Day, definitely before the tree turns red. Number One son tells me that at his church the pastor urges everyone to start the year by getting involved in volunteering for a cause they believe is important. Pick something specific. The Food Bank is a good place to start.
The car? Oh, it’s sitting quietly out in the garage, much dented and greatly loved with a slightly swollen right rear tire. If we can just get to the tire store, we’ll be OK.
Monday was my birthday. I requested one of those self-driving cars, especially if it can change their own tires.
Happy New Year!
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327, 800-548-9264, Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.