Walkabout. Flat Tire Edition.
I drove down to Tucson to visit Hess and watch the Wildcats play USC and once I got there I realized one of my tires had a tumor bulging out of its sidewall. I had to pony up for two tires but Manny, Moe and Jack got me in and out in 20 minutes, so my day was rolling along pretty well until we got to the game.
I received a text right before kickoff from Tami that I shouldn’t be alarmed when I got home if I noticed that both of the passenger side tires on her car were flat and that her car was listing extremely to the right. No big deal, I thought as I watched the U of A get pummeled by the Trojans. The USC fans next to us screamed their heads off and the U of A fans taunted them with chants of Reggie Bush, Reggie Bush.
I flashbacked to a day 30 years ago when I had just started teaching and when a teacher could actually take a day off and get a substitute without the whole educational system flipping out and collapsing onto itself. I had driven my old Chevy up past Bumblebee, out on an old dirt road with my dog Stella, who was named that just so I could scream ala Stanley Kowalski, Stellaaaaa!, Stellaaaa! whenever I wanted her to come. When we got back after our hike I realized the price for being poor and buying used tires from the old black guy who had more tires than God was that if I paid $5 for a tire I probably was getting what I paid for and that price was that I had two flats and one spare, which was also flat and a heck of a walk back to the highway. As it was winter, I set Stella up in the car and rolled the two flats along the dirt road. Since one side was bottomed out on each tire, they wouldn’t roll very well and kept knocking over or rolling into the brush so I mostly carried them to the road, hitched a ride into Black Canyon City with a rancher, and found a gas station and got them patched up. The problem there was that I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the repairs but I did have an old check in my wallet on a bank account that had been closed for years, but I figured I had no choice, so I wrote him a bad check and caught a ride back to Bumblebee. The problem with that was that I got picked up by some old hippie out of his mind smoking dope. It was getting dark and I was worried about not getting a ride at all as I had been standing on the highway with two tires and nobody stopped so I threw the tires in the back of his truck and jumped in and in a minute the driver was handing me a joint in a hook like contraption he had on his right hand. Call me Fingers, he said, which seemed odd because he didn’t have any on his right hand or any on his left hand, only these two weird hook-like contraptions, one of which was holding a joint in my face. Lost them in an industrial accident, Fingers laughed. Took ‘em right off! At that point I just started praying that Fingers wouldn’t careen off the highway and kill us, especially since he was steering the truck with his hooks, especially since visibility inside the car was at a premium due to the amount of dope he was smoking, especially since he had no concept of what a speed limit happened to be.
Fortunately he got me and the two tires there safely. He drove off, my dog was happy to see me, and I put the tires on and headed back to Phoenix. As soon as I got home I called the gas station and told him I had made a mistake with my check and would have a money order out to him the next morning, which I hoped would keep me out of jail on a check kiting charge…which it did.
The Wildcats lost and I drove home safely on two new tires. I looked at the two flat tires on Tami’s car when I got in last night. Today I poured slime into them and they seemed to be holding up so Tami can get to work. I’m thankful for so many things today…seeing my son doing so well in school and having a ball with him at dinner and the game (even though we lost), having a pretty wife to come home to, and not having to hitchhike with two flat tires under my arm and wonder if a guy with no fingers is going to stop and give me a ride.