Several months ago I was headed back to my area of town and came up on a stranded vehicle. The young lady was sitting in the fast lane of a pretty busy stretch of road. I pulled my truck up, flipped on my lights and got out. She was talking on the phone and looked distressed. I say distressed, but picture a mild distressed…like she was more annoyed than anything.
She told me that she was headed to an auto shop where her boyfriend worked to get a new tire on her car. He had placed the spare on it that morning. The spare decided to start shredding as she drove to get it replaced. Hence, the stranded situation.
I took a look at it and personally thought it needed to be changed before she drove any further. Unbeknownst to me, she had the old tire in her trunk.
She asked my opinion.
Now here is a moment where I am being asked something while standing there in my uniform. For some reason, we are considered experts in everything. But only be about 80% of the population. That 80% is the middle and lower class. The other 20%….the Rich folk…think we are idiots.
So this young lady, who appeared to be in the 80th percentile, was asking me for an answer. I was hesitant to answer because, well, I didn’t know the best option for her. I knew what I would do, but would it be the best answer for her? There was a 50/50 chance that moving the car on down the road to the auto shop would be easy-peasy OR it would end up destroying her wheel and car.
In my experience, if it had gone badly, I could have easily gotten my “professional” self in a bind.
So I answered honestly. “I have no idea which would be best. It is up to you. But whatever decision you make I will stay with you.”
We quickly discussed her two options. Because you see, she had left early enough to get to her new job on time. But now she was stranded in the middle of the road. So…..
#1) drive it on the shredded tire to the shop and pray it didn’t get worse and require a tow.
#2) stand there and wait on a wrecker or her boyfriend (who would have to leave his job). Which would hinder him at work and make her later to her new one.
She picked #1. I told her I would follow her all the way (about a mile).
As I turned to head back to my truck I was approached by a cop who had stopped to check on us. I told him what was going on and that I would follow her. He waved at us both and went back to patrolling.
We begin to bee-bop slowly down the road. I’m following her with my lights on. We make it about half way before she has to stop. The tire was done. Over with. Shredded. No longer any use.
As she is standing there on the phone with her boyfriend who is trying to decide what to do, she says “You know what? You need to stay at work. I got this. I’ll call you back.” So she hung up and looked at me and said “I have no clue how to change a tire but I’m about to figure it out.” All I could do was smile a geunine smile of admiration. I then revealed that it had been a minute since my dad had shown me how to change a tire and I’d never had to since then. (Ok…a minute in this story equals more like 25 years.)
We proceed to get the tire and the jack out. I knew it had to be placed under the frame. Check.
We then fumble with the jack long enough to make me start to sweat. It doesn’t pump like my dad’s did…we figured out that much rather quickly. But which direction do you turn it?? Is it raising the car yet?? Why am I hitting my knuckles on the asphalt?? Do you have a bandaid??
We giggled as cars flew by and people stared at us. Squatted down. My butt hanging out. She was praising God for her helper…and looking for a band-aid.
I’ll telling her I think she’s awesome for making a decision to change a tire when she didn’t know how. Handled it like a BOSS! She’s admiring me for being a female in a male dominant world.
She told me how worried she had been when she saw flashing lights behind her (me and the cop) because of all the bad things going on in the world and her skin color. I told her I couldn’t imagine what that felt like, despite still to this day getting nervous when I saw a cop car while I was speeding…uh…I mean driving. But my skin color is white…42 year old white with age spots and wrinkles forming to be more clear. I can’t comprehend what that certain fear is like. But I understand it happened to her.
I told her that all I saw was a young woman stranded on the road needing some help. If she had been my daughter I would want someone to stop and help her.
We carried on…laughing like little girls… although I was old enough to be her mother. We probably took longer to change the tire than a man would…but she still made it to work on time!
We even stopped to look at the gorgeous clouds in the sky that she noticed.
What a moment to notice such a thing. A perfect moment. She made me realize I’ve been missing things for a while. Sometimes it takes a stranger to open your eyes.