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The flat

Christmastime, 2019. This lady is too cheap to fly her family anywhere, not to mention worry about a rental car, so we drive eeeeeeverywhere. It’s about a 15-hour-drive to my parents’, and we make that trip two to three times a year.

The drive is fine. I mean it’s terrible but it’s fine. We have a Honda Odyssey so there’s plenty of space sort of for all of the kids and the dog and the adults, except when you accidentally buy a 6-foot iron sculpture while on location and then things are a mite bit crampeder.

At any rate, we’ve done this trip dozens of times and it’s always a little bit terrible but mostly fine. Sometimes I think “maybe I’ll fly next time” and then I look at plane tickets and remember what it was like to go through security with what seemed like a thousand children and all the things a thousand children need and imagine trying to keep them from ruining a rental car and decide that driving is a much better option.

This time, for the first time, we had a crisis. A flat tire! I shudder to think how awful it could have been – stranded on the side of the road in late December with a thousand children and a nutjob puppy and a 6-foot iron statue. I have heard stories of people who needed car repair and ended up just living wherever they were stranded and suddenly, I get it. The idea of juggling it all while also juggling car repairs is just too much to bear.

At any rate, when the “hey you might have a flat tire” light came on on the highway, nothing felt out of place (I’ve had my fair share of flat tires in my life, I know what it feels like to feel out of place), and we made it to my sister’s house. The tire was indeed flat, and flattening further. I called AAA and crossed my fingers that I hadn’t forgotten to renew my membership (I hadn’t!), and they offered to change my tire to the spare or tow me away.

I mean it would have been fine to have them change it to the spare, I mean, I could change it to the spare, except there was a huge iron sculpture and all the things a thousand children need between me and the spare. It was going to cost me zero dollars regardless, so I opted to be towed to a nearby auto repair place.

They fixed it super fast and it was cheaper than I had feared: $20.50. An easy patch. Except then when I drove it back to my sister’s house I stepped out of the car and could hear the air gushing out of it, so I had to go back again. They don’t carry tires, they have to order them from somewhere, and it was December 27 and nighttime and I suddenly realized that we might be forced to move in with my sister forever.

In some weird Christmas miracle, somebody had driven there that day to have their old tires changed, some of which needed it badly and some which didn’t but they wanted to change all four – and so this tiny local auto repair place that has no tire inventory happened to have exactly one usable tire in exactly my size. I’m going to need to change the tires soon (like today) anyway, so I just needed a tire that would get me through the 12 hours we had left on my drive.

They charged me $0.00 for taking that almost-useless tire off their hands, and $0.00 for the extra labor since they had kind of screwed it up the first time.

Guess what? We made it! I feel great about using my AAA membership, great about getting an almost-useless tire for free, great about actually managing to do all this in those dead days between Christmas and New Year’s, great about not getting stranded in some small town in Illinois, kind of crappy about not forcing my sister to let us move in with her, great about finally, finally being back on my couch even though I just looked over and it appears that nutjob puppy peed on the carpet. Merry Christmas one and all!

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