When my parents lived overseas, my dad used to have a lot of urgent requests. URGENT. I would get an emergency phone call for something he needed. Like a tennis ball shooter machine. High altitude tennis balls. Car tires.
And being a first-born-rule-follower, and well trained, I would jump.
Since running into the old friend, I have been thinking about when I was 23 and I lived in Mt. Pleasant with Maude. For a while, meaning probably 3 or 4 months, which was probably my record at the time, I dated a very nice fellow named Chuck. The reason I dated Chuck? Because we met at the end of summer, and I'd gone on a million dates, and I was kind of tired.
We met, and he sent me a dozen red roses, and I thought, "This guy could be a nice boyfriend!"
And he was. We had nothing in common, but he was very, very nice. And he drove Maude up the wall. Because he was dull. And the thing was, I was always running late. So Maude would have to talk to him for the half hour that he was waiting for me to get ready when he'd come to pick me up for our dates. It made her really bitter.
I was bored, but he was just so nice. But at some point, nice was not enough. And so I was just about to break up with him when my dad called me from South America. And asked me to buy him two tires for his car. And mail them to him.
Two car tires.
We lived in Mt. Pleasant. Neither of us owned a car. We walked or took the metro. And I had to buy car tires.
And so I postponed the break-up. Because I needed to be driven to the Price Club. I needed a guy to help me find car tires. Good old Chuck was from Pennsylvania. He liked cars. He liked me. He was willing to do stuff like that. In other words, he was just the guy.
So we bought the car tires, but we didn't mail them immediately for one reason or another. And Chuck and I were doing really badly, and I just couldn't bear it anymore. You know when you want to break up with someone, and you get to the point where even the way they smile or chew irritates you? That was the point I'd reached before the tire request.
And so I realized that I just had to go ahead and break up with him, and figure out how to mail the tires myself. I should have broken up with him way earlier, or never gone out with him in the first place. But I was young and insecure and boyfriend-needy.
So Maude and I had these two tires on our hands. And no helpful boyfriend. And no car.
So on a Saturday we each slung a tire over one shoulder and tromped off to the Mt. Pleasant post office. We walked in, two little girls with car tires, and the entire place, which was packed with Latino men, turned around, looked at us, and burst into laughter.
It took quite a while to get through the line. And the whole way, we had to talk about the tires.
"Whatcha got there?"
"Um. Car tires?"
"Where are you sending them?"
"To South America."
"They don't have tires in South America? Ha ha ha ha!"
And the whole place would burst out laughing. We seriously had this conversation at least 8 times. I think I would have cried if I had been alone.
Finally, finally we got to the front of the line.
"You're mailing tires to South America?"
"They don't have tires in South America?" (Whole place erupts in laughter. Again.)
"Look. My father said he needs them. And I always do what my father asks me to do."
And this turned out to be a satisfactory answer for all involved. Meaning the entire post office.