Yesterday I was out in Virginia, and my GPS told me to take a turn that took me to the toll road.
The toll wasn't a big deal, and I even have one of those toll-payer things on my windshield. But the toll road? Instead of just trusting my GPS, I was all,"The toll road? That can't be right!"
So there I was with no other options, and then just before the booths I noticed a ramp heading into some sort of parking lot, like a Metro lot in the suburbs. I took a sharp right and heard this THUNKGRONK kind of sound, which coincided with a jarring feeling that made me sure I'd hit something very hard like maybe a chunk of cement or piece of curb or some such.
Whatever it was, it was very not good.
So I drove along this driveway entry with the certainty that my front tire was flat. I got into a lot, which did look like Metro but was not. It was under construction, and there were all these men there in reflective vests and work clothes.
I got out to inspect my tire because perhaps fingers crossed maybe I was overreacting? And not only was my tire indeed flat, there was a gaping hole in the side of it. And the metal inside didn't look perfect either.
Very. Not. Good.
Whyyyyyy hadn't I learned to change a tire? I mean besides
the fact that I don't drive all that often and it doesn't remotely
Naturally, the first thing I did was begin to hyperventilate. The next was to call my husband. Who didn't answer. At which point I started to cry just a little.
I told myself to hold it together. Breathe. I could call my insurance. They would fix it. Except what if they couldn't come out in time for me to get back and get my son from school?
Panic. Hysteria rising in throat. Tears creeping to corners of eyes. Because here I was with a car I couldn't drive in a random parking lot in Virginia with a whole lot of men...
Wait a minute!
Surely one of these men in work clothing would know how to change my tire. I know for a fact, from having seen other people change tires (not mine! except that one other time...), that it doesn't take very long. And I could thank them with cash and be on my way.
So I strolled over to the nearest cluster and said, "I know this is totally stereotypical and I should know how...but do any of you know how to change a tire? I have a flat and I was wondering if you could help me."
They smiled and nodded. One of them said, "I'd be happy to. But we're convicts. So you'll have to get permission from the sheriff's deputy. He's in the van." He pointed.
Convicts! This threw me, even though I do quite Piper Chapman, self-absorbed as she may be. I'd driven into a lot filled with convicts! Convicts meaning men in prison! For something! Possibly very bad!
"See what happens," I said to myself, "when you go to Virginia?"
I thanked them and headed for the van, and as I got close, the door opened, and the sheriff's deputy got out and raised his eyebrows and said, "Can I help you?"
So I explained that I'd gotten this flat tire and I'd asked these men but then they said they were convicts and I'd have to ask him and I didn't suppose they might be able to help me?
No, no unfortunately they couldn't. Did I have AAA or something of the sort?
And I said yes, yes I do, and I will call them, and thank you and I'm so sorry to bother you (and your prisoners).
So I walked back to the car while calling my insurance and it took forever to get through the electronic prompts and as I was doing this, repeating things like "IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE" or whatever that option was, the sheriff's deputy was walking along with me, listening and then asking how long they thought it would take.
And I was all, "It's still all the electronic prompts!"
So he began poking around in my trunk and pulling things out. I took this as a good sign.
Finally I got a person and they asked if I was with the vehicle. Yes. And if I was safe. I wanted to say, "I'm in a parking lot filled with convicts! and sheriff's deputies! I am freaking the fuck out! And also I really really have to pee!" I said none of this. I said yes.
Since everything car trouble-y flusters me, when they asked for the make and model and year I was all, "Uh. I can't find the card. Isn't my car in your system?"
And the woman, who was very nice, asked if I could possibly give her two out of three. Just so she might know which of our two cars I was driving. Which, duh. Yes, I do actually know what kind of car I drive, and anyway, I'm looking right at it so I could just read the name on the trunk if I had to.
At this point the sheriff's deputy had admired the impressive job I'd done on both the tire and the rim. And had deemed my spare totally decent.
Finally the insurance woman asked where I was. So then I had to ask this very nice man, who by this time had my spare and the jack on the ground next to the tire, where my car and I might be located.
And he said, "Don't worry. I'll just change it for you."
He proceeded to do just that, while another guy got the work crew loaded onto the bus.
He put on the spare, told me it needed air before I could drive it into DC, suggested I drive slowly, pointed me to the nearest gas station, and, at my request, gave me his card so I can send him a thank you.
I have to admit, I've always relied on the kindness of strangers. And my judgment has not always been stellar. In my old neighborhood, I accepted several offers from strangers to parallel park my car for me. (Not since way before I met you, Nick!) Nobody ever stole my car, and it actually got squozen into some tight spaces, so, you know, it all worked out. I'm a way better parallel parker now, in case you're wondering.
Anyway, back to the convicts. One of my friends said, if they were out on a work crew they were probably in prison for stuff like drugs. So the lot was probably not filled with rapey murdery types.
Everyone was very nice.
Then at the auto-body place one of the guys asked what kind of an accident I'd been in and I said, "I did all that by myself. I thought I was going the wrong way and so I turned and ran into something very solid and then I drove into a parking lot full of convicts and a sheriff's deputy changed my tire for me and now I'm here buying a whole new wheel."
So there you have it.