So I’m currently sitting in my chair, grimacing every time I move b/c I have sand that’s wandered down the back of my panties and every now and then I find a piece of broken glass stuck to my back. Why? B/c I just spent about fifteen minutes on my back on the side of the highway. And it was one of the funniest things that’s happened to me in months. (I’ll warn you now, this post is long b/c there’s a lot of dialogue clips here–some of what this kid said was entirely too funny to me to be taken out of context. So bear with me.)
As I was driving to work this morning, I see a kid sitting in his car on the side of the highway with his hazards on, and as I pass him I notice that the right front axle is one the ground b/c the wheel appears to be blown. In the 2 sec. glance that I gave this kid, I almost didn’t stop. First, b/c he was a boy, and as a rule, lone women typically don’t stop to help a guy on the side of the road—potential for being overpowered/harmed/robbed, the stereotype that a guy can probably fix his own car, I was already late for work, etc. And second, b/c he was on the phone, and I figured that he was probably calling someone to come help him as I watched. But something about him seemed kinda desperate, so I pulled over, backed up, and got out to help him.
As I approached, he gets out and, all hopeful, asks me “Who do you work for?” And when I looked all confused, he starts to look a little doubtful and goes, “or are you just a good Samaritan?” And when he found out I was just a good Samaritan, he became downright crestfallen, and was like, “Oh. Well. Do you know anybody I could call?” This kinda grated me, but I got the impression he was trying to be polite and just didn’t realize how that sounded, so I redirected him by asking what happened to his tire. He had the spare out, next to the grass and a lugnut wrench lying next to a jack, so I figured his situation was that he had all the right tools but none of the know-how.
Now, let me make sure to clarify that I don’t mean to give the impression that I’m in any way good with cars. I can recognize when my tires are going bald, know where to put the oil and antifreeze and the theory behind changing tires, and I know words like “axle” and “brake pads” and “lugnuts” and know how to use them correctly in a sentence. And I know what windshield wipers are. But that’s about it. I’ve seen people change tires, and I’ve changed tires on my horse trailer, but never on a car. And I know I didn’t inspire this kid in my ability much—I was pretty confident that once we got the car jacked, I knew how to change the sucker in short time. But I didn’t know where to put the jack to get the car up, an issue that was solved after a quick call to my awesome husband. So, while Brett sat on the grass, I worked on his car while we waited for the highway patrol (who had promised him they’d be by 45 min. ago) to show up.
Turns out Brett was a nice-but-sheltered 21 yr. old lifeguard who spent a lot of time complaining about how hungry he was and who didn’t have the physical strength to do anything strenuous work (like loosen lugnuts) b/c of some kind of strange shoulder injury; when I asked him about said injury, he told me that “the doctors don’t know what’s actually wrong” and that when he uses it, it “really drains me, just, like…emotionally and mentally and physically.” If he wasn’t built like a piece of string, I would’ve thought he was just trying to get out of the grunt work, but he actually was just too weak (both mentally and emotionally and physically) to do much, though he kept trying to valiantly offer to help as I was on my back on the highway trying to figure out where the jack went on the car (before I called Clayton, of course). I made a mental note to find out where this kid lifeguarded and make sure to NEVER VISIT IT on the chance that he wouldn’t be able to pull my dead floating carcass out of the water.
I was able to establish myself as a fairytale hero in his eyes when (Clayton finally gave me that last puzzle piece about the jack and) I started to get to work. And his face lit up and he said in a breathless voice, “Do you really know how to work on cars?” And I go, “Not really, but I can change a tire.” To which he responds, “CAN YOU CHANGE YOUR OWN OIL, TOO?” as if this is indeed the height of mechanical prowess. And you’d be proud of me b/c not once did I laugh into his face. Directly.
This kid also had a penchant for asking strange questions (and I call him a “kid,” even though he’s only 5 yrs. younger than me, b/c I felt downright parental showing him how to do each step of the Change-a-Tire process as we did it, while he watched with wide-eyed fascination):
Him: “Did you eat breakfast?”
(I immediately start praying that he’s not trying to warm up to ask me to breakfast b/c he’s got a strangely hopeful look in his eye.)
Me *as I’m loosening the lugnuts, which were last tightened by Hulk Hogan*: “Yeah.”
Me: “On the way to work.”
Him: “Ooh. Where?”
Him: “Oh, that’d be SO GOOD right now! I’m starving. What’d you have?”
Me: “Uh….do you want a play-by-play of the meal or would you just like to know what I ate?”
Him: *thinks about it for a moment* “Just what you ordered.”
And as we chatter while I work, I realized this poor kid’s situation is that he’s just been hoplessly sheltered. He asked me what I did and then got all excited when he asked me “what I was doing for the day” and I said I was going to work:
Him: “What do you do?”
Me: “I’m a technical writer.”
Him: “Ooh! Can you walk me through a typical day at work for you?”
Me: “It would bore you to tears, but it’s sweet that you ask.”
Him: “No, really. I’d love to know what it’s like for people who work at a real job.”
This made me think that he was probably the kid, probably some college student, of rich parents who never made him get a job himself b/c he didn’t have to. But when I diverted his attention off my job (with my wicked ninja powers of manipulation) by asking him what he did, that’s when he said he was a lifeguard. Kinda wistfully, he goes, “So, you probably make TONS more money than I do.” So, obviously, the kid just didn’t know what it was like.
Then he gets around to asking me why I stopped to help him out, which cracked me up:
Him: “So, like, what made you decided to stop and help me out? Are you, I don’t know….religious or Christian or something?”
Me: “I’m Christian, yes. But I would’ve been an asshole and kept on driving if you’d looked scary or something.”
(At this he kinda puffed up and grinned at me)
Him: “So you were just driving along and thought I looked kinda cute, so you stopped to help me out?”
(B/c apparently he’s not only naïve, but also a romantic at heart. God bless his poor little fragile heart.)
Me: *without thinking, b/c I’m concentrating on jacking up the car* “Actually b/c you looked kinda desperate.”
(He deflates a bit.)
Me: “And b/c even though women on their own typically don’t stop to help a guy, I was pretty sure if you tried anything funny, I could take you.”
I told him all this in a matter-of-fact voice and trying to keep from sounding like I was rubbing his situation in his face or anything, but I saw him deflate even further. And, it was funny, b/c I could almost SEE the thoughts as they clicked into place for him: “She doesn’t think I look cute.” Then: “What does she mean she could take me?” And finally: “What if she CAN take me? What if she HURTS me?!” And thereafter he looked at me with a little more respect; not the kind of awed “my hero” respect, but the slightly more wary “l don’t think I want to piss her off in case my good Samaritan turns around and decides to jack my car after she fixes it” kinda respect. Made me laugh on the inside. A LOT.
I probably should’ve stopped at “desperate” but I tried to soften it some by telling him, “the bottom line is, I would hope that someone would’ve stopped for ME if I was in your situation.” (To which he laughed, and said, “Yeah, that probably wouldn’t have been me…” Let’s take a moment of silence, folks, for not knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut….)
So, a trooper finally pulls up (with a southern accent so thick I could almost barely understand it) right after I get the spare on and am explaining to Brett what we do next (since I spent most of the time showing him as we went along so that when he eventually had to do it himself, he’d be good to go). And as the officer approaches, he sees Brett squatting next to me as I’m sitting on the ground with a lugnut in my hand:
Cop: “M’am are you ok?”
(This struck me as funny, so I grinned up at him and pointed to my truck a few yards away from us.)
Me: “Yessir, I’m fine. MY truck’s not broken down.”
Cop: *pulls down his sunglasses and gives me a shocked look* “This isn’t your car?”
Brett: *oddly proud* “No, she was just nice enough to stop and help me out!”
Cop: *now officially astonished* “You mean YOU’RE helping change HIS tire?” *then, in a long-suffering, you-knucklehead voice* “Son. WHY can’t you change your own tire? How old are you?”
And he proceeded to give Brett a bit of a hard time, to the point that I kinda felt bad for the kid. Yeah, he was old enough that he should’ve known this, but I remembered when I was a similar kind of new-adult that didn’t know how to change MY own tire b/c I never thought to ask and nobody ever showed me. (Until Clayton, when he was my boyfriend, finally did, much like I now showed Brett.)
But we got it back on, while the cop flirted with me (which was kinda strange b/c I know he saw my wedding ring and I later discovered a huge smear of grease on my cheekbone) which was good for my ego. (“From Tennessee, huh? Awful long way from there. What brings a cute little thing like you up here?” and “Where’d you learn how to change a tire so well?” Me: “I wouldn’t say ‘well;’ it’s not changed yet.” Him: *with a dismissive wave at the kid who’s sweating over the lugnuts* “Eh, you did a right fine job. Better than HE knows, at least.”)
DANI KICKS A PUPPY, LEARNS A LESSON
But the last bit of this comedy of errors was right as soon as Brett started really tightening up his lugnuts. He gives one really hard turn (now doing the work himself at the cop’s insistence b/c “HE needs to be doing it, it’s HIS car…”) and the car slips right off the jack with a big metallic grunt, as the spare’s held in place with three really loose nuts and one semi-tight one. And I look at it for a moment, dumbstruck, and the cop goes, “Son. [really deliberately and slowly] Didn’t you put the parking brake on?” And my jaw dropped and I looked at the kid and go, “YOU DIDN’T PUT ON YOUR PARKING BRAKE? Do you realize how easily that could’ve dropped on my hand or foot while I was working earlier?”
And I immediately felt bad after I said it, b/c I should’ve known better—of COURSE this kid doesn’t know to put on his parking brake when you’re changing a tire! He doesn’t even know how to loosen his lugnuts (“Is it to the left or the right?” Me: “righty tighty, lefty loosy.” Him: “……so…..I push the tire iron down on the left side?”). That one was totally my fault, but you’d have thought I just told the kid that he was adopted from the horrified way he looked at me. It was the only time I got upset with him and he looked crushed. Goodbye, ego boost. But I really quickly went, “well, that was probably my fault for not remembering to ask earlier–my bad,” and he looked all grateful at me, like a puppy you scold for peeing in the floor but turn around and pet a few seconds later.
And we got him on his way, with a little help from the flirting hardass cop once everything was done. Though, Brett cross-threaded one of his nuts (and the 12 yr. old in me snickers at re-reading that sentence) so it wouldn’t tighten all the way. And the cop warned him once, “that’s probably as good as it’ll get,” but seemed to follow the southern way of teaching folks, which is to give one warning and then watch silently when folks press on, so they can learn the lesson The Hard Way. Which Brett learned well when he started using his legs to get enough leverage and ended up shearing the head off the lugnut.
So I had an adventurous morning, full of stereotypes and strangely naïve lifeguards and cars. And I came out of it feeling not only feeling like a hero for stopping and helping when nobody else would and proud of myself that I changed a tire all by myself. Kinda. Ok, I got by with a little help from my friends. 🙂