I am sweaty and dazed from yoga when I get into my car. (Side note: because I refuse to pay for parking in Center City–yoga is already an expensive undertaking, especially when one considers the sheer volume of sports bras and coconut water required–I drive my car to the Spring Garden blue line stop and take the train to the clothespin).
I always park on the same cobblestone-paved block. When I turn on to Spring Garden, I realize that I still feel as if I am driving on aged stones, instead of smooth-ish asphalt. A wave of panic crashes over my head. It is a flat tire!
I pull into the first parking spot I can find. It is (of course) reserved for handicapped drivers. Fuck! I decide that I will move the car only under threat of a huge parking ticket or severe guilt.
The first person I call is Janelle.
Me: Oh, hey…how are you?
Janelle: (hesitantly) Fine?
Me: So…what do you know about changing a flat tire?
Janelle: Um…do you have roadside assistance?
Of course, I don’t have roadside assistance. Obviously I should.
Janelle is at Target, but she vows to head over to me ASAP.
Next I call my mom. I am expecting some sympathy.
Mom: (skipping through a proper greeting) Didn’t I already talk to you today?
Me: Yeah…so, how are you doing?
Mom: What’s going on?
Me: I have a flat tire. I don’t know what to do! Do you know how to change a tire?
Mom: (laughing) Of course not! I guess we should have gotten you AAA or something.
Me: Yeah, well…hindsight is 20/20. But meanwhile, what should I do?
Mom: Your brother’s here…I’m sure he can tell you what to do.
(long pause while my mom explains the situation to my brother, Jerad).
Jerad: Jesus Christ! You don’t know how to change a tire? Didn’t you go to college?
Me: Well, yeah…but…
Jerad: Don’t you have a boyfriend or something?
Jerad: Does your car even have a spare tire?
Me: Yes…I checked.
Jerad: Do you have a jack and a wrench?
Me: Is this something that would come with my car? You know, like standard? Because I haven’t actually bought any of that stuff.
Further examination of my trunk reveals that I do have these items.
Me: You are not going to believe this…but the tire AND the jack are screwed into the trunk!
Jerad: Yeah, genius…that’s pretty normal.
Me: Okay…well I’m going to have to get off the phone to get these out. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.
I spend the next ten minutes bent over my trunk, trying to muscle nuts and bolts. Perhaps unfortunately, I am wearing fairly short cutoffs (though I swear they seemed like a respectable length earlier in the day). My ass is thrust into the intersection of 2nd and Spring Garden. This garners a lot of hoots and compliments from individuals driving by. A kid on a bike passes me and asks me if I’ll be his girlfriend. Since I’m not really looking for a boyfriend at that precise moment (unless he is willing to change this fucking tire for me), all of this attention only intensifies my anxiety level.
Me: Well, I got everything out of the trunk.
Jerad: Good, now you have to loosen the lug nuts on the tire.
Me: I’m sorry, what? I’m just really upset right now. People in cars are sexually harassing me! I’m wearing shorts!
Jerad: (laughing) Maybe if you roll up your shorts a little bit shorter, someone will help you. Why are you being such a baby?
Me: It’s just not fun, okay? I don’t need to be objectified.
Jerad: (laughing harder) Where are you?
Me: I’m in Boise, Idaho. No, of course I’m in Philly. And I’m on a really busy street.
My mom is in the background laughing, too. Jerad explains to her that I’m being a big baby because guys are yelling stuff at me. She says, “It’s all of that yoga she’s been doing!”
Jerad: Did you put the emergency brake on?
Jerad: (exasperated) That was really the first thing you should have done.
Me: Well, I’m not psychic.
Jerad: Next you want to put the jack under the car…but don’t start raising it. You have to loosen the lug nuts just a little bit. Then start jacking up the car.
Me: Okay, I’ll call you back after I do that.
The jack has an informative diagram on it. On one half, the instructions are in English. The other half is in French. Unfortunately, the English portion has to be positioned under the car. This is unavoidable. “Is this car really popular in France,” I wonder. But then I realize that French is spoken in Canada. I imagine that Manitoba is filled with early 90s American-made station wagons.
The lug nuts will not budge, even with all of my body weight thrust against them.
A woman passing by calls one of her male coworkers and he loosens them just as Janelle arrives. I consider hugging the strangers in gratitude, but I realize that I spent 90 minutes in a room that was 110 degrees. I’m probably really stinky.
I start turning the wrench to wind up the jack. Ten minutes later, little progress has been made.
I call my brother.
Jerad: Harry’s Tire Shop…
Me: Very funny. This is a serious time! I have been winding up this jack forever. How far should I raise the car?
Jerad: Until you can take off the tire.
Jerad: You will know when it’s time.
He gives me some more instructions. I am fairly certain I can handle it. I promise/threaten to call him if I can’t figure it out.
The entire process takes an eternity. Janelle loosens the lug nuts while I continue to raise the jack. We gossip about various semi-strangers. Eventually the mission is accomplished. I’m filthy and sweaty. I drive the car to Pep Boys–unfortunately a new tire is required.
Feeling pretty proud, we spend the night swapping mp3s and scheming about our future West Philly house. Faux taxidermy! A teepee in the dining room! Tofu scrambles on Saturday mornings! Quick Boggle games before work!
I am so lucky to have found Janelle.