In spite of myself, I had to laugh. There I was, stranded on the side of the road, wilting under the Exit 14 sign on Route 95 South. It was a hot and sticky day, and after half an hour cooped up in my poor crippled Rav-4, my clothes were starting to cling to my body like Faye Wray in the grasp of King Kong, and my feet were starting to itch inside my shoes. Oh, and for those keeping track, I had already had four nervous breakdowns.
I looked up and through my window, immediately grateful to see the handsome thirty-something AAA driver standing outside. He had wavy brown hair and a big old smile, and there was just something about him that I immediately found reassuring. Although, I guess, at that point in time, having ripened like a hothouse tomato left unplucked for too long, I probably would have found a syphilitic one legged octogenarian perfectly charming, as long as he came with a tow truck and a AAA badge.
I got out of my car and beamed at him. “But it’s such a beautiful day,” I said. “And this seemed like the perfect spot.”
He laughed, and I immediately became aware of a hint of onion bagel in the air. “So, what seems to be the problem?” he asked.
“I was driving on the highway, and suddenly heard a loud bang,” I said. “I drove about a quarter of a mile more, but I could tell that something was wrong. So I pulled over here, and sure enough. A flat. And that’s a brand new tire, too.”
I was playing it cool, I admit it. I was trying to speak the language of men, trying to adopt that easygoing, nothing-can-touch-me swagger that a little dash of testosterone affords you. Here’s how things actually went. Rewind:
Bang! What the fuck? Hmm, maybe I’d better pull over and hmm, that doesn’t sound too good hmm, this car’s not moving very well either ah shit I’ll just pull over and fuck fuck fuck! Why did this have to happen to me??? Another goddamn flat tire what the hell another tire right after the battery and the other tire the week before that how the hell am I going to afford this crap crap crap what the hell am I going to do…dial dial dial dial…best sobby voice…”Corb, honey, you’re never going to believe what just happened…” Curse you, God’s that be!
Yes, that’s right, over the course of five minutes, I had been transformed from dashing bon vivant to King Lear, raising my fist at the elements over something as trifling as a busted tire. Corb received a call. So did Josie. So did my boss. So did my parents: a pitiful, plaintiff “Help me.” Christ almighty, were my kids going to continue looking for daddy to rescue their sorry asses at the age of 39?
But suddenly, in the presence of a man with callused knuckles and grease on his fingers, I found myself standing straighter. Lifting my head up. Looping my thumbs through my belt buckles, ready to pass this off as a minor pain in the ass, so we could get down to the real conversation: the one-of-a-kind scent of a woman. (Insert loud spitting noise here, y’all.)
“Get in the front seat,” he said, after loading my car onto the flatbed. “We’ll get you to the repair shop in about five minutes. But first, I have to help another guy, about a quarter of a mile down. I hope you don’t mind.”
The guy was good company and he had a clean truck, so no, I didn’t mind. So, he looped off the exit ramp and headed back onto 95. Two cars honked loudly as we made our way into the far right lane. We looked at each other and laughed.
I turned to glance nervously into the rear window, at my car, bubbling to and fro, like bacon frying in a pan. “Ummm, crazy question, but have you ever had a car fall off the truck while you were driving it?”
He snorted and winked at me. “You don’t want to know,” he said, and laughed.
It only took us a few minutes to reach the other guy. He was an older man, in his late sixties, pacing around his disabled vehicle like a tomcat on the prowl. He had a thatch of white hair that was sticking up at odd angles, due to the wind generated by the cars roaring past him on the highway, and eyes that were squinting tightly behind glass lens just a bit smaller than compact discs. His shirt was tight and elastic, although the waistline was a chunky swath of dark black, almost making it look as though he were wearing a girdle.
“I’ll be right back,” said the AAA guy.
I watch my savior hop out of the car and move toward the older man, who shuffled forward to meet him. The conversation was brief. The AAA man nodded, looked clinically at the deflated right front tire, and started walking back to the truck.
And then, something strange happened. The old man hobbled over to the passenger side of the car, looked right and left, and suddenly, reached down to his fly, unzipped his pants, and started urinating on his car, pointing his shriveled weenie next to the tire that the AAA man was going to fix.
“Did you see that?” laughed the AAA guy as we made our way to the tire shop, ten minutes later. “He was pissing on the tire he wanted me to replace!”
“What did you say to him?” I asked, curious.
“I’m like, ‘man, what in the hell are you doing?’ and he looked up at me and said, ‘I’ve had to go for a long time, and your truck was hiding me from view!”
I shook my head. “You must get ‘em all, in your job.”
He nodded. “I could tell you a few stories. And in answer to your question before, no, I haven’t had a car fall off the flatbed while I was driving. But I did have one time where the car wasn’t fastened properly, and when I was lifting the flatbed up to set it down, I dumped the car right through a carport. AAA had to pay a few bucks for that one!”
P.S.: My car’s fine.