Mother Nature has a keen sense of humor, and perhaps wisdom too. This past Sunday was filled with an abundance of that golden orb whose name is embedded in the day of the week and takes up residence 93 million miles away from us. It is sometimes incomprehensible how something so far away has the power to create an intensity that is felt so acutely. Alas, therein lies the wisdom.
While pumping gas at a local station, I inhaled the humid Florida air, almost tasting the individual droplets of moisture suspended before me. The booming bass from a passing vehicle was complemented by a periodic thud that seemed to be in sync with it. When the reverberating beat subsided in the distance but the clunk accompanying it got more pronounced, I looked around, eventually noticing the car with a flat tire approaching the air pump.
The tire was flatter than flat. There was no way any amount of air would rectify the situation. I already knew that I would head over and see whether the person needed help. But when the older woman got out of her car and began unscrewing the cap on her tire valve, I expedited my approach.
Do you think I could make it back to my house? She was serious. She only had about a mile and a half to go. Surely it would be okay to try and limp home, the woman offered. She would have been riding on her rims in an unsafe environment, for both her and the other motorists on the road.
Let’s get your spare tire on there. It was my instinctive response. A handyman, I am not. But I have changed many a flat tire in my day and have even taught a den of Cub Scouts how to do so on several different occasions. So, with confidence brimming on a sunny and hot Florida afternoon, I located the spare tire and jack from the trunk of the woman’s car.
I should be out of there in fifteen minutes or so. No problem, right?
After jacking the car off the ground, I attempted to place the tire wrench on the first lug nut. That’s when I realized this was not destined to be a routine tire change. It didn’t fit. It was too small. I’ve never even used this before. That’s what the woman offered to me as I stared at the problem. She was right. The tire, wrench, and jack were all stored securely in place as if the car had just rolled off the dealership lot.
After the wrench in my own car was found to be inaccessible, a random woman from a neighboring business asks if she can help. We explain our conundrum, and she offers us the jack from her truck, which thankfully fits perfectly. The universe is on our side.
Except the lug nuts won’t budge. Not a single iota. And to think I just had a new tire put on. The woman stares at me working on the immovable object, sweat dripping down my nose and face as I work to keep my unspoken words of frustration where they belong. This shouldn’t be that difficult. After locking the wrench on the nut and putting all my weight on top of it through my feet, it budges ever so slightly, as the car rocks back and forth on the jack, threatening to fall off it. Rinse and repeat four more times and I’m finally feeling hopeful once again. I secure the spare and lower the jack. She’ll be on her way soon.
Except she won’t. Not yet. As the jack comes down and pressure is put on the spare, we come to realize that it’s flat too. Seriously? Another man stops by and asks whether we need any help. We try to add air to it, but it’s useless. I do some more pointless staring at the situation, trying to determine what should occur next. This woman has no family in the area, and I’m not even sure she has a cell phone to call her insurance company.
The car goes back up on the jack. The spare comes off. We try to put air in the spare tire while it’s off her vehicle, and it seems to work. After putting it back on and lowering the jack down, I’m holding my breath to see if the tire holds up to the weight of the car. Thankfully, it does.
After about an hour of continuous problems and obstacles for a seemingly straightforward task, I’m drenched in sweat and look like I’ve spent an entire career in a garage. But I’ve managed to help someone achieve a simple but important task.
Thank you so much. I’ll finally be able to find my way home. It’s the words she used that caused me to pause and garner some of that wisdom imparted by Mother Nature through the blistering sun. We can be 93 million or a couple miles away from our destination.
We can feel rooted in the ground like a sunflower in an open field. But the draw and influence toward that source of life is undeniable, no matter the distance. There is an intensity to that magnetic pull. And even though a flat tire may never play into the equation, this Sunday reminded me that having the courage, persistence, and right set of like-minded people around you can make any distance seem manageable.
We can all find our way home.
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