When I was in grad school, I lived about an hour and a half away from my hometown, which meant that I could go back for important things like birthdays and weddings and holidays and such. I loved getting to still be part of my home life from time to time, and the drive never bothered me much – it was a straight shot down the highway, easiest drive in the world.
Amazingly, the drive didn’t usually bother my cat, either. He would whine for a bit, and then give up and go to sleep until I got to my parents’ house.
But all that changed one fateful day. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why I was driving home this particular weekend, (to clarify – “home” meaning my parents’ house, not “home” meaning my apartment, I used the word to mean both things most of the time.) It was probably midterm break or Easter or something. I don’t know. It’s not important.
Anyway, I was driving back on a Friday night, with a full tank of gas and definitely expecting to be home before food would be happening. Let’s be honest, I’m pretty much always up for food options that don’t involve me making it for myself. (Side note: food is hard.)
So I’m driving down the highway, eating an apple, talking to my cat, super normal, when I decide to try to pass the semi that’s in front of me. As I edge around the semi, I start to smell burning rubber. Pretty soon after, the right front side of my car dips dangerously, accompanied by a terrifying thumping sound. I remember throwing my half eaten apple across my car, busting in front of the semi (how he managed not to hit me I’ll never know) and after that I just remember being parked on the shoulder trying not to freak out.
My right front tire was shredded, like the kind of shredded where if I hadn’t stopped when I did, it probably would have come off the wheel entirely. Like the kind of shredded where you drive by the pieces of tire blowing around on the highway and you thank God that your tires will never do that. That kind of shredded.
By some miracle, I didn’t completely go off the rails, despite being trapped on the highway shoulder during rush hour with a cat. I called AAA, they promised to send someone to fix it, I unearthed my spare (which looked suspiciously low) and sat in my car to wait.
Until finally, a very nice state trooper found me and made sure I was okay. He put some flares behind me so that people would give me room.
An hour and a half later, a very nice AAA man drove up, changed my tire for me, and blocked traffic so that I could drive off with my spare. However, it’s a spare. And apparently, you can’t drive over 50mph on those things or they die. So I’m going 50 in 70mph zone with my flashers on, praying that no one hits me or yells anything rude. My cat, mercifully, is silent.
So then about 10 minutes later, I hear a sort of whooshing sad sighing sound, and my car is (yet again) tipping dangerously to the right. And then there’s a lot of thudding and slapping, and yes my spare tire is quite obviously flat. Keep in mind it’s still rush hour.
I’m 200 yards from a rest stop, but there’s no way I can limp all the way there in the traffic, so I’m stranded on the shoulder yet again. Still with a cat. This time, I can’t call someone to come change my tire because I don’t have a spare. So. I call my dad. Dads are great. My dad is great, and he jumped in the car to pick me up. But he was an hour away.
So Paco and I sat in my car for at least an hour. My phone was dying, it was getting dark and cold and scary and WAY past dinnertime and I had to pee. The thing that sucks about being stranded places when you’re a girl is you can’t just go pee on stuff if you have to pee. You have to hold it. Also, it’s not like I can just leave my cat in the car on the shoulder while I find a bush to pee behind in the dark.
Then, THE SAME STATE TROOPER found me again (so embarrassing) and very kindly gave me some more flares. Paco and I sat. And sat. Until rush hour was over. I limped into the rest stop. Where there was nobody. Except me (trying desperately not to pee myself) and some truck drivers.
And then FINALLY my dad came. He graciously sat with my cat while I (thank heavens) ran to the rest stop to pee. And he brought me food, because he’s a parent. We took the wheel off my car, left it at the rest stop, put all my stuff and my cat in my dad’s car and drove home. I got home like five hours after I was supposed to and my poor cat was a nervous wreck.
The next day we took the wheel in to get a new tire, drove BACK to the rest stop to put it on and I drove my car BACK to my parents house.
Also, it turns out they don’t make spares for my car any more. We had to buy a whole other wheel.
But hey. At least I’m not dead.