Front right tire blew out on Highway 183 yesterday on the way to deliver some printed brochures to be folded and stuffed for mailing.I pulled over to the side of the road, but I only had about a foot of space to try to squeeze in a tire change.  To make matters worse, I was on an elevated part of the freeway (going North 183 over Lamar for you Austinites), so if I peered over the embankment, I was at least 5 stories above cars speeding by on the access road below.

It has been raining, so it was wet and grimy… Trying to squeeze in to change the spare got very messy and dirty… So eventually, I gave up the machismo and called Geico Emergency Roadside Service (which has saved my neck on multiple occasions… keys locked in car, mostly).

They sent out a tow truck to take me to Pep Boys where I figured it would take an hour at most to get a new tire on the car.

So I thought I would be a hero and change the spare in the Pep Boys parking lot… dumb. dumb. dumb.

I forgot that the tow truck had the car in neutral… so as I was applying torque to one of the lug nuts, Physics prevailed and the car rolled off the jack… narrowly missing crushing my fingers.

So I angrily and violently shifted the car in park, and pulled up the parking brake in a huff (to let everyone know that I knew what I was doing, of course).

I, again, jacked up the car and started removing lug nuts.  But the last nut was a little bit stuck… So I applied more and more force to the wrench and of course, with a loud snap the stud broke off and I gashed up my hand on the rim.

Perfect.

It would have been ok.  It would have been just fine if the tow truck driver wasn’t sitting there watching me the entire time… as if he knew this guy wearing business casual clothes would be a source of endless sissified entertainment.

Enough was enough… I needed to end my humiliation.  I went inside to the service center; by this time my hands, arms, and face were covered in grime (and some blood).  My clothes and shoes were wet and slimy from mud… eyes of everyone in there looked at me, thanking their God that they weren’t suffering as much as this poor fellow.

“Can I help you, sir?”

I chuckled, not because anything was funny, but because it was the way irritation vented, “Well, I should certainly hope so, because I can’t imagine this day getting any worse.”

I told him my story, I showed him the broken stud, and I asked him for help.

“Well, sir, we can certainly fix it, but we won’t get to it for 4 hours.”

Fantastic.

See, I had a dinner to go to in San Marcos at 6:00 that evening (meaning I would need to drive out at 5:00).  Not seeing much of a choice, I went ahead and signed the $100 invoice.

Not thinking clearly, I decided I would deliver the brochures, that got me into this mess in the first place, to the print shop.  This meant about a 2 mile hike with about 20 pounds of paper strapped to my back and a large box of envelopes in a tattered plastic bag.

In retrospect, that was stupid.  I eventually had someone from work pick me up anyway, so they could have taken me to the print shop.

When I got to the print shop with my bags and dirt and sweat, I must have seemed terrible.  I thought I saw a look of terror on the face of the receptionist.  I apologized profusely to her for my appearance, and then I asked to see the woman who gave us the quote on the job.

“Who are you with?”

She asked this as if I wasn’t “with” anyone.

I told her and I swear she picked up the phone and said, “Fred, you better get in here.”

Fred?  I wanted to see an Olivia!

Fred came from the back and started to say, “What can I do for…”

He donned the same look of utter fear as his eyes shot the receptionist a look as if to say, “go ahead and dial a ‘nine’ and a ‘one’ and keep your finger over that ‘one’, just in case.”

I began to murmer an incoherent and embarrased version of my story, apologizing way too much.  I realized that my explanation was making matters significantly worse… So I hastily pulled my backpack off and dug around for the faxed invoice; Fred and the receptionist tensed up, ready to duck behind the counter if I pulled out a revolver.

I handed Fred the faxed invoice which he studied and finally said, “OH YEAH! I remember Olivia telling me about this.”

Pure, unabashed relief for all three of us…

Fred opened up, “Rough day, huh?  Would you like to use our restroom to wash up a bit?”

“Oh no, no thanks.  I’m ok.”  After all, I had already washed my hands and face back at Pep Boys, so there wasn’t much more I could do, right?

We finished the business transaction and I thanked them and began my trek back to pep boys to see if they may have overestimated the time required to fix my tire.

On the way back, I eased up a bit.  The incident in the print shop could have been all in my head.  Maybe I was just misinterpreting their reaction?

I thought I would have a genuine chuckle about this back with my coworkers and they’d say, “Oh, you look just fine!  You look much better than I would have looked if I had been through what you have been through. In fact, I can’t even tell anything happened!”

So I was feeling a little better about the whole situation.

That is, until I was approached by the homeless gentleman.

“Oh boy,” I thought, “I’m going to have hear his sob story and then politely tell him I have no money to give.”

Sure enough, he began to tell me his story about how he needed to get to Dallas to see his daughter and that he likes to eat at the taco shacks because they are so cheap and that he’s been to several restaurants asking to wash dishes or clean up their parking lot.

It started to dawn on me, as he was telling me about some of the places he’s stayed, where the good corners were to “collect” from cars, and about some of the particularly nasty characters to avoid, that he wasn’t pitching me for a handout…

HE WAS TALKING TO ME AS A FELLOW HOMELESS PERSON…. A PEER!

That’s precisely the point when I decided I needed a shower before I went to my dinner meeting.

I shook his hand, wished him all the best, and told him I had some traveling to do myself before it rained again.

When Carol picked me up from Pep Boys, she didn’t say anything about my appearance… maybe she was being polite, maybe it was a good thing that I waited about 45 minutes in the air conditioned waiting room before I called her.

Either way, I never had a chance to get that shower, but luckily I had some deoderant and stuff at work to make a reasonable effort to clean up.

The car wasn’t ready until 6:30… we were already in San Marcos by that time, but I thought that maybe we would be home before they closed.

Of course, we weren’t… so Rip went way out of his way to give me a lift.

I jumped into the shower, and washed the day down the drain, wrote a quick blog entry (I started to write my recap the day, but decided I didn’t have the energy so I went with an easier topic), and crashed at about 11:30.

This morning, my brother gave me a ride to work… unfortunately he leaves at 6:30am, so I’m going to need a nap today.

So.  How was your Tuesday?