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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why You Should Avoid Driving Over Trashbags

I do not know how to change a flat tire.  I have had various opportunities to learn, but never taken them.  Back when I was single, I kept a membership in AAA as my insurance against anything going wrong.  I never used it until I got married, and then only once.  After we moved to Cairo I let my membership lapse and had to laugh when I got offers to renew mailed to me in a foreign country where I didn't own a car.

Recently I was thinking about things like AAA and those long-ago opportunities to learn flat tire changing and concluded that none of those were necessary because in the fifteen years of driving I have never gotten a flat tire.  Ever.  I may have caused a four-car pileup, but no flat tires.  I'm not even quite sure about the exact location of my spare.  Maybe in the back somewhere?  Before leaving on a road trip once, Brandon asked me if our car has a jack and I had to shrug my shoulders.  I've never looked for one.  Because I don't get flat tires.

Cue ominous music.

So on last Thursday night I shut the door on the usual post-dinner mayhem and said good luck to Brandon before getting in the car to head over to our monthly Relief Society meeting.  When we were talking about the upcoming meeting, one of my friends commented that she always loves our meetings (which break up before ten at night, if we're lucky) because she gets the leave her five children home with her husband, spend the evening chatting with friends, and stay out late - and her husband can't complain because we're spending time at Relief Society!

As I zoomed up the hill past Bizim, trying to make up the minutes I had wasted looking up living conditions in a former Soviet Union capital, I saw a dumpster beside the road.  I'm still not sure how trash collection works around here for the general populace since ours works by putting anything we don't want on our porch beside the front door.  Unlike Cairo, however, I have actually seen garbage trucks and seemingly intentional placement of dumpsters throughout the city.

Spilling out of this dumpster were several bags of trash, strewn halfway across the road.  As I mentally planned my route up the hill, I considered the trash bags.  Who am I to be scared of trash bags?  I'm an American and don't slow to a crawl for two-inch potholes, so why should I be afraid of some plastic sacks filled with garbage?

Then Brandon's cautioning voice piped up and reminded me that I shouldn't take unnecessary risks and you never know what is in trash bags so just watch out and swerve like the rest of the scaredy-locals.  They might have a good reason for what they do.

The longer I've been married to Brandon, the more I've discovered that Brandon's little voice is often right, so I planned a trajectory that avoided the offending bags.

The things about roads around here, however, is that they contain cars going in two directions.  And this particular road also had bus 'stops' right around the dumpster area which narrow the road as everyone swerves around the buses stopped to pick up and drop off passengers.

So I had to balance my swerve between avoiding the garbage and avoiding the oncoming traffic, hopefully erring on the side of avoiding the traffic.  I must not have enough trash-swerving experience, however, because as I passed the translucent plastic lumps strewn across the road, I heard glass popping underneath my tires.

"Hmmm," I thought to myself, "I wonder if tires could be harmed by glass.  They're pretty thick, aren't they?  Avoid the bus!"  And then I concentrated on not hitting oncoming dump trucks.

Seven or eight minutes later I glanced at my glowing instrument panel-thing.  On it was an exclamation point outlined in a triangle and the car diagram lighted up, with the right front tire lighted up too.  And then I realized that yes, glass can cause your car tires problems.

At this point I was about a mile from the neighborhood where we were holding our activity.  It was dark and cold outside.  The car wasn't driving too irregularly.  The side of the road looked very cold and dark.  Maybe the tire was just slowly leaking.  And so I kept on driving until I pulled into a neighborhood side street.

Wanting to see how bad of a time I was in for, I pulled the car over to the side of the road and parked it.    I could hop out and see how the tire was looking, and then finish the drive to my friend's house and figure out what to do when I got there.  I jumped out of the door and walked over to the passenger's side.  As I took in the state of the tire, I realized that there was no more driving left in that particular tire - half of the air was gone.  So I got back in, pulled the car somewhere a little more out of the way, and called Brandon.

I knew he was getting the children ready for bed, so wasn't surprised when he didn't pick up his phone. When you combine a three-story house with three noisy children and Looney Toones, a politely ringing Blackberry sitting alone on the first floor doesn't have a chance.

I thought about calling the house phone, but then remembered that Joseph had yanked apart the wires that it was connected to the wall with.  So no house phone.  I was on my own.  On a dark side street.  In a foreign country.  With a very, very flat tire.  And no AAA to come help me.

So I did the only thing possible - I turned off the headlights, pulled the GPS off the windshield, turned of the motor, climbed out onto the muddy side of road, set the alarm, and started walking.  As I left my car alone, again, I hoped that I hadn't just made a very bad decision.  Baku isn't known for a lot of crime, I told myself.  And it was a quiet neighborhood street.  And we have dip plates.  And it was just going to be there overnight.  And hopefully it will be there in the morning.

While I walked the remaining half mile to my destination, I called Brandon repeatedly to keep myself company.  I had gotten to the eleventh attempt when I rang at my friend's gate and she let me in.

"Hey," I greeted her, out of breath from my vigorous walk, "could you have your driver pick up my car tomorrow morning after he's done taking everyone to school?  I got a flat tire and need it fixed."

The next morning around 9:30, my doorbell rang.  I opened it and Samir handed me my car keys.  "The car's in the garage with the tire fixed," he told me, "and it cost ten manat."

I don't think that AAA can beat that service.


PaulaJean said...

Glad it all worked out well!

Rita McCall said...

When it comes to flat tires or any other car problem, never say never. They come when you least expect it. I'm glad that it all worked out for you though. I'm sure there was a lesson or two learned from that experience – have a jack, keep a spare, and listen to your husband. LOL I wish also I had a local Samir to help with my car problems.