Yesterday evening I was sitting in my car in the ASU Cronkite lot, putting food in my face, when a guy came up to my window and indicated I should roll it down.
“Hi,” he said, “do you know you’re getting a flat tire?”
I’m pretty sure it took me something like twenty seconds to respond. It was Monday night, I was about to walk into my last in-person class of the semester, I was still recovering from a huge fundraiser my work had all day Saturday, I had about ninety seven end-of-the-semester assignments on my mind, I had just finished checking my email to discover I had at least twenty of them needing a reply and…
“Well, my light came on yesterday night,” I said vaguely. “Um, the pressure light. The light on my dash saying I need to fill the tires.”
The guy nodded. “Cool. Just wanted to be sure you knew.” And he walked away while I stared out my window, my bite of salad halfway to my mouth, wondering for the fortieth time in the last few weeks what I was doing, juggling a billion different things at the same time, doing nothing but school and work as evidenced by the fact that I was sitting eating dinner with my textbook propped open next to me in my car that was apparently getting a flat tire.
To ease my mind, I got out of my car and looked at the two tires on the driver’s side of the car. Somehow, within my completely fried brain, I made the connection that if those two tires were fine then all four of my tires were okay, albeit a little low on air. I figured that’s what the guy meant. My tires were just low on air. No problem. I’d fill them up tomorrow, at a gas station that was not in downtown Phoenix at night where I’m pretty sure not knowing how to fill tires would be the least of my problems.
I got back in my car, finished my food, checked my makeup in the rearview mirror to confirm I didn’t completely look like a zombie, gathered my books, and got out of my car again to go to class.
And looked at my other two tires.
Getting a flat tire, alright.
When I’m in my final stage of exhaustion before I completely break down, everything becomes funny to me. I think it’s a defense mechanism. Laugh so you don’t scream and bang your head into a wall cry. That sort of thing.
So I started laughing, thinking that my car had decided to show me what my brain was going to look like in a week or so, when all my classes are done and I completely forget the material I’d learned. I jokingly texted my boyfriend the picture of my tire with the caption “Wat do.” I figured dang, I needed to fill them, stat, especially the back right.
And long story short, because I didn’t want to go fill the tire at a gas station in downtown Phoenix at night by myself and he didn’t want me driving on a deflated tire, my boyfriend drove downtown so he could go with me.
Some knights don’t come riding up in shining armor. Sometimes they come driving beat up ’97 Saturns.
When I got out of class he was already at my car, investigating. When I’d texted him the picture, there was still a significant amount of air in the tire. At the point he arrived in the parking lot and I got out of class, it was completely flat. Crap.
We got out the spare and the jack, couldn’t figure it out, said screw it, and called AAA.
“Okay, so we’ll be there between now and 8:47pm.”
It was 7:20pm. Double crap.
Luckily, a very nice police officer nonchalantly rode up to us on his bike (there are cops that roam around campus during the day and the evening) and offered to help. At one point my boyfriend said that he thought we could handle it. The cop said, “I’m bored. This’ll give me something to do for a few minutes.”
Turned out he changed tires all the time and he changed mine in about twelve seconds. Alex called AAA to tell them not to come while the cop and I chatted about drunk students and drunk homeless people he’s had to deal with. Poor guy. Being a police officer can’t be a fun job.
Before I got in my car to drive home, he and my boyfriend both warned me not to drive fast on the freeway since the spare wouldn’t be able to handle it. “Be sure you go to somewhere like Discount Tires tomorrow – don’t go to a gas station to just get the others filled,” the cop said. My boyfriend and I thanked him profusely and he left.
It’s a slow drive through downtown Phoenix to the freeway, so I was fine driving reeeeeally slowly on the service streets. But once I got onto the freeway and started needing to go fast, people behind me started getting seriously pissed. I didn’t want to drive over 40-45, so when I was only going 45 in the acceleration lane everyone stuck behind my car wanted my blood.
So I did something that changed everything. I put on my hazards.
Now, I’m not entirely sure that driving with your hazard lights on is legal. Several cop cars blew past me and no one stopped me, so it must have been somewhat acceptable. Either way, I didn’t care.
Because once I put those hazards on, once I put out the message to my fellow drivers that hey, I need to drive slowly right now, dammit, so get off my freaking back, boy did those people change their tunes. People stopped tailgating and honking. They politely went around me and gave me distance and just let me and my car do our thing as we went clunkity clunk up the I17.
And in my state of utter exhaustion, there I was laughing the whole way. Somehow, it was just so appropriate. I couldn’t get over the fact that the minute I simply let the world know that my car was falling apart (sort of) and to back off while it was down, everyone went out of their way to make my life easier. Once they saw the hazards, they knew the situation was escalated and not to try and mess with me.
I imagined what some of the other drivers might have been thinking as they swerved around my car.
“CRAZY BITCH GET OFF THE ROAD YOU PIECE OF—Oh, hazards. How sad, she must be falling apart.” -swerve-
“Oh look, she’s about to go kaboom. Alright, I’ll give her some space.” -swerve-
It was simply amazing. I didn’t have to worry at all. Everybody just left me alone.
And I got to thinking about how this is where I’m at right now. Finishing up my semester, struggling to keep up with work without an administrative assistant, everybody needing something from me all at once, recovering from a 60 hour workweek last week, and very close to absolutely losing my mind. Falling apart. Trying to keep moving down the road with a flat tire.
So what do I need to do between now and May 9th, the start of my first glorious vacation since December, when I took three days off of work to go to Vegas?
I need to put on my hazards.
Do I want everyone to leave me alone? Of course not. And besides, I can’t stop working, because I’ve got an organization to run. I can’t stop doing school, because I refuse to let my grades take a hit.
But I sure can make it clear to the rest of the world that I need just a little bit of understanding. I need just a little more time to get where I’m expected to go. I need just a little bit of swerving around my slow-moving car at the moment.
So, other drivers? My hazards are on, and while the car isn’t stopping any time soon, for now it’s not going to go as fast until it gets that tire replaced.