It could have been worse
December 23, 2009
“It could have been worse.”
The old saying holds up for today’s series of disasters, and hinting that I am still haunted by Hank’s ghost.
Maybe I’ve just been thinking of him too much since tomorrow would have been his 60th birthday. (He died just after his 45th, and he remains in my mind, one of the icons of my life, the man who altered my fate’s direction for the better without his even knowing he did).
I thought I had everything in place this morning, feeding all the animals, getting then getting ready for work. I even warmed up the car, before I took off up the hill – only to hear that fateful rumble telling me I had a flat.
With so much snow on the ground, I had to pull over into someone’s driveway – and spent the next ten minutes yanking all the junk out of my trunk so I could find the electric pump I kept there for such occasions. But even after getting the pump out and pumping, I soon discovered the tire would not inflate – largely because there was a bolt as big as my pinkie inserted into one of the threads. So back to the trunk I went, dragging out more junk until I got out the donut that serves as a spare tire, and again through more junk, the jack, and then digging still deeper into the junk, the lug wrench. At which point, I discovered that the lugs to the tire were frozen and no matter how much I tortured them, they would not come off.
So I called home, telling Sharon the bad news. Since Cecilia gave up her cell phone, I had no way of reaching her and had to call work to tell them what had happened and to inform Cecelia of the problem when she finally got cold enough to find a phone and call them.
Then I called for a tow truck, and waited until the truck arrived to take my car to the tire repair place, where they quickly fixed the tire.
All this, of course, might seem trivial and negative except for the fact that it could have been worse. As with the trip to Cape May in 2008, the disaster occurred prior my taking a long trip, which means I was still local enough to handle the problem not on some remote highway since I am scheduled to go to see my daughter in Scranton tomorrow.
But the flat tire is also indicative of a Christmas Eve tradition Hank started in the 1970s, and around which his mythology partly revolves. One Christmas Eve, we got stranded in Passaic – Hank, Pauly, Garrick, Louis and me when Hank’s tire went flat on Main Street. We all hopped out of the car to fix in only to discover the spare was flat as well. The day after Christmas, Hank and I went to rescue the car, and couldn’t figure out how to get the jack to go down once we changed the tire and had to walk to the gas station where the attendant mockingly told us how to do it.
The next year, Hank pulled up to my mother’s house on Trenton Avenue in Paterson and said something was wrong with his steering. It was not his steering, and after changing his tire, we again discovered his spare was low, and drove the car to Charlie’s gas station next door to my family’s house to have both tires fixed.
Car accidents and breakdowns have been historic items in our lives. Once he called me at my uncle’s house in Tom’s River to come rescue him because his car had blown some plug while on the Parkway. Leaving our two car crashes out, flat tires plagued us most. Once on our way to Short Hills, Hank got a flat. He had a spare, but no tire iron. He didn’t want to leave the car so I hitched into town to try and find a tow truck, but could not, and when I got back to the car with the bad news, I found him seated in the car reading a comic book. Someone with a tire iron had stopped to help him a short time after my departure.
So I truly believe Hank continues to look over my shoulder, helping me to avoid the more serious disasters – such as getting too stranded. I guess maybe he is paying me back for all the years he tortured me with his.