Part of the spotty posting lately is the result of the overlap between mourning my mother's death and impending nuptials of the daughter, known affectionately since her infancy as "La Nana." It was in this last context that I found myself once again on the 75 hurtling toward Tampa to retrieve the aforementioned offspring.
The last time I made the same trek, I wound up fish-tailing across three lanes of an interstate with nary a scratch. My psyche, however, was scarred. I no longer trust my midlife crisis car and would have traded it in if it weren't for the aforesaid wedding. So this time, I decided that to be safe I would take Mom's sedate Chevy. Although I haven't been able to change the registration and such, the insurance is up to date. The way I figured it, safety trumped legal nicety.
So I get on the highway. The car is riding a bit rough, but I figure it's the pavement. After all the front tires are new, right? But since I'm traumatized anyway, I'm going pretty slow, to the chagrin of the drivers behind me. Still, it don't feel quite right, so I decide I'll get out at the rest stop by the Skyway Bridge and check it out. Just about that time, I hit something on the road. Correction: it feels like I hit something on the road because there is nothing on the road. The car starts swerving. Fortunately I'm in the right lane this time and going slow. Unfortunately, I'm also in the middle of a substantially large bridge over the Manatee River with a four foot wide shoulder. All the time, I'm automatically wrestling the car into submission, my brain is saying, "This can't be happening again!" Alas, it was. Climbing over the shift, preferable to getting my door blown off, I scoot out the passenger side. There is essentially no right front tire. All that remains is a rubbery fringe around the rim. Yessiree.
Now I'm thinking, "What am I going to do?" I have no cell phone, refusing to carry one. The Little One is at the airport. She won't know what happened. The registration and insurance is at home with the packet of stuff for Motor Vehicles. The wind is battering me; traffic is fast and furious; my perch, narrow and precarious. I debate whether I should leave the car and walk off the bridge. It does seem the only way to get help, but I have visions of a codger seeing me on the edge of the road and following his line of vision with his motor vehicle. Then a huge, and I mean huge, flatbed pulls onto the shoulder about a block in front of me and proceeds to back up. Salvation or serial killer, I wonder?
This incredibly wonderful human being in a blue uniform with an Irish lilt to his speech and Irish gold in his heart proceeds to change my tire. Incredible that there are still such people. Despite some trouble with my newfangled jack which I unearthed from all the Mom memorabilia in the trunk, he did it one-two-three. Miraculously, I actually have cash in the pocketbook. I try to give him a present, because nothing can repay what the man just did for me, but he will not take a penny. His only request that I do someone else a favor. Reminds me of a country song.
I make it to the airport almost in time. My first words: "Next time fly to Sarasota. I don't care how much it costs." Amen.