Friday, August 18, 2006

Idle idyll on the asphalt

Two days ago I got a flat tire.

I was in a hurry, as usual, racing to meet a friend for dinner, and as I pulled out of my driveway I immediately heard the sickening "flub" and felt that pulling to the side that signaled the nasty news. Drat.

Off to the gas station, which was still open. But the tire wouldn't fill with air. This was much worse than the usual flat--this tire was a goner. Finito.

No, of course they didn't have one in stock that matched the others. And these days spare tires are those little doughnut thingees that don't allow you to go over fifty-five miles per hour, and the next day, as luck would have it, I needed to do a lot of highway driving. So the doughnut fix would be a very temporary one.

Yesterday I resentfully resigned myself to spending time I didn't think I could spare driving over to the discount tire place. I resentfully resigned myself to spending money I didn't want to fork over purchasing the mate to the others.

Plus, the waiting room in a discount tire place was not exactly where I wanted to be. There were the usual plastic chairs and car magazines from 2003 (it was a very good year), along with the gumball machine and the water cooler. There was a woman chattering on her cellphone, laptop perched in a place one doesn't usually see it--her lap--frantically doing business, multitasking away.

I went outside for a moment to get my own cell phone before returning to settle in for the wait. But before I reentered the room I stopped for a moment. And when I stopped, I realized something: even though I was in a strip mall gazing at acres of asphalt, a Lowe's, a Radio Shack, and all the usual trimmings, it was a beautiful beautiful day.

And not just a beautiful day. It was a glorious day, a spectacular day. It wasn't just the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds and the perfect seventy-two degree temperature. There was something in the air, some freshness and cleanness, some mix of ions and light and smells that made it seem like air from a different time and place, a better one. It struck me that I needed to stay outside and simply breathe in that air, and relax.

So that's just what I did. And when my car was ready, it seemed as though the wait hadn't been nearly long enough.

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