I walked back to her place, rang the bell, and explained the situation. She asked me, "Do you want me to help you change it?"
I paused, briefly speechless. I was stunned by the suggestion. That hadn't been what I'd expected at all! Quite frankly, I had expected her to go upstairs and wake up her dad. He would know just what to do; I certainly didn't.
I was still young. I had just moved out of my parents' home and into my first apartment, but it certainly hadn't been long. I was still adjusting to the idea that there aren't "dad problems", or "mom problems" anymore -- there are just problems. I was still getting used to the idea that I could (and was even supposed to!) resolve things on my own.
But of course I couldn't voice all of this. If fachless thought we could change a flat tire, then I certainly was not going to disgrace us both by asking for her dad's help. So I thanked her, she grabbed a flashlight, and we walked back to inspect my car.
It turned out to be not all that difficult. We opened the trunk, moved the carpet out of the way, and there was a plastic lid covering the spare tire well. Under it was everything we'd need to jack up the car, remove the flat, and attach the donut spare tire. On the lid were detailed instructions, complete with diagrams. They were smudged with age, but still readable. Between our coordinated effort, the flashlight, and several inspections of the instructions, we changed the tire without any problem.
I was really proud of us -- girl power! I'd never thought of myself as the tire-changing or car-fixing type, and I certainly didn't know what I was doing. But with her confidence, I discovered that really all a task like that needs is a willingness to give it a try. It's not complicated, and it does come with directions after all.
When I found myself with yet-another flat tire a few weeks later, in my own parking lot, I didn't even need any help. I took care of it all by myself! I found it challenging, but just moving slowly and being extra-careful was all it needed. And it is such a good feeling, to know I can change a tire.
Fast-forward several years, and my younger sister and I are both working in the same city, so we meet for lunch one day. She pulls up outside my office, and when she stops I notice that her tire is flat. She gets out of the car, and we both inspect it ruefully. "Now what do we do?" she asks me.
"We go to lunch, and we hope it is better by the time I get back," is my suggestion.
We walk across the street for lunch, but the tire is still flat when we return. Perhaps even flatter.
We are both in business clothes. She is wondering if we should call a truck. I tell her, "Let's change it. I know how to do it, and I can show you. It's not that hard. Besides, we're right in front of a big office building. In all likelihood as soon as we start some nice guy will come help us out, probably insisting to do the job for us." Neither of us feel like getting dirty, but eventually she agrees to the idea.
We pull out her tools and instructions, look them over, and jack up the car. We're two nicely-dressed girls, trying to change a tire without getting grease on their skirts, in front of a building covered in windows. There is even a car parked several yards back with an old man sitting in it, watching us. Nobody, not one person, comes up to offer any assistance.
"Chivalry is dead!" she moans, struggling with the lug nuts. We can't get the bolts off, so we can't remove the tire and replace it with the spare. We take turns struggling with it, barking our knuckles, getting progressively more and more frustrated.
Finally a couple of guys comes out; one is a friend of mine from the third floor. He confesses that they were watching us out the window, then finally decided to come see if we need a hand. Finally! "Chivalry isn't quite dead after all!"
Our rescuers each take a turn struggling with the stubborn nuts, then finally we realize: the tire iron from my sister's trunk has a thin crack in it, just enough to keep it from locking tightly onto the lug nuts. My friend goes to get his truck, and emerges from it carrying a better tire iron. With the new tool, the tire come off quite easily, much to everyone's vast relief.
After that, the job proceeds quickly, with the
Okay chivalry isn't quite dead, but it does seem dangerously ill at times. But really, who needs a guy to change my tires for me anyway? (Even if it is handy now and then, especially when I want to stay clean.) But it's satisfying to know that I can do it myself; there is nothing intrinsically masculine about car maintenance....nor most anything! It's just a question of whether I want to do something, not whether I can.
I don't know what brought these stories to mind yesterday, but it's good to remember such things sometimes!