Halloween is my favorite holiday. After that? Thanksgiving. No matter what social media account of mine you follow, you’ve undoubtedly seen my posts about food and drink. I love food. I love beer. I love wine. I love adult spirits. And Thanksgiving is a great holiday for me to revel in just about all of them. A day of food, drink and football. How brilliant. Thus, I tend to take the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving off to finalize my menu and shop accordingly. However, I hate crowds. Hate. Them. With a passion. When I find myself trapped in a crowd, I envision, with utter bliss, cutting my way through them with a chainsaw. So, I plan my Thanksgiving grocery shopping around the schedule I deem to be crowd aggravation free. Pretty much right when the store opens.
I had this morning planned perfectly. The kids and I would take my mother (who lives with us) to work, we’d use her car to go to Fred Meyer (aka Kroger in the rest of the nation) and pick up the few items I’d need from there, then we’d swing by New Seasons (a local/better version of Whole Foods) and pick up our organic, chemical free turkey, then we’d kick back and watch a flick and fold laundry whilst sipping Spiced Cider. Puuuuurfect.
I wake up. It’s windy. Pouring enough rain to drown a fish. I decide against going for a run and plan to do 30 minutes of My Fitness Coach on the Wii instead. In fact — I’ll make it a combined father and kids work out! I’ll wear the little buggers out so they’re less squirrely! I smile like the Grinch at my bitchin’ thinkin’. Sooo frakkin’ smart you are, Sir. A Child Wear-Out Scheme disguised as “quality time”. They don’t make ’em as smart as you anymore bucko. Not. At. All.
Despite the naysayers (aka my spouse) the kids do exactly as I asked them to do the night before by getting up early and getting dressed quickly (in your face!). They are reporting for duty and ready to go right on time, Sir! I send my mother and the kids out to the car as I gather my coupons, my lists, my wallet, my phone. I throw-on a hoodie and jeans. Yeah, it’s pouring rain, but the rain coat can be a pain. I’ll be fine. All right — I’m ready to go!
The back door opens and my mother walks in and says, in her perpetual I Told You So Voice (because the world is always plotting against her), “Happy Thanksgiving! The tire’s flat!” Rather than thinking about the tire and the problem it’s going to pose to my well laid plans, my immediate thought is that I bet my mother couldn’t wait to say that line. I bet she even worked on her delivery whilst walking back up the driveway, trying to figure out the tone that has the best chance of convincing my wife and I that she’s been right all along and the world is, in fact, plotting against her constantly. Twenty-four-seven. A cabal of “they” plotting… scheming… snickering with pee-pee dance glee at the chaos “they” are going to cause.
I don’t take the bait. In the past, I have been quick-tempered about these kind of things. I’m not spontaneous. I hate surprises. I like plans. I like schedules. I don’t like the unexpected or chaos factors. But as of late, I have tried to go with the flow a lot better. With my wife serving her first year as a Vice Principal where work hours and responsibilities have increased significantly, I’ve had to take on more of the load on the home front and that shit doesn’t exactly go smoothly no matter how well you have it planned. I’ve been forced outside of my comfort zones and have, I feel, rolled with it quite well with little outburst of temperament, if any. I’ve tried to be her rock at home, leaving her little to worry about so she can just come home and relax. So far, so good, if I do say so myself.
The flat tire. Fine. I calmly change plans. My wife will take my mother to work, then I’ll move the car into the driveway and change out the tire. Easy peasy. It’ll delay my plans for about an hour, but whatever. That’s life. No biggie.
I move the car into the drive. It’s the rear passenger tire. Very flat with a brand new roofing screw sticking out of it. No doubt picked up from the office parking lot where roofers have been doing repair work. I open the rear of the car to get the jack out and am greeted with a large box of clothes and toys I’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill. Okay — we’ll do that today, too. I take the box out of the car. There’s a moment of heave, the sense of lifted weight, and then a sense of give followed by the immediate clatter of plastic crashing onto the cement. The bottom of the box has given out, the toys scattering across the driveway like rabid mice; tinker toys, stray doll clothes, teeny tiny farm animals, stray army men, stray firemen, battered hot wheels. Great. Okay. No big deal, I’ll just get the kids out here help me pick this up after I change the tire. Wait — bad idea. Because if I do that then every freaking toy is suddenly going to become their “favorite!” toys ever. Screw it. I’ll just… yeah. Fine. Whatever. Let’s just get the tire changed first. It’s pouring out here.
I locate the lug wrench. Um… where’s the car jack? Anyone? Anyone? I distinctly remember when my mother purchased this used car, asking the dealer if all the car jack and spare tire materials were in the car. “Absolutely,” he said. Well, absolutely not exactly. Lug wrench? Yup. Jack? No. Insert heavy sigh here. Okay… Pamela and my mother just left, she can just swing back by and I’ll use the jack from our car.
Pamela comes back to the house, and whilst retrieving our jack, I ask if she has noticed that, thus far, I appear to be even-tempered and have not said one curse word. She begrudgingly admits I am unusually calm considering the fly in my ointment. The sabot in my machine. The cluster in my fuck.
She heads to work. I proceed to jack up the car. Aaaaand the jack doesn’t go high enough. While I could probably remove the fla, there is no way I’ll be able to slide the fully inflated spare on. Okay, what now? Think man! Gerbrock! A car repair shop around the corner on Killingsworth. They’ve worked on my mother’s old car (which had a jack by the way) multiple times, and recently worked on this one. Good people we found through the Car Talk website. I give them a ring. They think they may have a jack I can use. I gather up the kids and, in the pouring rain and raging wind, we start walking over. Along the way the wind turns our umbrella inside out, nearly sending Eleanor tumbling to the ground in the process. Fuck it. We don’t need the umbrella. We’re Portlanders. Not Californians who go into panic mode once the first drop of rain hits the windshield.
We arrive at the mechanic, cold, soaked. He’s actually doesn’t have a normal car jack we can use, but we can certainly use one of the hydraulic jacks they use in the garage. About the size of a vacuum cleaner, it’s about fifteen to twenty pounds and works on any vehicle. I offer him my driver’s license to hold and a credit card. He waves it off. “Naw, that’s fine. You’re a neighbor.” Wow. Okay. I mean — wow. I promise to have it back in no more than 40 minutes. The kids and I trudge home in the wind and rain. The jack has wheels, but pulling it along the sidewalk proves to be tough going, so I just carry it all the way.
I get home. As I start jacking up the car — “Hey,” Eleanor says. “What are all these toys doing in the driveway?”
“Is that –?”
“Get in the house,” I spew as I finally get the car propped up just the right height.
“We’ll talk about it later. House. Now. Before your toes turn black and we have to cut them off.”
“Frost bite Eleanor!” Dominic hollers. “We’ll get it from the wind and the rain!”
“That’s right,” I confirm. “You’ll also get sick. Sick with no toes on Thanksgiving would suck. A lot. Go!” They run inside. Ten minutes later — VIOLA! The spare is on! Thank Crom!
All right, now all I have to do is toss the jack in the car, pick up all the toys in the driveway, then we’ll drop off the jack at the mechanic’s and head to the store and we’ll only be — oh — two hours behind schedule. Not bad considering.
However, The jack won’t fit in the car. It has a loooong handle that doesn’t collapse and won’t allow me to close the hatch. I try the back seat. Ditto. Okay, I am not walking this thing all the way back to the mechanic with two kids in the wind and the rain. One of the kids is just going to have to ride with this thing on their lap and a window rolled down for the handle to stick out. Simple. They’ll get a little wet, but we’re already soaked so, whatever.
I start gathering the toys, grabbing a paper grocery bag containing clothes. The bag, soaking wet, comes apart. The wet clothes plop onto the wet concrete along with a bottle of — GLITTER!
The cap of which was either not fastened, or broken, or never existed in the first place. And now the wet clothes, and toys, and my wet pants, and wet hoodie, and soaked shoes, are covered with glitter and I now look like a fawking homeless TWILIGHT vampire in a Steelers hat. Groovy.
And it’s at this point I start to think about PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES which we watched for family movie night the other evening. Because what is happening today would be utterly hilarious in a John Hughes film. Clark Griswald is having a stellar day in every VACATION movie compared to what’s going on here. If an audience were watching this, this would be high comedy! Not so much in real life.
“KIIIDS!” I holler. No response. “KIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDSSSS!!!!” Cherub faces appear in the window. Who? us? I wave them out. The wet ragamuffins drag their soaked behinds out. I lay down the law. “Have I yelled?” They shake their heads. “Have I said mean words?” Shake. “Do we all want to keep it that way?’ Nods. “Then here’s what’s going to happen… I’m going to go inside and get two trash bags… we are going to pick up these toys, and the clothes, and we are NOT going to discuss keeping any of them. Doing so will result in very bad things. You hear me? VERY bad. Comprende?”
“Um,” Eleanor starts.
I glare at her. “What?”
“Why were the toys in the box?” she asks.
“Because you haven’t played with them in forever, most of them are your baby toys, you’re not a baby and they should go to babies who will play with them.”
I stare at her in expectation of her inevitable, patented Eleanor retort, and instead get: “It’s really raining a lot.”
“Yeah,” I reply. “A lot.”
“Come on, Eleanor,” Dominic says as he starts picking up the clothes and toys. As I head into the house I notice the front driver’s side tire is incredibly low… sticking out of it? A fawking roofing screw. Really? Two flat tires?! Really???!!! And just as I’m about to tear off into the loudest, fiercest, most well-earned onslaught of profanity, I think about… Dominic and Eleanor picking up wet clothes and toys covered in glitter in the driveway… and the fit they did not throw because they wanted to be helpful… the restraint they showed because they knew it would make the situation worse did not deserve to be rewarded by my going off on a tirade anyway. I was not, I firmly decided, going to be my father.
Okay — the tire is not entirely flat. It’s obviously a slow leak otherwise it would be flat already like the rear tire. There’s still time. I give the kids new directive: the toys MUST/HAVE TO/NO CHOICE BUT TO GET THEM INTO the bags REALLY FAST otherwise we’re screwed! If we get them picked up fast, we can race to the mechanic’s and maybe they can fix both tires. So, together, cold, wet and beleaguered, we gather the wet clothes and toys and race to the mechanic’s. I return the jack. Apologizing for taking so long. “I wasn’t worried,” the owner responds. I inquire about tire repair. I REALLY want to give them my business for being so kind. They don’t do tire repair, unfortunately. But, he has a tire pump and can add air to the front tire which will get me to a tire repair shop.
We roll into Les Schwab… soaked… cold… hungry… I know Les Schwab repairs flats for free, but two flats? Not likely. We head over to Subway for a healthy breakfast. It only takes them an hour to fix the tires. No charge. “Really?” I ask. “Two flats and no charge?” The repairman shakes his head. “Naw. Just consider us when you get your next set.”
I gather the kids, tell them it’s finally time to go home. We’ll toss our clothes in the dryer and do at least half of the running around we were going to do.
As we head to the door, relieved at the thought of getting out of our soaked, cold clothes very soon, Eleanor laughs out loud. “What?” I ask her.
“This has been the worst day EVER!” she says with a smile.
“No kidding,” Dominic affirms.
I think about the kindness of the folks at Gerbrock, the kindness of the folks at Les Schwab, and the fact Eleanor is still able to laugh after the day we had, and I tell her “Not really. We got one heck of a story our of it didn’t we?”