Turn off the “Dagnabit!”

Firing up for the balloon flight that was.

Firing up for the balloon flight that was eventually to be.

The balloon ride was not to be. My daughter, Laurel, and I and rose at 4 a.m., and left the house at 4:30. I drove two hours before one of my tires suddenly went flat on the highway. Dagnabit!

In moving the car down the road to a safe place to change the tire in the pre-dawn gloom, I shredded the tire. Dagnabit!

Intending to quickly replace the tire with the spare, I opened the trunk and learned that those little packages that came with the car were not a tire iron and jack, but two tire irons. No jack. Dagnabit!

Having to hunt down a jack meant that Laurel and I were going to miss our scheduled balloon flight, and on such short notice there would be no refund of the rather pricey fee.  Dagnabit!

I felt anger and frustration begin to flare up like a hot air balloon burner inside me, but I decided I could not let it color this time with my daughter, that no matter what happened, we would both be better off if I kept my cool, if I just went with the flow and let the day unfold as it would. Everything was pretty much out of my control, anyway. I made the conscious decision to turn off the “Dagnabit!” and make the best of the situation.

First, I called the balloon pilot, who let me know that he was just about to call me to cancel the flight, because the wind was picking up, and it would be too dangerous to fly that day. I was grateful, as this meant that I could reschedule, so I would not lose what I had pre-paid for the flight.

Next, Laurel and I walked to a gas station in the darkness along a secondary highway. There, I bothered customers until I found one who had the right kind of jack. Bret did not just loan it to us, he drove us back to the car and changed the tire–dirtying his office worker’s hands and he surely made himself late for work, but refused the money I offered him as a token of appreciation.

Good Samaritan Brett also directed us to the “Hi, Neighbor” restaurant, where everybody was old and country and nice, and and Laurel and I had a hearty breakfast. My daughter ate her chocolate chip pancakes and smiled delightedly at me as we heard this conversation between the three elderly women at the next table:

“Where is Betty today?”
“She is not coming here anymore. Not since they raised the price of the egg sandwich from a dollar to a dollar-thirty.”
“Have you seen the price of eggs at the Food Lion lately?”

When I asked a staffer about places to buy a tire, the “neighbor” directed us to a mechanic who had some tires. However, he did not have any in the right size for my little car, so he sent us to a tire shop down the road several miles. “You can’t miss it,” the man said. “There is nothing else there but a little post office.”

Sure enough, the little concrete block building was very obvious, in the middle of nowhere, with an enormous pile of tires out front. It was the dirtiest place I have ever seen, so dirty that my daughter and I were hesitant to touch anything. However, everyone was very friendly and helpful. While Laurel and I made note of the ancient photos, thick cobwebs, dirt-smeared walls and unbelievably filthy restrooms, the staff identified the correct tire size, jacked up the car in the gravel drive, replaced the tire, and we were back on the road in about 30 minutes, at a cost of only $30. 

I drove toward the interstate and Laurel noted that, “This seems like entirely too much to have happened before nine a.m.” Indeed, it did. Another two-hour drive and we were home again. The balloon flight did not occur for another four months, but we still had a little adventure that day, one that still makes us smile, because I chose to turn off the “Dagnabit!” and instead let serendipity make our day.

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