​​Changing a Tire

Coming of Age    |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

While we’re on the subject of cars, I’m reminded of another story. I grew up around the Chicago area and went to school in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods at the time; before downtown living became fashionable and gentrification was still decades into a sci-fi future where slum lords had wet dreams about the value of rotting planks and dirt by the square foot.

But, the 60’s were also a time of valuing and treating others in ways that are meaningful to all of us. Families and friendships were born and bound forever, and empathy had yet to rust away; when an offered hand was empty and meant for support. Maybe we just didn’t know any better way.

I had a flat in the trough of the Eisenhower freeway just before it intersected the Dan Ryan. I pulled my old Ford Fairlane out of the traffic lanes and examined the rear driver’s side tire. It was whispering Adios Amigo with its last breath. I popped the trunk lid and dragged out the jack.

With the backend raised, I started on the lugs when I heard a vehicle pull off the freeway in front of me and back up. A man got out when the traffic allowed and walked toward me. Great, I thought, I could use a helping hand. But he stopped at the front of the car and lifted the hood.

“Hey, what are you doing?” I yelled.

The man looked out around the motor and stared at me.

“It’s okay, you can have the tires,” he finally said. “I just want the battery.”

“Yeah, like it’s my car.”

“Oh, my mistake,” he said calmly. The man closed the hood and walked back to his truck.

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