It was a gorgeous fall day. I drove slowly, despite being a little on the late side. I was too busy taking in the beautiful golds and rusts of the autumn aspen leaves to hurry.
I was having dinner with classmates, miles from home. After not having seen TheDog in days, after being in Texas for nearly a week prior.
Work was crazy busy, but winding up the mountain roads made it slip out of my mind. I didn't have a care. Only thoughts of my class and conference, and how nice it would be to see colleagues I rarely get to see.
As I made my way down from the tunnel, something felt not quite right. My first thought was to just keep going, I was only a half of an hour from my destination, and I'd just checked the tires before I left.
Then a little voice from somewhere said, maybe you should exit. Yes, the exit right there, check your tire pressure at that gas station, maybe even get a latte.
Maybe it was the clarity of that voice or though. Maybe it was the promise of caffeine. Whatever it was, something made me cut across two lanes of traffic to the exit ramp.
As I slowed down, I felt a thud, and slowly pulled to the side of the exit ramp. As I stepped out of my car, my tire tread came rolling down the exit ramp after me.
I looked at the tire, or where it had been, and all that was left was a rim with a little bit of rubber sprouting from the edges.
I realized I was shaking. But quickly started thinking about what to do. My first thought was to try to change the tire myself, then call AAA. But first I wanted to let those expecting me for dinner know that I would be late. I called my friend in the class to have her tell the others I'd be late.
As luck would have it, for the second time that night, she was just coming down from the tunnel herself, and asked if I wanted her to stop.
By the time she pulled off the highway, I had all of the various work and fun related items out of my trunk and into the back seat, and the spare tire out. I had tried to budge a lug nut, but to no avail. She also tried to loosen them, also without any movement.
Just as I was about to call AAA and resign myself to wait an hour or so for them to show, a very nice guy in a pickup stopped and offered us assistance. In about 15 minutes he had the tire changed, and had inspected the others for me. He was confident I'd be alright to continue on my journey, as I have a full-size spare.
My friend offered to give me a ride from there, leaving my car at a shop where we were, and getting a ride back to it after the conference from someone else in the class.
For some illogical reason, I felt I needed to make the drive. My friend followed behind me as we continued up and over the pass, at a very reduced speed. As every bump in the road had my knuckles turning a paler shade.
When we finally arrived at dinner with our classmates, I drank a glass of red to calm my nerves, and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the dinner.
Post-dinner drinks in the hotel bar, a great class, a fun night at the casino, and interesting conference talks all came to an end with a phone call from my mom.
When I saw she'd called, in the middle of the day, my heart jumped into my throat. God, please let TheDog be ok. She was, but my sister's water had broken. And as I snuck out of the conference a day early, I knew why it had been so important for me to drive my car there the other night.
I do believe in God and angels and something watching over us. But my usual bad luck couldn't have turned out better. I shudder to think what might have happened if I'd stayed on the highway going much more than the 15 mph I was going when the tire blew. And I could never have forgiven myself if I'd missed my adorable little niece being born.
Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, again, a not-so-great thing turned out to be just fine. Really good, even.