When we last talked, I was in a Walmart parking lot with 5 children on a cold day in January. I had a flat tire.
Well, I did the first thing any girl would do. I called Noah. Of course, he wasn't at his desk and so I got his voicemail, the voicemail message that I always hear when I have a crisis. Somehow or other he is only at his desk when I call him about something mundane like a child vomiting or throwing things. Never-ever is he at his desk when I am lost or have a flat tire.
(This is untrue. More than once I've guided her in real time like a spy movie - her driving the van, me navigating the satellite images on Google Maps. -NB)
After that I did the next thing any girl would do, I called my Dad. As I dialed the phone I realized something: Walmart has an automotive dept. Yes, it was at the other end of the parking lot, but it was there. I talked to my Dad and got the number for Walmart's automotive dept. My mom was willing to drive up, but just getting the tire fixed sounded easier than waiting for her and moving carseats around.
I got connected with the service center and told the girl that I had a flat tire in the parking lot, and was there anyway that someone could come out and put air in it or something? I mentioned something about how bad could it be just to drive on it across the parking lot? Clearly I don't understand the destruction driving on a flat tire can cause; I could tell that from the horrified expression in her voice. Clearly she doesn't understand that in situations involving 5 children and a flat tire, I care very little about cost or destruction, I just want things fixed as painlessly as possible.
The lady assured me that she would send someone out to assess the situation, and I gave her vague directions to my car. And then we waited. And as we waited, we ate those orange circus peanuts. And yes, they still sell them.
It took a long time, but finally someone came out to the car with an air tank. We looked at the tire. We could see a large metal thing protruding from the tire, and we could hear the hiss of the air escaping. I said, "it is not fixable, is it?"
He answered, "no", but was pretty confident that he could fill it with enough air so that I could drive it to their garage. And so he did, and then he told me to drive around the back, and warned me not to waste time.
We got to the garage without incident, and the kids and I all went into the waiting area. I told them just to put a new tire on it or whatever they had to do, since it seemed to be unrepairable. The tv wouldn't turn on, the fake flower arrangements were tippy, and the bunches still had their price tags attached.
The girl quickly returned and asked me where I got the tires. I told her and she said, "well, they look practically new. You have a warranty, right? You really should just put your spare on and go over there and have it replaced for free."
I explained that was all well and good but I don't know how to change a tire, and I just needed it taken care of. Let me pause here and say something. I am a frugal woman. A very frugal woman. But there are some times that I will not hesitate to spend money, and this is one of those situations. $500 to put new tires on and get me on my way? Ok. $200 for someone to help me with my spare? Ok. No problem. When I tell this story to any of my friends with 3 or more kids, they are right there with me - just please let me take my children home!
The girl sympathetically told me that they would put my spare on, and Deacon not so sympathetically informed me that I should really learn how to do some of these things. And so we sat down to wait. And wait. And wait some more.
What were they doing? My van went up, my van came down. People were looking at it, then doing other things. Then it went up again, then it came down again. Kids getting antsy, flower arrangements knocked over again, Deacon asking me too many questions as he pages through PEOPLE magazine.
Finally, a man comes in. He explains that they can't get the spare unattached from the bottom of the car. He says things can get corroded during winter, and if it hasn't been used for a while, it can get stuck. He put some spray on to loosen it up, but he told me it could take a couple of hours.
Well, we had already been in the waiting room for an hour, and everyone was pretty tired of it.
He told me that the tire hadn't really lost that much air, so they were going to fill it back up and then send me on my way to Discount Tire to get my replacment. Seriously, these people really didn't want me to spend money, because let me tell you, once again, I would have paid for four new tires if that was what it would take.
They filled it up and told me to get the kids ready, so we could be on our way quickly, since we didn't really know how much time I would have. We all went outside and got ready to hop in.
Only the van wouldn't start. The battery was dead. No really. Dead.
Now, this is a common thing for our van. The battery drains if certain doors get left open for too long. It always happens before we leave on vacation if we have spent too much time loading up the vehicle. Apparently it's a Chrysler/Dodge thing.
The guy who is trying to start the van looks at me like I am crazy as he headed to get the jumper cable things. The manager said he had a similar van with a similar problem. He explained to me how he solved it. We all filed back in. Walmart charged me nothing for any of their services, and for that, I did not call back and complain about the M&Ms.
Finally the van was running and the tire was full (for the moment). The guy said to me, "you better get moving. You have a bad tire and a bad battery." Thank you, Sir.
We said a prayer and started on our way. I called Noah and told him what was going on and asked him to leave work and to meet me at Discount Tire, because I didn't even really know if they would have time to fix it- it was nearly the end of the day.
I stopped at a gas station once to look at the tire, and it seemed ok so I continued on. Finally we arrived at Discount Tire. I hauled all 5 kids , the gallon of milk I had bought at Walmart and 8 yoplait yogurts into the building. I briefly explained to the guys what I needed (have I ever told you how much I love the guys at Discount Tire. Maybe it is their handsomeness, or maybe it is their charming personalities. Or maybe it is their particular skill set that will soon allow me to TAKE MY CHILDREN HOME!) After that, I took the kids to the bathroom, gave the baby some milk and told the older ones that they could eat all the yogurt, I didn't even care. Of course, we had no spoons so they were drinking the yogurt. One of the D.T guys gave me some spoons from their break room. Did I mention I love those guys?
The place was pretty busy, but they said they would be able to get to us soon. Deacon mentioned the hill out the back door and asked if they could go sledding. It's really more of a ditch. I blew up their penguin sled that was in the back of the van, and down the hill they went. And that is how Noah found us. All hanging out on swivel chairs, watching men work on cars, with an occasional spin down the hill.
They finished up the replacment, I paid my $15 to warranty the new one and we were on our way, slightly emotionally drained, but other than that, no worse for wear.
We made it to church just in time for the meal. The boys missed choir. My friend Renae heard my story and offered to take my Awana group if I would go home, put the girls to bed, and relax. And so I did. She is awesome.
My boys were great through the whole thing, I was really proud of them. The girls were troopers, and did pretty well for people of their age.
I have to admit though, that I am traumatized enough that I start getting a little nervous everytime I approach my car in a parking lot on a cold day...