In Junior High School (7th -9th grades) I had a friend who fancied herself a linguist. She was always showing off a new language she was learning. I don't recall if she was ever fluent in anything; however, she taught me many phrases from some eclectic dialects. And from time to time I have occasion to remember her and one of her phrases. My recent funeral trip was one such occasion when I recalled the Siamese phrase she taught me...
A couple of weekends ago, on a Sunday we buried my cousin in Melissa (tiny town north of McKinney). Because it's a bit of a drive and I didn't want to be late, I decided to make a weekend of it and get a hotel in Seagoville, which is about a 45 minute drive away. It's also the town where one of my paternal Aunts lives, so I thought I would be able to see her as well sometime during the weekend. That was the plan.
On the drive to Seagoville, I either ran over something in the road or hit a jarring pot hole. A couple of months ago, when I turned too close to a culvert, I popped a tire and the sensor light came on immediately, and I learned an expensive lesson—blingy tires are okay; however, they must be standard size—otherwise you will be purchasing a wrong-sized, over-priced tire when it is the only thing available after hours on a weekend night.
After the jarring jolt, I anxiously stared at my dahs console—the one with more gadgets and gauges than the cockpit of a Lear Jet. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But the warning lights are pretty impressive—and very responsive—so when the warning light did not immediately come on I thought I might have dodged the new tire bullet.
And then I noticed the light.
I don’t know how I missed it before, but there it was. Next to the little car outline, in the passenger front position, there glowed a little orange light. It's near the triangle emergency flasher. I was in the middle of nowhere. Again. At the next exit I turned off the interstate and drove into a small town with absolutely no night life. And more importantly, no gas station or air compressor. In fact, the only establishment open was a small country store akin to Sam Drucker's General Store in the town of Hooterville, on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. I’m sure Sam Drucker would have had the odd sized tire my SUV requires, but this particular general store was nothing like Drucker’s.
I was told the closest air compressor would be in Italy. So, I drove to Italy and found an automatic air compressor (it stops automatically when your tire pressure reaches 30 psi). I added air and rechecked my sensor. It was still on. However, there was a truck stop nearby and it was suggested that perhaps the mechanics there would be able to repair my tire if it was in fact repairable.
Alas, their tools were all for semis, but even though it was after 6pm on a Saturday evening, the guy was awfully nice, and he aired up all four of my tires (he told me they were all running a little bit low and that the sensor light would come on if it was as little as 5 psi too low). He also told me about a tire chain that is supposed to be open at 7am even on Sunday. If I could just make it to the hotel then I could have my tire repaired or buy a new one before the funeral Sunday afternoon.
Then he told me a back roads “short cut” close to where my hotel was. Before you gasp in disbelief—No, I did not tell a total stranger where I was heading. I said South East Dallas. And unbeknownst to him, he told me directions to one of the two exits that go to my Aunts house. My hotel was an exit or two away. While he was telling me about the shortcut, my vivid imagination was already thinking about all the things that could go wrong if I took his shortcut: he could be setting me up; the shortcut was dim and back woods country—no mile markers to use if I needed to call for assistance; I could be stranded in a no phone service area; he could be working in cahoots with a nefarious slave trade ring…the scenarios got darker with each tick of the clock. I thanked him sweetly, asked his name and he pointed to his jacket with the embroidered name of Alpha. I immediately thought of Jesus being called the Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and the End), but I would not let this sway me into believing he was one of the good guys: the jacket could be someone else’; the name could be a made up plant to lure unsuspecting girls with a little knowledge of the Bible into trusting him… and again, the imagination got kind of wild.
Anyway, I ended up driving in the direction of the short-cut, fully intending to turn around once I was out of sight (so it would appear I was following his advice), and then turning around in another parking lot and getting back to the relative safety of the interstate. That was my intention.
However, I’m an idiot. I ended up taking the short cut all the way. Even though I knew better. Even though I tell the idiots in scary movies to be smart, I was being dumb. I knew better. Yet here I was making the wrong choice. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.
I watched my rear-view mirror like a hawk. No one was following me. I was starting to relax. Maybe he really was one of the good guys. Maybe he was my Guardian Angel. Maybe...
My thoughts turned dark again as I arrived at a very dark and secluded stretch of road. Nothing was in front of me except blackness. But there in the distance behind me were two sets of headlights.
They were gaining fast.
The sign said I was 12 miles from the nearest town. I sped up. The cars behind me gained on me. I didn't want to drive too fast and stress the tire; however, I also didn't want to lollygag and get caught between a couple of semis. I sped up.
The next sign loomed ahead: 9 miles. I sped up a little bit more. I didn't think I would make it before the cars behind me caught up. A third set of headlights appeared close in pursuit of the other two.
Cresting a hill I saw lights twinkling in the distance. The sign said: 6 miles. there was hope. I might make it after all. But then a fourth car had joined in. And by now they were close enough I could tell they were not cars at all—but they were also not semis. They were the Cadillac of Texas: a mixture of Dooley’s and SUVs. That did not reassure me. They could, and would, out run my dinky little mid-size SUV. I floored it.
The next sign: 4 miles.
But by a miracle, when I checked the rearview mirror I saw all four trucks turn down a dirt side road!
I was once again alone. Was it a trap? The false security to lull me into letting down my guard?
I didn’t let up on the gas until I was in town. I’m lucky I did not get a speeding ticket. Actually, the police office on duty had someone else pulled over. I thanked the other driver as I coasted past.
I found the interstate and got back on. I’d take my chances with blowing a tire on the interstate. After all, I had already proven the higher speeds weren't too much of a stressor on the tire.
I arrived at my hotel, and as I parked, I noticed the sensor light was off—then I remembered: some sensor lights need to reset with a total “reboot” of the engine before they will go off. I had not turned off the engine. Maybe that was all I needed to do after I aired the tire. Maybe I really am an idiot!
The next morning when I took Bandit out to potty, I checked—the sensor light did not come on.
At least not until that afternoon when I started to make the 45 minute drive to the cemetery.
I just hoped Melissa was large enough to have a WalMart with a tire shop.
The light never went off. But the tire never read as if it were losing air. So I kept driving. Maybe the sensor light needed to be recalibrated post-jolt.
I stopped at the Dealership Monday after work to have them check it out.
I am an idiot—the car outline? Not a car. It is the outline of a lock. The orange light? Not a tire sensor—it's a light that comes on when the car doors are locked. Unless I manually lock the doors (which I usually don’t) they automatically lock when I reach a predetermined speed. In other words, the reason I didn’t always see the light didn’t have anything to do with the fact that the tire was low on air (at least not this particular sensor light)—it was merely reporting the locked status of the doors.
It was at this point that I had cause to remember my Junior High School friend who was interested in linguistics, and the Siamese (now known as Thai) phrase she taught me syllable by syllable. I repeated the phrase over and over until I got it down pat. Then she taught me to say it faster and faster until it liltingly left my lips. The phrase was: “Ohhh—wha—tah—goo—si—ham.”
I will leave it to you to decide….