They say experience is the best teacher. If so, my dad was a good instructor. He was the type who would toss you in the water to teach you to swim. That’s sometimes referred to as the “sink or swim” technique.
It didn’t work with me. I sank like a stone.
When I was twenty, I worked in the bookkeeping department of a small-town bank. I came out of work one day, to a flat tire on my car. No problem. Dad’s office was nearby, so I went back inside the bank and called him.
When he answered, I said, “My tire’s flat. Can you come and help me?”
Momentary silence. “No can do. You fix it.”
“I don’t know how.”
“It’s time you learned.”
Long pause, filled with heavy breathing (mine). “So, you’re not coming?”
“You don’t need me.”
Okay. Back at my disabled car, I waited. He was only kidding. He would come. He couldn’t really expect me to change a tire. Could he?
Half an hour passed. A big, long, empty half hour.
A lump rose in my throat, and tears gathered as I glanced down at my just above knee-length work skirt, pantyhose, and high heeled shoes. I spread my fingers. Newly manicured nails. No!
Once more, I took in the surrounding downtown area. People walking, cars passing. No Dad.
I stared at the offending tire. Even if I could change the thing, I’d put on a show out here, wrestling with a stupid tire in a not-made-for-auto-repair outfit like the one I had on.
Desperation filled my lungs, replacing the air. Panic cruised through my veins. I sucked in a deep breath and exhaled, chewed my lip and wrung my hands. What to do?
Reality set in. He wasn’t coming. My Dad, who was supposed to look after me and protect me, wasn’t coming. Anger took hurt’s place.
After a deep, cleansing breath, I unlocked the trunk and looked at the spare tire. OK, now what?
I decided he was just smiling, not laughing. I detected sympathy. I could work with that. This could be Prince Charming.
I nodded, and may have swiped at a tear. “Flat tire.”
He pulled into a nearby parking space. I waited.
When he joined me, I recognized him as one of the management trainees at the same bank where I worked. “Yep, flat tire.” He rolled up his sleeves. Then he lifted my spare out of the trunk, along with a couple of tools I hadn’t noticed before.
He didn’t turn out to be my prince charming, but he rescued me, all the same. Then he got back on his white horse and rode away. Actually, it was a silver GTO, if memory serves correctly.
I drove home, feeling pretty good about the way things turned out. Dad was right, I didn’t need him. Maybe I hadn’t actually changed that flat tire, but I’d figured out how to get it done.
I nodded. Yes, I had.
“Well, now you know how to do it, don’t you?”
I thought for a minute. Should I tell him what really happened?
He patted my shoulder. “I could’ve come to help you, but I wanted you to learn how to take care of yourself. What if I wasn’t around? What would you do then?”
I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.” I had learned something that day. Being a woman had its advantages. I’d gotten my tire changed without making a spectacle of myself, or breaking a nail.
And so far, I’ve never changed a tire. 🙂
Click to Tweet: They say #experience is the best #teacher. If so, my dad was a good instructor. He was the type who would toss you in the water to teach you to swim. What a Flat Tire Taught Me from @batowens