Now you’d think that the blown tire on the side of a Wyoming interstate and hours and hours of waiting to be rescued would be enough. Add to all that the time spent waiting for two new tires to be put on my car, and you’d think as I did that it was about time for things to start going my way for a change. But no, it seems not.
Tony, the fellow who had replaced my tires and helped me put my car back on the dolly where it belonged and plugged in all the cords to make the electrical system work, noticed that the wheel of car dolly was less than stable. One of the holes where the bolts attached the wheel to the vehicle was hollowed nearly all the way so you could have lifted the tire off over the lug nut if that had been the only one on the dolly. Fortunately it wasn’t but it still looked none too safe, considering that the bolt next to it had no lug nut at all. Ah, now that looked like an easy fix. I asked him if he had a lug nut he could put on it. One loose bolt was one thing but two loose bolts was definitely tempting fate, and given the trip so far, I wasn’t interested in doing that. Tony did indeed have a few spare lug nuts lying around the shop so he tried a couple of them and found one that had a tight fit. That solved that problem for now. I was almost ready to get back on the road. They just needed for finalize the bill, and I could get my car keys and hit the road again.
I noticed that the sun had shifted and that the cab was no longer completely in the shade so I hopped back in the truck, cranked it up, and turned the air on again to cool down the cab so the cats would be okay while I went back inside. I followed Tony back into the store to run my credit card. When I returned I realized with a touch of horror that I’d locked both truck keys in the truck with the cats. While Dustin was a most helpful cat, he had never overcome that lack of opposable thumbs handicap. Not that he hadn’t tried, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be able to help me out here.
I’d been in the habit of keeping one of the truck keys on my car keys and one with the truck key ring so I could lock the cats in the car with the engine running and air conditioning cooling them while I made pit stops of one type or the other. I always took the car keys with me so I could activate the car alarm and lock the doors on it when I left the vehicles unattended. After all, the car was full of my belongings. I couldn’t leave the car alarm engaged while driving because all the jarring from travel would have set off the alarm multiple times a day. So I had a system already by this point in the trip. Only in removing my car keys for the tire folks meant separating truck key from car keys. In hindsight, I realize that was a bad idea, but hindsight is always based on the very experience you were trying not to have and did anyway.
So, yes, I had gotten back out of the truck, and somehow locked both keys inside. One was in the ignition so the cats would have air conditioning while I went back inside, and the other was wherever I’d stowed it in the cab when I had detached it from my car keys. Okay then, now what? I walked back inside and approached Tony, my angel of the day. He came out with a can-do attitude and a wire hanger and went to work trying to pop the handle up. Only it didn’t work despite the fact that I had so cleverly left the windows cracked and the air conditioning running. My absent-mindedness was working for me and against me at the same time.
After several unsuccessful attempts, it dawned on Tony that the truck was a Ford and therefore the handles pulled inward rather than upward. So he went back inside and brought out only a few less than a bazillion wire hangers and painstakingly twisted them together one at a time until he had a long, fairly inflexible wire contraption that could stretch across the width of the cab from window to window. He inserted his high tech wire gizmo and instructed me to catch his contraption on the other side with a single wire hanger, which I could lower onto the door handle. I did as he directed, he gave a quick yank on his side, and voila! The truck was unlocked again. Yay, Tony!
Thank goodness his day was coming to an end and the service area had been quiet except for me and my seemingly never-ending series of conundrums. He was in no way taking attention away from anyone else while he focused on solving problem after problem for me. He was definitely my earth angel that day, and I told him so. I’d met a lot of friendly and helpful folks that day in Wyoming, but Tony was by far the most helpful and resourceful of them all. Turns out that he used to be an engineer at some big company in Oklahoma but for whatever reason was now working in the automotive department of Walmart in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Their loss and Walmart’s gain is all I can say, though the man’s talents are not being fully utilized.
Now that it was dinner time, it was time to push on down the road. It had taken six hours to solve the problem of the flat tire in Wyoming. Ahem. How ridiculous. But still it was time to move on. I called my mother again and inquired if she minded if I just stopped in Wyoming and unpacked my bags. I’d already had enough, and I was nowhere close to getting to the end of the trek through Wyoming. I still had miles to go before I could sleep. Several hundred to be more exact. She did object, so I pushed onward. I drove for I don’t know how many more hours and finally stopped near Laramie or Cheyenne, I think.
Beth Mitchum is the author of five novels, one collection of poetry, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks