We had just dropped my brother off at an airport 90 miles from home. My roommate and I were on our way back to campus when the front tire on the passenger side of my car blew. Able to navigate to the shoulder of the Interstate, I turned on the hazard lights and began to dig the spare tire out from underneath a panel in my trunk. We had managed to wrestle the spare out and were beginning to place the jack when a van pulled up behind us.
Before you start envisioning a van with no windows and a creepy, potential-pedophile driver, allow me to set your mind at ease. It was a Days Inn airport shuttle van. There were plenty of windows. We checked.
He was wearing his Days Inn garb and asked if we could use a hand. We gladly accepted. While my dad had taught me how to change a tire, I had never actually done so alone. The first thing he did was to place blocks around a good tire to keep the car from rolling while it was up on the jack. Good plan. I hadn’t thought of that.
Now we could place the jack. I confessed not knowing for sure where it was supposed to be placed for optimum lift. He smiled a “you’re a college girl and I don’t expect you to know that so I’ll just do it myself” grin and placed the jack himself without a word. As he cranked the jack and the weight of the car began to rest on it, the car fell suddenly. (Good thing those blocks were in place.) It took no time at all to realize that he had not placed the jack correctly. My front fender was folded in half.
Quickly humbled, he began to apologize profusely, saying my dad was going to be ticked. I corrected him and said, “No. My dad will be thankful you stopped to help.”
An adjustment to the jack and we had lift off. He had already loosened the lug nuts, so once the car was raised, we finished removing them while he retrieved the spare. He took off the blown tire, set it aside and grabbed the spare to put it on, all the while mumbling and shaking his head about how sorry he was for messing up my fender. Pausing briefly before he put the spare on, he asked if it was the spare that came with the car. I explained that my parents had bought the car used, but that I couldn’t imagine it being anything other than the spare that came with the car. He tried to place it, but couldn’t. “This spare doesn’t fit your car.”
Since the man had managed to fold my fender, I looked for myself to be sure. He was right. The holes and lug nuts wouldn’t match up. So, my roommate and I were on the side of an Interstate, with a stranger, a blown tire and a spare tire that didn’t fit. Things were about to get interesting.