I was running early this morning for once. It was only because Rich was taking Ian to school, which shaves a good 10 minutes off my morning commute. Of course, I noticed the fuel light was on so I went from early to barely on time. As I pulled into Wawa, I noticed the car parked in front of me with its hazards on. The back right tire was a spare and the back left tire was flat. "Well, that's a pickle." I thought to myself, as I got out of the car. But as I pumped my gas, I kept looking at the car. The woman had gotten out and was trying to use fix-a-flat on the left tire. That's when I noticed that the tire was not only flat, but shredded as all her flat fixin' goo went right out onto the pavement.
The woman had gotten back into her car and was just sitting there. She wasn't on the phone. She wasn't rummaging around in her car. She was just sitting there. If she had AAA, she wouldn't have even tried to fix the flat. If she had someone to rescue her, she wouldn't have tried to get her tire working in the 25F cold wind. I decided to at least check on her.
I pulled up and told her I noticed her tire was shredded so her fix-a-flat didn't work.
"Yeah, and that was my last dollar I spent on it too." "Are you heading to work?" (She had on nursing scrubs.) "Actually, I'm heading home." Ah, 7:45am. You just finished your 12 hour shift somewhere. "I can take you home if you want. How far away do you live?" Later I realized she could have said something like Suffolk and I would have been in for a long haul. But she said she lived off of Virginiaa Beach Blvd and I figured it couldn't be but so far. It's only but so long of a road. "Are you sure?" "You don't need to sit here at Wawa all day. I can at least get you home."
She gathered her purse, her keys, and a third of a store bought cake (which seemed a little odd) and climbed in the car. I asked her where she worked and she named a nearby hospital. I told her my best friend just became a nurse and I know how the long shifts can be brutal. I asked her if she had to work again tonight and she said yes. So time is limited to fix a tire and try to sleep again before 7pm. We drove on a little more in silence.
She said, "I'm so sorry to send you out of your way, but I really do appreciate it." I told her that work would still be there once I got there and she looked like she was having a rough morning.
We stopped at a stoplight. I took note of the fact that she hadn't been crying. I would have cried at some point in this process I'm sure, if just to get it out of my system. She just looked out the window calmly and sighed occasionally. After a bit she said, "This birthday sucks."
"Is it your birthday? That explains the cake." "Yeah, my co-workers had a surprise pot luck for me at work last night." "Well, happy birthday! Sorry you have to deal with all this today."
We pulled up to her apartment. It was in Ingleside, near industrial park Norfolk. Some people would have called it a rough neighborhood, but a million years ago, Jeremy and I had looked at a house over there. She got out of the car and said, "God bless you!" I told her I was just happy to help however I could. I wished her happy birthday again and I told her good luck.
I wanted to write all this down to remind myself about all the emotions I had in the Wawa parking lot. Would she need my help? Did she have things under control? Was she clearly flipping out or just assessing the (pretty crappy) situation? Did any of that matter before I would talk to her?
My therapist Gary talks about how I'm a very empathic person and we ponder sometimes about how it can be a difficult trait to manage. It certainly can be exhausting. But were that me in the Wawa parking lot, I would have wanted someone to at least check on me. She's at work tonight (hopefully) and I hope she got some decent sleep this afternoon. I'll sleep better knowing she at least got home safe and sound.