Home
About
Archives
Photography
Mailings
Links
Contact


A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Flat Tire

May 30th, 2007

Ever think about how one thing leads to another? 

If it wasn’t for the person who threw the beer bottle on the street Monday night, I wouldn’t have gotten a flat tire.

And if it weren’t for the person who designed the impossible to remove wheel covers on my car I would have been able to change the tire myself. I say “person who designed” but significant end-product stupidity is usually by committee. This one asked every possible wheel cover question except “what if it ever needs to come off?” A little more American ingenuity like that and the owner’s manual for my next car will be in Japanese.

A broken beer bottle leads to a flat tire leads to some sweating and swearing with a tire iron that I’d like to introduce to some wheel cover engineers in Detroit. Which led to a call to my roadside assist service, which led to them dispatching a tow truck to haul my car and me to Discount Tire.

Which led to meeting Bill.

It’s never wise to stereotype, but somehow I usually feel better when the person responding to my need for help looks the part. Bill’s face is weathered brown, like an old football that’s been kicked around year after year and never brought inside. He wore a new pair of jeans. But the faded blue company T-shirt and the scuffs on his work boots suggested the only reason for new jeans was the last pair plain wore out. A reddish blonde bushy mustache matched the color of the ponytail sticking out the back of his trucker cap. I’ve never seen a tow truck driver with a diamond earring before, but like I said, it’s never wise to stereotype.

“Thanks for coming. How’s it going?”

“As good as it’s gonna go. Back that thing out here so I can get at it.”

In less than five minutes Bill had my car on the flat bed of his truck. “You gettin’ a ride there or are you goin’ with me?”

“Goin’ with you.” 

It’s three miles to Discount Tire. A bit less if he takes the side street I mention to him. He ignores me and turns the truck around. “I always go out the same way I came in.”

“You been busy today?”

“Not really. But I was out on calls till 2 in the morning. I’m tired.”

“You like your job?”

“Job’s ok. Money’s ok. Just a lot of time. 70 hours a week most of the time.”

“Wow. You ever get a day off?”

“Wednesdays.”

“What do you like to do when you’re not working?”

“Sleep.” 

Great question, Todd. He puts in 70 plus hours a week and you ask him what he likes to do when he’s not working. Brilliant. There may be a future for you in wheel cover design.   

“So are you native to Arizona?”

“Born and raised. Grew up in Tucson.”

“Have family around then?”

“Nah. I got nobody. They’re all either dead or they disowned me.” Bill gripped the steering wheel with both hands and stared straight ahead.

“You got any friends?” I was hoping for a “yes”. A co-worker. A girlfriend. A drinking buddy. A dog. Something.

“Nope. Don’t need any friends.” Of course, I don’t believe this. But he sounds like he believes it. His tone is steady and cold, like the air coming out of the dashboard air conditioning vents.

The engine groaned a little as he braked for the red light on McQueen. Maybe it’s because I can’t imagine my life without friends or because I didn’t believe him, I asked the same question a different way. “You got anyone to hang with when you’re not working?”

“Nope. I see people all day long. Why would I need friends?” What he really wanted to say was, “I have to play nice with customers like you 70 hours a week. Why would I want more of that on my day off?”

A few seconds of silence. I look around. The clipboard with the paperwork. The dirty gray upholstery of the seat. The smell of diesel and the open pack of Camel cigarettes in the cup holder. This is a tow truck, all right.

Except for the music. Vivaldi. Very un-tow truck like.

Wanting to jump start the conversation I said, “Nice music. You like the classical stuff?”

“Yep. Played it for years. Junior high, high school. In college.” 

Moments like this always shame me. Because it’s never wise to stereotype and yet somehow I always do.

“Really? What instrument?”

“Bass. Played it since I was twelve.”

“I play the drums a little. I love the bass but I could never figure out how to get my fingers where they needed to be.”

“Practice. Lots of practice.” I looked at Bill’s hands. Thick, strong fingers black with grease and brake dust. Fingers that toss log chains and cast iron hooks 70 hours a week. Without asking, who would know these same fingers can run off a string of flying arpeggios and syncopated bass lines? Fingers that know the delicate feel of a horsehair bow?

“Where did you go to college?”

“In St. Louis.”

And in naming the city it’s as if Bill realized this conversation was looking a little too much like friendship. “Where is this fucking Discount Tire place anyway?”

A quarter mile later and we were there. He dropped the car off, I signed the obligatory paperwork and he drove away.

One thing leads to another. And sometimes it feels like the thing it leads to is a dead end. Or a waste of time. Or the temptation to think that it’s all in our head, this idea of connectedness. That in the middle of random events there is a bigger purpose, a grander plan that transcends the broken bottles and flat tires of our life.

There is a bigger purpose. I have to believe that because I believe in God. Logic says if we believe in God with a big “G”, then He is all-everything. Including all sovereign. Which is to say if we believe in a big “G”, there’s no such thing as chance encounters or random events. Or as Albert Einstein put it, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

I couldn’t begin to guess what God’s purpose is for Bill and I to have a five minute conversation in a tow truck. But one thing leads to another. Who knows what it led to for Bill.

It led me to think about God. And what one thing might be coming next.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9