My decision last summer to trade in my Volkswagen was mostly prompted by my ongoing trouble with tires. The low profile tires on the Volkswagen had been replaced no less than four times during my ownership. It seemed that anytime I went over a bump, a tire went flat. Extra bumpy railroad tracks? Flat. Speed humps? Flat. I had had enough. While I’m sure the Jetta was expertly designed to go 120 or more on the Autobahn, it did not like the uneven terrain of the I-95 corridor. So when I found myself on the car sales lot, I was obsessed with tires. I wanted big and sturdy; something able to take a good bump and keep on going. When I pulled off the lot with an SUV, I was sure my tire trouble was solved.
One week into my new SUV ownership I got a nail in the front tire. I could hardly believe the tapping that came with every rotation. Certainly, this was a joke, I thought. Did the tire plague continue? Luckily, when I took the car into the shop and they pulled a fairly short nail from the new rubber, they could also plug it. The technician warned me, however, that given the location (almost in the sidewall), he wasn’t sure it would hold. I drove cautiously for a while, watching that tire diligently. It was fine. New tire woes averted.
Last week, about half way to work, my low tire pressure warning light blinked. The corresponding chime alerted me. I think I actually said out loud, “Are you kidding me?” I found the first side street available and pulled over to take a look. All tires inflated; nothing looked flat. Maybe it was just a sensor. At lunch that day, I went to the gas station. Sure enough, one of the tires was low; the one with the plug. Almost one year later and it now seemed that a slow leak was the culprit. I added air and the light went out. Three days later, the warning light came back on again. Ugh!
Over dinner that night my husband and I joked about my car; about how I can’t seem to avoid tire troubles. In truth, he was joking more than I was; I was annoyed. But then he said something to me that I can’t shake. He said, “Maybe if you just parked it in the garage and let it sit every once in a while instead of traveling all over the place all the time, maybe you wouldn’t need to replace your tires so often.”
Although his comment irritated me at the time, he was right. I use my car. I use it A LOT. I use it to go back and forth to work. I use my car to drive parents to doctors’ appointments and to visit people when they are ill. I use my car to have lunch with friends and to meet people for dinner. I use it to visit the shore. I use it to run errands. I use it and use it and use it. And my husband is right. I could use it less. I could go back and forth to work and then park it in the garage and stay put. Maybe my tires would last longer that way; I”m guessing they would. But what I’d be sacrificing would be more costly to me than any tire. I’d be compromising a part of who I am: the person who is social and outgoing; the person who likes to be around others and who finds joy in crossing things off a list and lending a hand.
As I thought more about what my husband said to me I also realized the metaphor in this whole thing. Maybe – like me – my tires just get…well, tired. I am reminded that every once in a while, a break is a welcome thing, even for the most sturdy and rugged. There is benefit in sometimes pulling off the main road to take the more scenic route at a more leisurely pace. Certainly, a little bit of fresh air is good for more than just my tires. After all, we can only take our fair share of bumps before we are left feeling flat and deflated.
I can’t promise that I will slow down my daily life. But all of this reflection has left me more aware of the hazards in the road. And, despite the occasional detour, I remain grateful for the company I have on my journey.