Crisis hit tonight. Well, a little one anyway. I was taking the girl-child to swim practice when seemingly out of nowhere we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. Needless to say swim practice was cancelled. We began the slow drive home in the blinding rain. There was no need to count “Mississippis” after the flashes of lightning because after we saw a streak of light barrel to the ground we heard thunder follow right after. The atmosphere in the car went from girl party to tension in seconds.
We were stopped at what seemed an exceedingly long red light during the heart of this storm when my daughter asked me tentatively, “We’re safe in the car right, Mom? Because of the tires?” I paused a second and then responded, “Oh, yeah, we’re safe. That rubber in the tires has us covered.” How ironic it was then that when we finally turned left at the light with little to no visibility that those tires began to produce such fear.
After we rounded the corner and began to make our way up a large hill in the downpour I began to hear something else other than the rainfall. “Thunka, Thunka, Thunka” went my right tire. My body which had been keeping alert but calm during the storm immediately tripled in tension. My brain began to panic. I began to call out to God, “No, not a flat tire. Not here, not now. Oh, God help.” I kept driving as my mind raced for solutions. We were on a crowded, flooding road with lightning striking all around. I decided to keep driving as long as the car would let me. I was secretly hoping the noise would just vanish. As if whatever was offending my tire would just fall away. No such luck. We creeped up the hill some more. “Thunka, thunka, thunka.”
I began to panic a little more now, alternating between muttering cuss words and prayers. I threw my phone back to my daughter and commanded her to call her dad. Looking back now, I don’t know what he was really going to do, but it seemed the best idea I had at the time. Finally we got to the top of the hill and I pulled under a gas station shelter. The rain and lightning had slowed a little, which I was very grateful for. After examining the tires I was amazed to find them all intact. I kicked them for a while and climbed back into the car. “Did you get your dad?” I asked my daughter. “No, I can’t get the phone to work” she answered. (A note about our kids. For years we forbade them from playing with our cell phones and limited their technology strictly. Now as they are approaching the end of elementary school, we realize they NEED to know how to use these tools and are now scrambling a bit for them to catch up). Worried and frustrated that she still can’t figure out my phone I turned back and sternly commanded again, ” You must figure out how to work a cell phone. Unlock it and CALL YOUR DAD.”
Again, I don’t really know why it was so important for me to call him. At the time I could vaguely recognize how irrational I was being and how sadly ironic it was that I was snapping at my daughter after writing a devotional about using our words to bless and not curse earlier in the day. But my fear and panic kept driving me. Out of lack of any other good ideas I cranked up the car and finished driving the last mile or so to our house. I had barely got in the garage good before I met my husband with a half panicked, “Something’s wrong with the car! We’ve been trying to call you. Why haven’t you answered?”
He looked at me with his typical unruffled expression and said, “Why don’t you just get out of the car and come inside. We’ll deal with this after the rain stops.” It actually took a minute for him to convince me that he didn’t have to listen to the weird noise the car was making that very minute. That we would figure things out before my 5:30 am shift at our local coffee shop. Some time later my husband did in fact check out the car and discovered a bolt located in the middle of my front right tire surface. If only I could have stayed as centered as that bolt was in my tire.
I don’t know what bothers me more, needing to call my husband to swoop in at the first sign of car trouble or my panicked snapping at my family. I am painfully aware that my daughter was watching me deal with this scenario. I could have taught her how to keep calm in a storm and work your way through. But instead I demonstrated fear and its companion irritability. In the whole fight, flight, freeze phenomena my tendency is to freeze. If I can’t freeze, then I guess I just panic. There’s got to be a better way.
Anyone else got tips for dealing with a crisis? Better tools than muttering and frantic phone calls? I usually try to breathe my way through it, but tonight the fear of a flat tire took the air right out of me.