Flat Tire

March 23, 2008
By Tatsuya Hayashi, Glen Ellyn, IL

Ever had a flat tire in another country? In a country where English is just a subject in school? If you have, join the club. If you haven’t, have pity on us. What started out as a wonderful vacation quickly went downfall as a single rock altered our vacation.

Waiting 2 hours to get a rental car where English is not the first language got us aggravated. Traveling for 4 hours to get to the resort after being jet-lagged is worse. Welcome to Puerto Rico. Hot and sweaty, fatigued and groggy, you can say that our family wasn’t having the best vacation of our lives.

“Slow down!! You’re going way too fast!!” yells my sister from the backseat. As always, dad thinks everything is under control. How typical of my dad. In response, as if to purposefully provoke my sister, he floors the pedal. The rental mini-van was certainly not up to this task and if to prove the point, we swerve around the corner and pop! goes the tire. My dad slams down on the brakes, in an attempt to stop us from going over the cliff and succeeds, at the expense of me bumping my head into the ceiling. What a beautiful way to start a vacation.

It turns out that one of the tires in front popped and became flat after running over an inconveniently placed rock. Luckily, there was a house right across the street. A little girl wearing a red dress covered with flowers emerges from the door and shouts out loud something in Spanish. I feel stupid that I don’t understand what she is saying at all after a year of Spanish but I, being naturally amazing, came to the conclusion that she said something along the lines of, “Dad! Get out here!” because her dad came outside staggering half-naked. I assumed that he had just came out of the shower with his wet curly hair, just a pair of shorts on, and a towel thrown across his shoulder. He tottered, complements of his beer belly, towards us and examines the flat tire and says to us in a light-hearted way, “You ran over a rock, didn’t you? Happens all the time, don’t worry,” reassuring us. As he said those words, I felt that the air surrounding us had become brighter. I let out my breath as I begin to feel that our problem is in the right hands.

The kind man, introducing himself as José, sighs, re-examines the flat tire, and goes into the garage coming out with a wrench and starts taking the bolts off the front wheel. He explains to us that every rental car has a back-up wheel underneath the chassis and truth beholds, there it was. He takes the back-up wheel and replaces it with the flat tire, casually explaining to us what he was doing. You unscrew the bolts off the flat wheel, take off the wheel, prop the car up, put the back-up wheel in place, and screw the bolts back on. My dad, feeling guilty that he popped the tire begins to help him. While he was doing all of this, he was talking to us casually and we found out that he worked as an auto mechanic and that he had recently moved here from Iowa in order to help his sister out. José and my father continue to have an ensuing conversation about how beautiful Puerto Rico is. Finally, José screwed the last bolt back on and voila, the car was as good as new. Many thanks and your welcomes later and an easier set of directions, we were on our way to our resort!

What got me thinking later that day was what if there was no person that wanted to help out a few strangers with their flat tire? Maybe we would have been stranded there for a much longer time. Maybe we might not have made our reservation at the resort and so on and so forth. Many maybes later, I thought to myself that generosity is an easily overlooked thing. You take it for granted, not aware of what would happen without the generosity of another person. The generosity of José that day allowed us to continue on with what became a very relaxing and memorable vacation. Whether it be lending a friend a few coins for lunch or propping the door open for another person, generosity comes in all forms of actions and certainly deserves a genuine thank you.

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