That morning The Man had found out the lady he worked for had been hit by a truck. We didn’t have all the details, but we knew she was at the large university hospital being treated for a broken leg.
It was evening now, and I was headed home into the sunset after an afternoon of working on my blog at the public library. I was about seven miles from home, on the stretch of state highway where tourists often stopped to observe bighorn sheep living their wild lives.
About a quarter mile ahead I saw two cars, one parked on the eastbound side of the of the road, the other on the westbound side. Two women were crossing the highway. One woman was plump and wore a loose earth tone shirt over loose earth tone pants. Her dark, frizzy hair hung to her shoulders. The other woman had strawberry blond hair pulled back in a severe bun. She work black denim cutoffs and a tank top that barely concealed her black bra and barely contained her large, pale breasts.
Stupid tourists, I muttered to myself as I slowed the truck way down.
As I got closer to the women, a medium-sized dog jumped out of the open window of the car parked on the right. It bounded across the highway after its people. I brought the truck to a complete stop.
The woman with dark hair stopped in the middle of the highway, turned around, and spoke to the dog. The dog turned around, bounded back to the car, and jumped through the window it had come out of.
The woman with the bun made an elaborate arm gesture to me, the kind a fellow pretending to be a fancy gentleman might make to indicate, After you, madam.
I drove slowly past the women, wondering if the dog was going to dart out in front of me again or if one of the women was going to change her mind and try to scoot across the highway. After I passed the two parked cars, I pulled off on the barely-there narrow shoulder of the road.
To add to my questions (Who were these women? Why were they stopped on the side of the road? Where were the bighorn sheep I thought they’d stopped to see?), while I was stopped I’d realized a friend of mine was parked on the opposite side of the road. She was on the shoulder of the eastbound lane, near the other parked car, but the front of her truck was facing west. As I drove slowly past I looked over to the driver’s side of the truck and confirmed, yep, that was my friend.
I only pulled off out of concern for my friend. As for as I could tell, the two women and the dog weren’t experiencing any distress, but I didn’t know what my friend might be dealing with.
My friend must have recognized my vehicle because by the time I got out of my truck, she’d pulled hers around and was parked behind me.
I was very cautious when I got out of my truck and walked on the narrow shoulder over to my friend’s Toyota. As soon as I could I got away from the highway and walked over to her passenger side. I was definitely thinking of The Man’s employer and her recent accident. No way did I want to get hit by a vehicle going 55 (or faster) on a state highway.
Are you ok? Are you ok? I asked my friend as I approached her vehicle.
She said she was fine. It’s her, she said pointing to the woman with the bun and short shorts who was now running across the road to our side. She needs a jack.
I need a jack, the woman echoed.
Oh, boy, I thought. I was torn between wanting to help and wanting to get home. I really didn’t want to hang out so close to the highway, but I knew I should help people in need.
I’ll get my jack, I told the woman with the bun.
I went back to my truck. I knew the jack was screwed down under the rear seat on the driver’s side. To get to the rear seat, I had to open the back door. To open the back door, I had to open the front door. I couldn’t open either door very much because doing so would put the doors in danger of being smashed by someone driving too close to the shoulder.
I stood against the truck, the two doors resting against my body while I tried to lift the back seat to get to the jack. Suddenly the back door opened and the woman with the bun was standing next to me.
I told her I was getting the jack and would meet her at her vehicle. She didn’t budge.
I told her again that I was getting the jack and said she should go wait for me over there while pointing toward my friend’s vehicle. She still didn’t budge.
It was at that moment I began to suspect all was not right with this woman. First of all, no reasonable person would stand as close to the highway as she was standing if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Secondly, no person with any concept of the distance Americans like to keep between themselves and strangers would have put herself so close to me. Also, no one with an understanding of privacy would have put herself all up in my business inside my truck. Finally, I’d told her twice that she should step away from my vehicle. Of course, I’d been trying to be polite and hadn’t literally said step away from my vehicle, but I think most people would realize meet you at your car and wait for me over there meant the same thing.
I didn’t smell alcohol emanating from the woman’s pores or breath, and she wasn’t swaying or acting tipsy in any way. I figured she was maybe a bit socially awkward, but probably on meth. She had that swagger, that self-assurance. Someone on meth would be prone to think I needed her right there to hold the back door open for me and help me get the jack from under the seat. She likely thought she was the center of the whole damn universe and needed to be involved in every aspect of every single thing that was happening.
Look, I said to her. Someone I know got hit by a car today. I don’t want you (or me, I thought to myself) getting hit by a car, so you go stand over there (I pointed in the direction of my friend’s truck again) while I get the jack.
She still didn’t move. I don’t want you to get hit by a car either, she simpered.
At that point I should have just left, but the woman was still right next to me and not moving. I would have had to attempted to physically move her if I were going to leave. Besides, my friend was still out there. I didn’t want to leave her alone in this mess. Perhaps if I let the woman with the bun use my jack, we could all go home.
My irritation must have finally registered in the brain of the woman with the bun because she started in with Never mind. I don’t have a four way anyway. I won’t be able to change the tire anyway. Never mind. She sounded like a little kid who’s decided the world doesn’t love her because she’s not being allowed to have her way.
Oh no! I thought. I’m in this now. You’re going to use this jack! (My stubborn nature will probably be my downfall.)
Something (I have no idea what) caused the woman to (finally) step away from my truck and head back to her car, still calling out, Never mind. I don’t have a four way. Never mind.
With the jack finally I my hand, I left my truck. As I passed my friend’s truck, I shook my head and muttered uncharitably, Fucking tweaker.
Oh, I know! my friend said. She’s as high as a kite. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the woman’s unusual behavior.
I carefully crossed the highway with the jack and all its accessories in my arms. You can bet I looked both ways before I walked across. When I got to the bun woman’s car, she’d flipped a bunch of tool into the storage area of her hatchback and pulled her spare tire from some compartment. She was still moaning about not having a four way, but I was pretty sure I saw a red four way half covered by a floor mat (or something) there in the back among the piles of stuff.
Ummm…isn’t that a four way right there? I asked pointing.
She rummaged around and pulled out the red four way. I was the best! I was the greatest she exclaimed. (She could have been the best and the greatest too, had she only looked a little more carefully.)
I handed her my jack, and she took it and her four way to the passenger side of her Subaru. As I stepped as far away from the highway as I could, I finally saw the source of the problem I was now involved in. The rear tire on the back passenger side was not just flat; it was shredded. Poor gal’s tire had blown out on her way to town.
My friend had turned her small truck around again and was now parked behind the Subaru. She got out of her truck and walked over to me. We stood in the dry grass on the shoulder of the road and watched as the woman with the bun lift her car off the shredded tire.
How did you get involved in this? I asked my friend.
The woman with the bun had showed up at the outdoor market where my friend was vending and said she needed a jack. My friend didn’t have a jack but thought she might be able to help in some way, so she drove her truck over to meet the Subaru. Now she felt as if she needed to stay until the situation was resolved.
The woman with the frizzy hair was not pleased with the situation. She didn’t think my jack was big enough. I figured if it was big enough to lift my giant truck, it would do ok with a Subaru station wagon, but I kept my thoughts to myself. The woman with the frizzy hair was also concerned that the shoulder where the Subaru was parked slanted down and then dropped away into a grassy area. She was afraid the car was going to topple over onto her friend while she changed the tire.
It was getting colder as the sun sank lower. The wind was blowing pretty hard too. I was chilly in my long skirt and short sleeved blouse. The woman with the bun was wearing a lot less clothing than I was, but she had physical activity and (probably) drugs coursing through her veins to keep her warm.
The woman with the frizzy hair made a phone call. She needs help, she said to the person on the other end of the line. She’s cold. She doesn’t have a jacket. She was obviously talking about her friend dealing with the blown out tire.
She needs a jack, the woman with the frizzy hair continued. Don’t you have a jack? she asked, then begged, Can’t you come and help?
The guy must have said he’d come over because the woman with the frizzy hair got off the phone.
By this time the woman with the bun had lifted her Subaru, but her friend begged her to wait for the fellow with the jack to arrive. The guy only lived a couple miles away, she said, He’d show up soon, and his jack was better anyway.
If the guy was coming with a better jack, I ventured aloud, maybe I could take my jack and be on my way.
The woman with the bun stood up from where she’d been sitting on the ground while removing the flat tire. She had ignored her friend’s pleading for her to wait for the man with the jack. It appeared she planned to get ‘er done. She walked over to the back of her car and rummaged around in the hatchback storage area again. When she stepped away from the hatchback, she was holding…a jack. It was the same size and design as the one I’d loaned her. She’d had a perfectly adequate jack the whole time. Why was I standing in the cold wind next to the highway?
Now there was a frenzy of activity. My jack was removed and her jack replaced it. I regained possession of my equipment.
I guess I’ll go, I told my friend. More than anything, I wanted to get off the side of the highway and go home, but I didn’t want to leave my friend alone in the middle of a fiasco.
My friend assured me she was fine and I could go. She said she would stay with the women until the guy arrived with the better jack. I knew I wouldn’t be any of any help even if I stayed, so I carried my jack across the road to my truck, hopped in, and headed home.
When I got home, I texted my friend to ask if the guy had arrived with the jack and if my friend was on her way home. She texted back and said she was on her way home. She said the guy with the jack had never shown up. The woman with the bun had taken off the shredded tire and put on the spare all on her own. Turns out she didn’t need anything but some moral support.
I took the photos in this post.