– Advertisement –
THIS is the gossip you don’t want to hear.
A dull rub from the right rear of the car as we sped through the California desert, like a hard wire brush rubbing against a hard piece of metal. Suddenly, the digging stopped, bringing a moment of hesitant relief. Until I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a shredded tire dancing behind the highway.
“Oh my God,” I said out loud, “that can’t be us!” And so began an adventure I hoped to avoid.
In fact, I had a premonition of this disaster the other day. We were pushing the other way, making the 142-mile journey from our home in Joshua Tree to the Blythe town border, when the engine suddenly stopped. Backing up a bit, the car slowly came to a stop as I gently steered it into the far right lane of the freeway. Then turned the key off and took a deep breath before turning it back on. The old car immediately started and drove off, completely ignoring the cosmic warning we had just received.
“Damn,” I thought now, trying hard to maintain control of a tireless 2009 Mazda, “karma’s a bitch!”
Here’s the thing: California is a car culture. A land where people live, swear by and worship their means of transportation. A place where, without wheels, you are not really a real person, certainly not someone worthy of leaving his home.
I knew this, of course, when I left everything behind and moved to the Philippines. What I didn’t consider was the culture that took revenge on me, punishing me for even thinking I could escape.
I got the first idea during a visit four years ago after recklessly crashing into a parked car and leaving the stunned driver with no door. “Wow, Dad,” said my daughter, “Americans worry about all the bad things that can happen to them in Third World countries, but for you, it’s the opposite; bad things happen when you visit the US. “
Welcome to my scary expat life.
But now I’m afraid of becoming an ex-person too. Desperately, I looked for a refuge that would guide my limping Mazda. And then, like a gift from heaven, the proverbial mists parted and there came the entrance to—Wiley’s Well Rest Area? Beggars cannot be the chosen ones, I thought, who entered my path.
There are varying degrees of tire tragedies. The most basic, of course, happens when your tire pressure drops too low. You just stop, grab a bomb from the tree or a friend, and blow that little puff. Then there is a higher-level accident where the tire is punctured beyond repair, requiring a more aggressive response. But on this day, my disaster was of the highest order: the tire completely disappeared, leaving me literally driving on a metal rim.
Wait, did I say day? That’s not true, it’s really late. The night of July 4th is when almost every American in America—including almost every auto repair shop owner—watches fireworks instead of thinking about the store.
Did I mention bad karma?
Holding my breath, I carefully guided the limping car into the right parking spot. What now? By the grace of God, we are covered for emergency road service. And so, after a lot of hand-wringing over several missed text messages and phone calls in an area with almost no cell signals, I made contact, and, voila! Forty-five minutes later, my savior arrived.
Grunting behind a large tire wrench, he removed the badly worn rubber that was left, replacing it with a slightly smaller spare. “Ok,” he said, eyes flashing alarm, “don’t drive it too far; Only 50 miles per hour for a 50 mile top!”
I still have 125 miles to go. And so I began, hoping to surpass the spartan extra. It is hard to describe the fear and uncertainty of traversing that far into a desert dark enough to hide the road ahead. Every bruise felt like a bolt from hell. Suffice it to say that, at the end of pulling my way through the hours, I felt like kissing the ground.
So what did I learn from this karmic misadventure? Basically my home state and I are no longer friends. Here’s a radical idea: maybe I’ll just stop driving in California. Who cares if people think I lost my mind after being attacked by Filipino foreigners?
(David Haldane’s latest book, “A Tooth in My Popsicle,” is available on Amazon and Lazada. An award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster, Haldane is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Surigao City.)
Mindanao Gold Star Daily holds the copyrights of all articles and photos forever. Any unauthorized copying in any platform, electronic and hardcopy, is liable for copyright infringement under the Intellectual Property Rights Law of the Philippines.