This weekend, I lived out one of my longest-lived fears.

I got a flat on the I-20 bridge over the Ouachita River in Monroe.

This has been something that I’ve worried about since I started driving. If you use the I-20 corridor through Monroe, you might have an inkling why this is something that has crossed my mind a few times. The bridge across the Ouachita, though wider on the West Monroe side, narrows to two lanes with no shoulder for a long stretch of the freeway once in Monroe, large trucks bully you and locals try to speed around you. It’s not the kind of place you want to get a flat.

I heard the tire go, and after a moment’s debating whether or not I had actually heard it, I decided to cut across the three lanes of traffic and take the exit onto Fifth Street in West Monroe just to be safe and to be sure I wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of interstate traffic with a flat. By the time I was able to pull into an empty gas station at the bottom of the ramp, my tire was dead.

Luckily, I had a full-size spare…but it was flat. I was next door to an auto repair shop — T.J.’s Auto Repair — so I walked over and asked the guy if I could borrow their air compressor for a minute. After he filled the tank, I carried it over and aired the spare.

That didn’t work out very well, because the reason the spare was flat was a big hole on the bottom side that I hadn’t seen. This presented a problem — I didn’t have a phone with me, and I had only three working tires. The problem with technology is you become a slave to it. If it had been a horse that had died, I could have just started walking. But you can’t leave a car behind…especially when your 5-year-old is sleeping in the backseat.

The guy at the shop (it turned out he was the T.J. of T.J.’s auto) let me use his phone to call the closest family members I had in the area, but they weren’t home. Finally, he told me to throw the tire in the back of the truck and he would take me to a tire shop to get a new one mounted.

After looking at a couple of tire places that were closed because it was after noon Saturday, he ended up driving me to Walmart’s tire center, where we were able to get a new tire mounted. His response to having to wait at Walmart was to say, “Oh well, I needed to get some stuff here anyway.”

All said and done, T.J. took me back to my car and I was able to get the new tire on it and get back on my way after he had left.

I’m tempted to make a cheap spiritual lesson of this (with him being a good Christian and me being “the least of these”) because of T.J.’s willingness to give up an hour and a half of his afternoon (I’m pretty sure he was leaving for lunch when I initially asked him about the air compressor) for a stranger who looks like he just got dragged out of a Russian monastery, but I’ll resist that urge. I appreciate that the man never did anything more than look discreetly at his watch when the tire-mounting seemed to drag on a little long, and he never seemed bothered by the fact that my 5-year-old seemed to be getting more and more antsy the longer we waited.

But I will say this: if you’re ever in the Monroe area and need some diagnostic work done on your car, or if your vehicle air-conditioner needs to be fixed, go to T.J.’s. He’s a good guy.

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