I got a flat tire today. A blow out – causing the steering wheel to jerk violently in my hands and the car to veer to the left, into oncoming traffic. Somehow, I managed to pilot myself safely to the shoulder, and get out to assess the damage. I was on a busy rural highway and it was 75 degrees and sunny, which means people where driving way too fast, with their radios way too loud… barely turning their heads to glance at me as they whizzed past. The tire, of course, was ripped wide open. (No, I’m not sure how that happened. Yes, I am sure that it was in no way my fault.) That means my usual go-to fix… the can of Fix-A-Flat stored in my glove box, was not going to cut it.
Did I cry? Did I throw my hands up in the air in despair? Hell, no! I am an Army wife. And Army wives are resourceful.
So, the plan consisted of standing beside my blown-out tire with the can of Fix-A-Flat in my hand, looking altogether perplexed and damsel-in-distress-like.
Can you guess what happened next?
About 45 cars sped by with no sign of tapping their breaks to avoid hitting me, much less offering assistance.
To me, this could have been a metaphor for deployment. Here I am, obviously in the middle of a crisis, and everyone else is zipping by in their own lives, taking care of business. Oh sure, we all say that if we saw a motorist in need of assistance on the side of the road we would stop to help – but would we really? Would we risk being inconvenienced, or late for our own plans? (Did I mention that I was in my bathing suit, a T-shirt and flip flops? And still, I got…. Nothing.)
How many times have people offered to “be there” for our military families while their soldiers are deployed and then not offered when help is actually needed?
I have car trouble a lot.
When Paul was deployed, I ran out of gas in the middle of a busy intersection. (No, the reserve tank light was not on. Yes, I am still sure it was in no way my fault.) I was blocking traffic. It was pouring rain. I was wearing a suit and 3-inch heels. So there I am, standing in the rain beside my car – Army wife sticker and blue-star banner proudly displayed in the back window – wondering why the car has suddenly stopped moving. Clearly, not a good day for me. And what do the good citizens around me do? They honk, and shout, and flip me the bird… like this is my plan all along, to pull right into their way and then stop my car. Really? It doesn’t even occur to you to ask if I need help?
This time, my resourceful Army wife plan consisted of sobbing uncontrollably, screaming ‘My husband is deployed, dammit!’ at drivers passing me and finally concluding that all civilians are jerks and hoofing it a ½ mile to the nearest gas station with my heels in my hand and my make-up running down my face.
The morale of the story? (Besides the obvious conclusion that I should not be trusted in a car alone.) First, if we assume that someone else will assist, we could be stranding a heck of a lot of damsels. And second, sometimes those who need help have a hard time asking for it… especially if you’re driving by too fast.
Read more from Katie Dyer at Heroes At Home