Monday, June 16, 2008

In Another Woman's Shoes

This afternoon I walked in another woman's shoes, so to speak.

I have a van. It is a 1998 Chevy Venture. I filled it up this morning - $81.11 - on my way to drop my son at theatre practice. I drove home, parked it, went inside for the rest of the day.

It was time to pick him up so I buckled in the girls and headed for I-44. My usual route is I-44 to I-270 to I-64 - pretty simple until your tire blows out.

The initial "blump" on the highway alerted me to impending inconvenience. I pulled over on the shoulder and peaked out the drivers side door, it was low, but not completely flat. I inched back, the exit just ahead. The gas station sign promised air and relief, but ended up being on the other side of Manchester, an agonizing mile. The van decided it just couldn't make it the last few feet and instead let out a loud "PLOP, BLOOM, BLUMP, BLUMP." I immediately pulled into the parking lot of a business just to my left, God had favors waiting, thankful that I was not in traffic, I inched the car into a parking space and got out to see the damage. My tire looked like someone savagely attacked it in three places with dashed almost six inches long! I sighed as a manager in the company came out the building.

The gentleman reassured me my van would be fine. "A lady in distress." He tried to get some of his company maintenance men to help but liability prevented that. I left my card and license plate with the receptionist with the assurance I would be back for the van.

My girls and I set out on a trek down Manchester. If you know anything about traversing busy thoroughfares during the afternoon rush, this was no easy feat. There weren't any sidewalks over part of the four-lane street so we inched along on the shoulder. We did a skip-dance as cars zoomed to the off-ramp. We crossed I-270 with the trepidations of my six-year-old declaring how "dangerous" and "scary" this was. The four-year-old kept admonishing her to "keep walking, it is ok." We made it to the Mall area and the promise of at least a sidewalk. After we crossed Ballas and were finally in feet-friendly territory, it dawned on me that there are some people who have to do this every day.

I haven't always had a car, van, or whatever. When I lived in Chicago, I took the CTA or Metra everywhere - as did most city dwellers. It wasn't until I moved back to Missouri and their less-than-reliable public transportation that a car became a necessity. As I walked along with my daughters, waiting for my friend to drive by and pick us up, I had a thought about the people who have to walk with groceries, laundry, and kids. It is not easy.

My girls and I were blessed with a breeze. The temperature at the bank informed us it was 91-degrees, but the gentle wind and the trees shielded the summer sun. We were not parched but my daughter did make note of the 7-Eleven promising slushies. I encouraged her to make it a few more feet to the Barnes & Noble where I could use my card (I ran out the house without cash) and we could sit in air conditioning while we waited. A few moments later, my friend pulled up and we were whisked away.

I thought about the high gas prices and that I probably should take the girls walking more often. I'm not near a grocery store, but I am close enough to walk to the library and the coffeeshop, a few restaurants, and the bank. I could leave my van at home sometimes and not cringe when the gas prices go up more and more. $81.11, that's what I spent today, guess my van can just relax with all my money in its tank and I figure out how to get it home.

There are moments like these when I just have to smile. My friend stopped at her house to pick up her teenaged daughter. We grabbed soft drinks and headed to my house. In the convenience of her car, my daughters chatted about their "adventure" and how their feet hurt. We never know the price some have to pay for their daily comings and goings, but next time I see a woman and her kids walking along the road, I'll think twice...and offer a ride.

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