I recently left my office before 5pm to get home in time for an important phone meeting that would last well into the evening. My plan was to beat rush hour and join the call from home so I could avoid another late night at the office. As I left the parking garage, I drove a couple blocks and received a “low tire” warning light on my instrument panel. I accessed the on-board vehicle info to see how low it was, only to read with alarm that I had 0 psi in my left rear tire. I carefully pulled into the parking lot of a neighboring restaurant, got out and assessed the situation. Sure enough, the tire was completely flat, with the rim resting on the asphalt.
In my sports car, there is no spare tire or jack, so a call to AAA towing was my only option. Once the operator confirmed I was in a safe place and logged my information, she said that a truck would be out to me in … THREE hours. Really? Three hours??! She explained simply that call volume was unusually heavy during this rush hour.
After getting over my initial shock about how long it would take for the tow truck to arrive, I remembered the bright side that I was only three blocks from my office. I decided to gather my stuff, lock the car, walk back to my office and join the phone meeting from there. As I exited the parking lot I noticed an ominous sign “PARKING IS FOR RESTAURANT CUSTOMERS ONLY,” and another on the attendant’s shack warning that “UNAUTHORIZED VEHICLES WILL BE TOWED AT OWNER’S EXPENSE. 24 HOURS A Day 7 DAYS A WEEK.” My dilemma thus became not only to make my conference which was scheduled to start in about 40 minutes, but also to avoid my car being towed while I was literally waiting on another tow truck! What to do?
A Series of Unfortunate Events
So I’m sitting in the restaurant bar, having the happy hour “special” of chicken wings and a beer (and getting a receipt so I could prove I was a customer), and thinking about how ridiculous this whole situation was. It wasn’t just the important phone meeting, which I would soon make while sitting in my disabled car in the parking lot. It was the entire scenario and the series of stupid obstacles which screwed up my carefully orchestrated plans, including the flat tire, the need for a tow truck for something so simple, the delay in “my” tow truck arriving, the threat of being towed by another while I waited, etc. It was all so ridiculous!
Giving Thanks in Everything?
Paul exhorted the church in Thessaloniki to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That seems at times unrealistic, even in matters as trivial as my flat tire. But, as my pastor friend recently reminded me, we’re not told to give thanks for all circumstances, but rather in all circumstances. You know, like the guy who fell down three flights of stairs, and when he hit the bottom exclaimed, “Thank God that’s over!” I get the point, and tried to think about my flat tire fiasco with this perspective, realizing I could be thankful for several things: I had renewed my AAA membership, I was stranded in a safe location and not on the busy highway, I got something to eat, I even had a meaningful conversation with a young tow truck driver and new father on the way to the dealership, and so on.
Speaking of the dealership, the tow truck driver and I raced across town to beat the clock, but when we arrived, it had just closed. No one would answer our knocks on the door, and there was no place in the jam packed service lot to unload my car. We had to improvise, and I helped guide the driver as he maneuvered the tight quarters to drop my car in the middle of the driveway. And, oh — I’m not making this up — it started pouring rain. By the time my wife picked me up, I was thoroughly soaked and fit to be tied! But come to think of it, I was also very thankful for the ride.