Monday, 5th December 2016:
The day started normal enough. I found myself awake at 6 am, a good half hour before my alarm was set to ring, because I am now an adult with a full time job and that, in essence, translates to having your body betray you on account of biological conditioning. One giant cup of the strongest filter coffee later, I’d mellowed down; enough to be quite pleased with myself for having managed to wake up this early. On a Monday morning, that too. How supremely responsible of me!
An hour and a half later, I found myself on the road, even more pleased with myself because now I was guaranteed to be at work early. Not just on time. EARLY. I’d even managed to actually escape the Monday morning rush hour. Talk about crushing it, amirite!
I was basking in the glow of having my set my affairs in order- early to work, caught up with the latest Gilmore Girls revival, a bank balance in the denomination that was something other than zero (for a change).I was Sister Maria from the Sound of Music, traipsing through fields of green, or in my case, beaming at unsuspecting strangers as I drove past Gemini circle. Life was good.
Three quarters into my drive to work, just as I was about to cross a traffic signal in one of the busiest stretches in the city, as luck would have it, I noticed something… odd. My hands were positioned, in a steely grip, on the steering wheel. I was doing nothing to change the wheel’s orientation but for some strange reason, the wheel kept swiveling to the left, defying both logic and physics. My vision grew blurry, my mind got hazy as I began to piece things together.
Car swiveling dangerously to the left. Despite my most valiant attempts to maneuver it straight ahead. No, it couldn’t be. It couldn’t possibly be. Please let it not be..
*cue the soundtrack from Psycho*
Now that I look back, I cannot deny that there was a significant quotient of luck on my side. Had I woken up even a few minutes later than I had that morning, I might have been caught right in the midst of angry throes of traffic. I could have decided to drive through the center of the road, as opposed to the left as I (thankfully) was on, and might have been privy to the choicest of Thamizh abuses. A large number of things could have gone horribly horribly wrong. Traffic was thankfully sparse and I managed to drive past the signal into safe(r?) confines. Again, as luck would have it, traffic had been diverted only a few months earlier, such that a large chunk of the left side of the road was sheltered from ongoing vehicular movement giving me enough space and time to egg my, now slowly dying, engine to the side of the road. I’m not one who believes in luck, chance, fate, but this Monday morning, the stars were undoubtedly, aligned in my favor. Excuse me while I sing Hallelujah 16 times.
I begrudgingly admit that I do, indeed, belong to the class of dimwits who will gleefully indulge in humble bragging if there is even the slightest mention of my deft skills when it comes to parallel parking, but am reduced to unintelligible nervous chortling when quizzed about the actual mechanics a car. For someone who’s spent the last 6 years, driving a minimum 80km a week, my immediate response upon realizing that I’d suffered a flat tire was to speed dial my mother.
While we’re on the subject of shredding whatever little self respect I have remaining, let me also not forget that I dared to walk out the house with a phone that was charged a mere 5% and a few ten Rupee notes in my wallet. So much for crushing adulthood.
As the age old adage goes, nothing says distress signal like repeatedly walking back and forth between the spare tire and the flat one, wringing your hands in disbelief that the only knowledge I was equipped with to handle this mess was that the lever that would assist in the substitution of the flat tire shared a name with a rather popular underwear brand. Again, as luck would have it, I happen to live in the greatest city in the world (i.e. Chennai, for all the Amit Bhais reading this) and the sight of a disheveled young lady, fraught with anxiety over a flat tire and nervously muttering the word ‘Jockey’ under her breath, brings a lot of Samaritans to the yard.
A half hour, one tire replacement, and a good earful along the lines of ‘Yenna ma indha madri vandi a ottirae‘? later, I was left with the four fully functional wheels and a rather brutal reality check. The point of this rather long (my apologies) and minute by minute appraisal of my pitiable attempts at being a grown up is to extend the little knowledge I gained from this recent brush with ‘could have been a‘ disaster.
First and foremost, as someone who spends a good six days a week harping about equality of the sexes and defeating the patriarchy, there is a laughable irony in having to be rescued by three men. It is hard, but in more instances that I’d like to admit, my words far outweigh my actions. It would be easy to gloss over the error of my mistakes by shifting the blame to the inherent sexism in a system that does not feel it necessary to educate young girls about what to do in the event of a flat tire, but then I would simply be contributing to the problem. Because numero uno, there is in fact an entire chapter in my 11th Grade Physics textbook on carburetors, brake oils and the like. And numero duo, my tacit laziness and inability to read anything on the internet that isn’t a Buzzfeed listicle qualify as sufficient evidence to prove gross negligence and incompetence on my part. TL: DR, educate yourself! And just to make things easier, for I know we are an incredibly lazy lot, I have also included a link to a dummie’s guide to changing a flat tire.
Secondly, in the event that all that talk of nuts, bolts and jockeys is hurting your brain and/or you haven’t hit the gym in the last 23 years (like yours truly) thereby rendering all this information useless, because you simply do not possess the physical strength that is required to replace a tire, I have two suggestions for you. Oru number tip: Learn the local language. Or at least how to ask for help. If in case, language isn’t your strongest forte, I also strongly advise brushing up your charade skills. Rendu number tip: If you suffer from crippling social anxiety and would much rather play dead than interrupt a stranger’s day to ask for help, CHARGE YOUR PHONE. (This, so you can call up your Amma, who will first berate you, like all good mothers do, and then proceed to magically save the day.)
But in all seriousness, as it turns out, being an adult doesn’t simply mean the ability to finally finance my growing retail addiction in lieu of a regular pay check without having to resort to falling at my parent’s feet in a gross imitation of the one too many Hindi soaps I’d watched growing up, or haughtily announcing I now eat kale at every opportunity I get.
Over the past one year, I’ve realised that it involves a lot of ‘face meeting palm’ moments and reluctantly admitting that I’m not as prepared as I’d like myself to believe I am. It’s involved driving to work one Monday morning, only to be stuck with a flat tire in the middle of Mount Road, with no money in my wallet, little to no charge in my phone, and no idea as to how to handle the fiasco that was bound to ensue but knowing this is going to be one hell of a drinking story. (Priorities in place? Check.)
I take my leave with a quote, by the ever eloquent Michael Scott, which best sums up what all this feels like.
Good day, fellow explorers of the big unknown.