Traffic calming. $138 later, I’m not calm.

Just a few years back, in my leafy little burb, my pocket of proprietor’s paradise, near my 1400 square feet in desirable location-location-location, the proverbial “they” began a project. A “Traffic Calming Project.”

Calming, I thought to myself. Traffic calming at that. It had to be a euphemism for something subterranean and a little less tranquility based. Most likely, whatever public work was to be undertaken, it was going to be exorbitantly expensive for taxpayers and decidedly disruptive for neighborhood residents.

I was not wrong.

Traffic calming. Not.

The project lasted about three years. Surprisingly long for what was originally to be a short sidewalk and a handful of speed bumps on three much traveled neighborhood roads. But what came along for the ride was an elaborate structure of snaggle-toothed concrete, bushy landscape, and skinny little islands in already skinny little lanes.

Detours, smashed cones, dented fenders and flat tires. These were the routine delays and mishaps that spanned seasons and innumerable evening stories. One friend had monthly tire dramas; another, quarterly. Until today, I had been spared.

It was an easy turn, low-speed, and I immediately felt it. I pull over to the side of the road, furious. It was 93 degrees. I was anything but calm.

A few other 40-somethings and 50-somethings stopped to observe. They had the clean, restless look of the suburban unemployed. My look. Beyond statistics. Fallen through the cracks. Out and about in midday, walking dogs, shooting the shit, having a smoke, or discussing the Economic Stimulus Package.

Tire repair, bicycle rescue, Marines

As I made an emergency cell call to my teenage son, a silver-haired gentleman offered to help. He was a former Marine, and clearly adept with both frazzled women and gashed tires.

He opened my trunk, found the spare (I didn’t know I had), the jack (I didn’t know I had), the lug nut wrench (I didn’t know I had), and made quick work of the necessary change.

He pointed out the closest repair facility (Pep Boys), and I thanked him profusely. He smiled and went on his way, just as my son arrived on his bicycle.

FACT: Service remains in some sectors. Not only from Marines along the side of the road, but also my local Pep Boys. Of course, before today, I didn’t know I had a local Pep Boys. And I didn’t know they had a sense of humor.  I requested a great tire to keep my teenagers safe, at the low-low-low-laid off price, preferably with a Margarita while I waited. I got full price ($138), no drink, but directions to the nearest package store, about a half mile on foot.

Teen time and Margaritas

Well, at least it was something to do. About the only thing to do on that stretch of highway. So my son stowed his bike in the car, and we headed out into the heat as I vented about all the things $138 could do other than replacing a brand new tire.

But then we started to talk. About whatever was on my kid’s mind. About the WEEDS billboard we were passing under. (Mary Louise Parker was hot, my son confided.) We joked, chatted, and wandered through the beverage superstore. We took our time, strolled the aisles, and never did get around to the Margaritas.

Driving home, I wondered about the local city government, the local auto repair, and the local liquor store. It seemed to me they were doing fine in this economy. Maybe they were in cahoots. A conspiracy. Why not?

All I knew was that I was calmer, now. And that was entirely due to the welcome surprise and pleasure of my son’s company.

© D A Wolf