Have you been to Dunkin’ Donuts lately? Being a teacher, I was given about a thousand dollars worth of gift certificates for Christmas (give or take some hyperbole), so John and I have been enjoying a more than occasional weekend hot chocolate and/or donut-run. One of their current ad campaigns is a sign that recommends putting their flavor syrups in hot chocolate. I can’t say that coconut does anything good for coffee, but it takes hot chocolate to a whole new level of cozy perfection.
This week, we almost missed our trip for hot chocolate. John’s parents came up for a visit, so our excessive consumption of food that isn’t exactly good for us was looking like it would be confined more or less to the holiday-level decadence we had at home with them. We all left the house in the early afternoon, half comatose from pastry overdose, to visit John’s stepdad’s aunt, however, and hit an enormous pothole ten minutes into the drive that completely incapacitated both wheels on the passenger side of the car.
We pulled off in a nearby parking lot to assess the damage and found that not only had the front tire gone completely flat, the rear tire was hissing its death curse at the road. When we called AAA, we were informed that it could be as much as a three hour wait, given the rate people in our area were sacrificing their tires to the wintry New England roads. At this point, it was something like two in the afternoon, and most tire places close at four on Saturday. It was looking like John’s parents would be stranded in Massachusetts until Monday morning, and as glad as John and I would have been to have more visiting time with them, it made the little adventure seem more stressful for them.
I am impressed by the amount of technology we had at our fingertips to work on the problem. I think it’s actually fair to say that we had an excess of technology. To find a tow and tires, we had a GPS unit, preloaded with addresses and phone numbers for a wealth of auto shops, a smart phone with (iffy) internet access, and a car phone. We teamed up and used all three, plus our minimal knowledge of the area, to search high and low for someone to take the car when the tow truck eventually got there. Unfortunately, technology can neither magically summon a tow truck from thin air nor force tire places to stay open late. We were resigning ourselves to three hours in the car followed by a cab ride when the tow truck pulled up with plenty of time to get us to the nearest tire place.
The tow truck, however, was not equipped with seating for four extra people. I had had a glance of the route when we were looking things up on the GPS, had noted the mileage, and quickly offered to walk. It was a nice enough day, I said, and as John concurred that a mile was not to far to walk, we waved goodbye and started trucking up the road, determined to beat the tow truck to the tire place, and this is where we really hit a piece of luck: there was a Dunkin’ Donuts right around the corner from where we pulled the car over. What better timing could we have found for a good cup of hot chocolate?
The thing is…a flat mile in summer or spring or fall is a very different thing from an uphill mile in the middle of a harsh winter. John and I looked at the street numbers after we bought our tray full of hot chocolate and realized very quickly that the walk wasn’t quite as short as we had been imagining. We went so far as to duck into a little gas station to ask for directions, just in case my quick glance at the GPS was had been muddled by my all but nonexistent sense of direction. Sad to say, it wasn’t, and the gel-haired, smoking mechanic every mother was afraid her daughter would fall for in high school informed us that we had ahead of us a half-hour walk of carrying a tray of hot chocolate up a hill whose sidewalks hadn’t been plowed, possibly ever.
I started to worry slightly at that point, because I had realized while paying for the hot chocolate that my phone was not, in fact, in my purse, as I had told John’s parent it was. And John’s phone was where John’s phone almost always lives…on his bedside table. We had gone from the high-tech treasure trove of his parents’ car to an antiquated poverty of connection that required us to do the same things we had joked about as we used the GPS and mobile phones: walk and talk to strangers. Being disconnected was a severely uncomfortable feeling and we were motivated enough to cut the mechanic’s predicted walking time in half. By the existential aloneness of having no cell phone, and the fact that our treasured hot cocoa was hemorraghing heat as we walked.
By some stroke of luck and physics, we managed to make it to the tire place before the car was finished and just as the hot chocolate hit its ideal drinking temperature. The mechanics were able to salvage both the rims and the tires with a bit of hearty pounding and heavy duty sealant and we were able to return to the world of self-reliant, high velocity mobility without too much ado, all things considered.
The hot chocolate was perfect.