Is a padiddle a car winking at other cars?

Padiddles are automobiles with only one working headlamp. I see many more of them than I do drivers dealing with flat tires.

I used to have flat tires regularly. One day, on my way to school, I hit the railroad tracks wrong and both rear tires blew. The tires had been previously owned at least once. I immediately regretted the necessity of the actions of those tires, but I did become a member of the prestigious Too Many Flat Tires Society. I hit the trifecta when I found the spare tire was also flat. Since that day, I’ve held a properly inflated spare tire close to my heart.

Friends, sharing my youthful years, once changed a tire on a car in a flash. It didn’t take them long because they needed to tighten only three lug nuts, having lost two during the operation. Perhaps they were allergic to nuts. As they hurried on down the road, the car leaned one way with a thud. The wheel traveled farther down the road than the car had. The two nuts in the car had forgotten to tighten the three nuts on the wheel.

These events happened long ago if not far away. For the better part of my adult life, I’d led a flat tire-free existence. Life goes by as fast as Nolan Ryan’s fastball. The proof of that is many people don’t recognize the name of that Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher.

Then 1:30 one morning, I was driving a highway that was incredibly busy for that time of day. I was headed home from the airport after slaving away here and there, and dealing with delayed flights. The tractor-trailer rig just ahead of me hit a deer. It rolled the dead buck back towards me. We’re told not to swerve in such cases by those who know when we should swerve and there was another large truck not far behind me.

What else could I do but run over an antler and blow a tire? I pulled to the side of the road as soon as possible. I exited the vehicle and began the process of locating the jack, lug wrench, and space-saver spare tire in what is officially called “the back” of the vehicle. Finding the back of the vehicle was easy. Locating the jack, wrench, and spare tire wasn’t too difficult. Finding the proper spot on the car to position the jack was challenging, made more problematic by the lack of a decent flashlight.

A car pulled in behind mine. A young couple got out and asked if I needed help. “In many ways,” I answered.

The man worked for a tire service and changed the tire faster than I could change my socks.

I offered compensation, but they declined vehemently, asking me to “pay it forward.”

Not too long after that, I was in Alaska and had rented a car. I started that car and the tire-pressure warning light was illuminated. It’s an idiot light, so it got my attention. I walked back to the clerk and apprised her of the situation. She told me not to worry, that light was always on. I asked her to take a gander at the tires. She reckoned they looked fine.

I made it 25 miles before that tire went flat. A friend helped me change the tire in the snow and cold, bringing order to the chaos. Before I could make it back to the rental place, another tire went flat. I’d run out of all fixes except a phone call to the rental car outfit. They brought me a replacement car. That was much easier than changing another tire.

I try to think of every flat tire, actual or metaphorical, as a comma — a comma that’s a punctuation mark indicating a pause between parts of either a sentence or a life. The serial comma or Oxford comma (called this because it’s used by Oxford University Press) is the final comma in a list of three items or more and is used immediately before “and,” “or,” and occasionally “nor.” An example is: I needed to find the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire. I prefer using the serial comma, but the AP Stylebook, used by newspapers, doesn’t employ it in a simple series unless it’s needed to prevent confusion.

I try to enjoy life’s commas (serial and otherwise) as much as possible.

I figure we had all better appreciate each and every comma before the period gets here.

Al Batt is a writer, speaker, storyteller and humorist from rural Hartland, Minnesota. He can be reached at snoeowl@aol.com.

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