Mad. I was steaming mad.
As I drove my rented Dodge Caliber down the streets of Key West, Fla., a few weeks ago, I was getting crazy stares.
While some people gave me weird looks, others shared hand motions. It took me a few blocks to figure out their attention was geared to my rear drivers’ side tire.
It was flat. On a car that had 358 total miles on it when I picked it up. When I took a look at the tire it was obvious that I ran over a screw.
I called Alamo, and they shared the bad news with me. I had failed to check the little box on my rental agreement that said roadside service. So when they dispatched a tow truck to repair my tire the service came with a $49.99 fee. The good news? I could expect a repair in 50 minutes.
Now I was just a city block from one of my oceanfront watering holes, but I opted to wait for the service truck in a way that seems out of the ordinary for me.
Instead of enjoying a cocktail I entered an art gallery and perused some authentic Key West art.
The art was cheering me up. Key West artists tend to use a wonderful mix of vibrant colors to depict sunsets, gingerbread houses and the simplicity of island life.
But it didn’t take 50 minutes to look at!
So I went outside the gallery and stood up against the building next door, Pepe’s Restaurant. It’s located on Caroline Street. It’s a weathered old place, opened in 1909. A sign on the small restaurant reads: A fairly good place, for quite a long while. Open under old management.
That’s when I met Phillippe.
He, too, was standing up against the building. He was taking a break from his job as a dishwasher when I said hello and asked him how his day was going.
His day couldn’t be going as bad as mine. There’s no way he could be on vacation spending his time dealing with a flat tire, now could he? But that’s when I learned a lesson. There are people out there who have problems far worse than mine — even if a flat tire seems like the biggest problem in the whole world.
Phillippe explained that he was from Haiti, where a two years ago a hurricane cut a nasty path across his homeland.
High winds, water and terrible mudslides raised havoc with the Haitian people, including Phillippe’s family.
Phillippe had come to the United States to work and send money home to Haiti to help fund the years-long process of rebuilding his family’s home. And their lives.
“I lost two relatives near Port-au-Prince during the earthquake,” he said, referring to Haiti’s capital city and the storm earthquake that devasted the island in 2010.
Then Phillippe looked up at me with his large eyes and said in his broken English, “You have to believe that God will take care of all things. You just have to have faith.”
The hurricane and its path of destruction weighed heavily on Phillippe’s mind two years after the devastation.
I was ashamed that something as simple as a flat tire was weighing heavily on mine.