Taking an unexpected route home

After I left work today, I heard a strange noise coming from the back of my car, as if something were dragging along behind it.

I pulled into the Fry’s Marketplace parking lot down the street so I could get out of my car and look. My tire looked fine and I didn’t see anything that would make a noise. I had an old booster seat in the rear compartment and thought maybe it was rattling and moved it into the back seat to see if that made any difference and went on my way.

That didn’t help. After driving back onto the street, I heard the noise again. I called my husband, who was picking up the kids from school, to see if he could diagnose it over the phone. Since the tire didn’t look flat, we decided that maybe it wasn’t the tire and I could make it home so he could look at it so I got back on the freeway. But something didn’t seem right – the noise got louder so I put my hazard lights on and got off on the next exit. I pulled into an office complex parking lot and looked again.

The source of the noise

This time when I stopped, the tire was turned in a way where I could see what was wrong:


Time to call AAA.

I didn’t want to hang out indefinitely in an office complex parking lot so I drove to the nearest intersection and was thrilled to find the truth in the saying that there’s a Starbucks at every corner.

However, it was on the other side of the street and I didn’t want to push my luck by doing more driving than I had to so I pulled into the first parking lot I came to. I figured there had to be somewhere there I could hang out, but then decided against that because at Starbucks I would at least have Wi-Fi and could do some work while I was waiting. So I chanced going back into the intersection and across the street. I found a shady place to park in the parking lot of the fitness center behind the Starbucks and called AAA. Estimated arrival time was 70 minutes. I called my husband to update him and then called my sister to discuss a text she had sent earlier in the day.

I felt grateful that I was in a safe place and not on the side of the freeway and that despite all the record-breaking rain we’ve had this month, today was a cool, sunny, perfect-weather day. I also felt a great sense of appreciation for the existence of AAA.

Next I used the Starbucks restroom, ordered a drink, set up my laptop and did a little work until AAA arrived.

When the AAA driver took off my tire, I saw the full extent of the damage – a chunk of my tire was missing.

The driver put the spare tire on the car and noted that the speed limit was 50 mph so I decided to take surface streets home instead of the freeway.

Road of memories

When I drove out of the parking lot, I noticed that there were two police cars in the middle of the street and in the driveway that I initially turned into across the street, a smashed-up truck was stopped and traffic going the opposite direction was lined up for a few miles.

Google Maps instructed me to take McClintock Road as a non-highway route. Taking this surface street instead of my normal freeway route resurfaced many memories.

I drove through the intersection of McClintock and Baseline roads, where I used to shelp along with my mom on errands to Gemco (now a Target) and Smitty’s. Sometimes she bought me and my sister Icees after a long shopping trip. Once when my grandparents were visiting, they took me to the Smitty’s deli where I ate a club sandwich and once when my parents were out of town, they left me and my sister with a babysitter, a nice older woman from our synagogue, and we stopped at Smitty’s then searched the parking lot for the plastic peach she kept on her car antenna.

Further down the road, I passed a place called the Social Hall, but I remembered it as Minder Binders, a place I only went a couple of times, but once was with my aunt who has since passed away and my sister, who was wearing a fluorescent shirt.

Some other buildings looked familiar as I continued driving. Hey, there’s Big Surf! In all my years growing up in Mesa, I never went there so although it didn’t evoke any specific memories, its existence alone is a memory.

Then all of a sudden I was at the corner of McClintock and McKellips and I realized where I was. I had forgotten that McClintock turns into Hayden and I had unexpectedly drove to the cemetery where my mom is buried. It took me by surprise and then I noticed that the car in front of me had a bumper sticker on the back of the car that said in black capital letters: MOM.

As I sat at the red light, I grabbed my phone to take a picture of what felt like a significant moment. Captured in my windshield view was the MOM bumper sticker and the cemetery sign across the street. But the light turned green and there wasn’t time to snap a picture.

After I drove through the intersection, I made a right turn into the cemetery driveway and drove to the area where I knew my childhood synagogue’s section was.

There was only one other car parked there and a couple was walking to a nearby section. I found my mom’s grave and stayed for a few minutes. I recognized some of the names on other headstones. I waited for something significant to happen – could there be a reason why I was led here right now? Is there some connection to the couple that is standing there? Was my mom behind the tire damage because I hadn’t visited in awhile?

I still don’t have any answers, but on the way home I called my sister and we decided we would visit the cemetery together next time she was in town.

It took over an hour to get home on surface streets, but it was more meaningful then the quicker route and was a reminder that sometimes you just need to go wherever the road takes you.

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