Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Rolling Donut - by Christopher

We are eternally grateful to our friend Paul for loaning us his car. He has fearlessly allowed us to careen heedlessly across the Spanish landscape in his baby. What a friend we've got, right?

When he first told me that the front right tire had been replaced with a spare tire or "donut," I felt no apprehension whatsoever. I once drove on a donut for about three months during my Italian-style pie delivery days. I knew from my experience that as long as we didn't try to set speed records we would be fine for the duration of our car trip.

My parents and my wife don't have this type of valuable pizza delivery experience to draw on. They each felt varying degrees of worry about traversing Spain on a spare tire and for various reasons. The best reason for worry (which I agreed with) was that if another tire were to impale itself upon some sharpened piece of road flotsam we would be stranded.

Thusly did we find ourselves inquiring at the local Alcampo (Spain's version of Wal-Mart) after an appropriate wheel and tire.

That is a picture of a nice man telling Sarah that he has no wheels for sale and directing her to an Alfa Romeo dealership which might service us appropriately.

But contrary to the nice man's best intentions, we found no appropriate service to be had at the Alfa Romeo dealership. This nice lady was happy to direct us to a local junkyard which she suggested might provide a solution to our dilemma.

We came upon said junkyard in short order. Actually, it was quite a busy place for a junkyard. Or maybe Spanish junkyards are often busy places, who can say? Certainly not my parents or Sarah, and certainly not myself. My Mom did express her assessment of our increasingly bizarre predicament in the following photo:

The third nice person we met gave our car a once-over, then disappeared behind huge piles of scrap and debris surrounding the shop.

He returned to inform us that although his shop was a veritable treasure-trove of wheels, he had none for our particular vehicle.

We looked at each other, threw our hands up in the air and drove off, resigned to placing our trust in our rolling donut. It's been five days since we were forced to make that leap of faith and we've had no mechanical trouble to speak of, tire related or otherwise (fingers crossed).

While our search for a wheel was certainly eventful, the most interesting thing happened about an hour later:

This is a picture of the largest bee I have ever seen nestled into a seam on the seat back.

The four of us had been chatting and passing the time as we rode our donut down the road when a loud THWACK! sounded from the driver's side window. Sarah was our pilot at the time, and we were as interested as she was to find out what item had fallen into the open window to make such a noise.

Our search of the floorboards and the console turned up no evidence of the enormous leaf or twig we expected to find. We soon gave up the search. I believe my quote at the time was something like, "Hmmm."

Then we went back to talking. And an hour passed by.

And when Sarah leaned forward to adjust to a more comfortable position in her seat I spied a massive wing and a glistening yellow thorax peeking out from just behind the soft cotton of her dress.

I put it together immediately and almost shouted. But the air caught in my throat and Sarah leaned back into the seat. And pressed the exposed flesh of her back into the monster insect again.

"Okay," I said. "I need you to pull over to the side of the road right now."

"Right now," I repeated, in a voice that I hoped didn't sound too panicked. She looked at me puzzled and asked questions, but it's a credit to Sarah and to our relationship that she pulled the car over and climbed out as I instructed her to with no further clarification on my part.

I was afraid, above all else, that if she knew what beast lay comfortably near the skin of her armpit that she would feel too much fear and revulsion too quickly and blindly plunge our car into a guardrail at high speed.

Once everyone was out of the car we took stock of our passenger. It was unmoving.

"I think it's dead," my Dad said and tentatively brushed at it with the map he had been reading in the backseat.

But as soon as the map lightly brushed the wing of the behemoth it darted off into the country sky like an angry helicopter.

Sarah seemed only a little shaken and we soon continued our journey down the road. But all throughout the day I remembered that prehistoric bug, which had traveled for an hour wedged between my wife and the driver's seat without moving a centimeter or making a sound.

Had she never leaned forward, and had I not turned my eyes at just the right millisecond, it's conceivable that it could still be our undiscovered traveling companion.

How many dinosaur bees pass invisibly through our lives every day?

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