Death and taxes; we all know these are unavoidable facts of life. Now, I can add pothole to that list. This is no ordinary pothole I’m writing about. This gaping hole was a direct descendant of the Grand Canyon and it sprouted overnight. When I first spied the crater that occupied the majority of the left lane of a two lane highway, I quickly evaluated my options:
Option 1: swerve into the right lane
Outcome: definite property damage to two cars – potential bodily harm – almost certain lawsuit
Option 2: stop short
Outcome: definite property damage and bodily harm from being rear ended by the pick-up truck driving too close to me
Option 3: drive through the pothole
Outcome: definite property damage
Since Option 3 was the only choice that would not cause bodily harm, I slowed down, braced myself and hoped for the best.
As the gap in the pavement loomed closer, I realized that it was not one gigantic pothole, but rather two that were side by side, ensuring that no tire would be spared the pothole experience. It was raining and the water that filled the potholes obscured their true depth. To say that the impact of my encounter was jarring would be a gross understatement. I was wearing my seatbelt and still my head hit the roof of my car. I’m not sure, but I think I caught a glimpse of the molten core of the Earth when I was in the bottom of that pit.
Once I was back up on the pavement, I immediately moved into the right lane anticipating that I had a flat tire and would have to pull up lame on the side of the road. As I drove along slowly, I passed 8 cars with bent rims and blown tires. It was like a roadside, automotive triage area. Dozens of other cars with flat tires had made it to parking lots of the shops lining the highway. Incredibly, I did not hear the telltale thwock, thwock of a flat tire and the car seemed to be driving reasonably well. There was some shaking, but I wasn’t sure if it was from the steering wheel or my hands because of the adrenaline rush. I arrived safely at work, where I learned that 3 of my colleagues had fallen victim to the evil clutches of that pothole. I also learned that there had been 50 pothole-related calls to the police within 15 minutes. I couldn’t imagine how my car had survived this encounter unscathed. At the end of the work day, I fully expected to find a flat tire when I returned to the car. To my great surprise, I had four fully inflated tires. That was the last of the pleasant surprises I received.
On my drive home, something was wrong. My hands had stopped shaking, but the car had not; it had developed a shimmy. I made it home safely and described the wobble to my husband. Oregano called the mechanic and then the state Department of Transportation to report the incident and get a claim form for our impending damages. He was shocked when an actual human being answered his call. After he told the government worker the exact location of the pothole, the man responded by saying, “Oh, that one. We’ve had a lot of calls about that one today. I’ll e-mail you a claim form, but we deny 99% of the claims we receive. Good luck.” Later, as Oregano relayed this information to me, I imagined the DOT worker making a cackling, evil laugh while twirling the ends of a long, thin, black mustache, but maybe that was just the bump on my head talking.
A thorough mechanical inspection of the car revealed that the shimmy was caused by a badly bent rim which would need to be replaced before the wheels could be realigned. Until the necessary parts arrived at the mechanic’s, they moved the wobbly wheel from the front to the back of the car. The shimmy in the front was gone, but now my rear end was wiggling like a pole dancer working for extra tips.
A few days later, I noticed a thin line on my windshield. Of course, when I first saw it I deluded myself into thinking that a spider had strung a web across the left side of my windshield while it sat in the garage overnight. It didn’t take long before I came to the realization that I had an 18-inch crack in my windshield. A close inspection revealed a teeny, tiny ding in the glass; the kind that comes from a pebble. This little ding could have been there for months, but the impact of the pothole plunge caused this micro-chip to develop into a macro-crack that had lengthened as I drove the car. The windshield needed to be replaced. I was told the installation would take 90 minutes because I would literally be sitting there watching glue dry. When the technician brought my car around, he told me that he had cleaned all the glass and vacuumed the car. The glass sparkled in the sunlight. The windows were so clean and clear it was a wonder that birds didn’t fly into them as I drove. I don’t know if I had a contact high from inhaling glue fumes for 90 minutes, but seeing my clean, crack-free car made me ridiculously happy.
America’s crumbling infrastructure is causing my bank account to dwindle. I suppose some would say that Oregano and I did our part to help the economy by supporting local businesses. As I stood in my garage admiring four round tires and very shiny glass, I realized that because I drove in a hole, we are now in the hole for almost $800.