My family doesn’t enjoy doing things the easy way.

This weekend I officiated a wedding in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Merriem and I decided to make a semi-weekend out of it and loaded the kids up early Friday afternoon to head down, spend the night, hang out on the beach, eat way too many french fries at this place, and see just how much sand we could grind into the floor of the minivan. That’s easy enough, right?

Saturday evening we started driving back at about 7:30. About 35 minutes outside of Wilmington, our rear tire lost a good sized chunk of tread. (It wasn’t a complete blowout, but “Good Sized Chunks of Tread and Banjo Music” would’ve made a lousy title.) Needless to say, we weren’t chancing the rest of the trip home, because as the commercial says, so much is riding on our tires. (In this case, three cubic tons of sand and a family full of french fries.)

So we made it off of I-40 and pulled over at a gas station in Rose Hill, NC, home of the world’s largest frying pan and a town where the motto is apparently, “Look! We have a gas station!” As I was using all of my mechanical skills to stare at the tire in the gas station parking lot, an older man around 65 or 70 pulled up and offered to help. So, my boys and I searched the van for the spare tire, and after pulling out one suitcase one computer bag one makeup bag one beach floaty thing five ocean smelling swimsuits ten gross beach shoe flip flop things and 289 shovels full of sand, we proudly produced the tire for our good samaritan.

He eyed it for a moment, and said, “That there’s a donut.” (WHAT? WE HAD DONUTS?!?) “You can’t ride on no donut. I think I gots a tire your size at th’ house…follow me back there and I’ll change it fer ya.”

At that moment, I was touched at the generosity of the human spirit. The kindness of a stranger. The…wait a moment…I’m receiving a text from my 15 year old who has relocated to the far end of the van…”MAMA DOESN’T LIKE THIS.”

After reloading the donut, the suitcases, the flip flops, and the sand (I think we grabbed some extra from the gas station parking lot), we followed Mr. Good Samaritan Serial Killer down the back roads of Rose Hill. My bride – always the trusting one – began replaying every movie we’ve ever seen where someone relies a stranger for a tire change and then suddenly the stranger is wearing their small intestine as a necklace.

After several tense miles and multiple twists and turns and crisscrossing back and forth over I-40, we arrived in Wallace, NC, whose official motto is “How come they got the world’s largest frying pan?” When Dahmer’s Tire Service turned off onto yet another back road, my bride very helpfully encouraged me to DRIVE JUST DRIVE LOSE HIM YOU DON’T KNOW THIS MAN YOU DON’T OWE HIM YOUR LOYALTY!

And so there I was…speeding away from our guardian angel at a whopping 27 MPH, you know, with the speed laws in Wallace and the fact that our tire had metal shards sticking out where our treads used to be.

We pulled up in the parking lot of an Auto Zone, and by this time it was 8:50. I know it was 8:50, because the two guys working in there enjoyed a very lively conversation with their regular customers, all the while eyeing me standing there and giving me the “You ain’t from around here, are ya boy?” look for roughly nine minutes right up until closing time.

And suddenly the front door of Auto Zone flew open and my 14 year old busted in, white as a sheet, and said, “DAD! The tire guy! He’s driving up and down the road looking for us! We need to go NOW!”

One thing you need to know about my 14 year old – he tends to imagine things. When he was on a Sean May celebrity kick a few years back, he thought he saw Sean May everywhere we went. Usually Sean May turned out to be a 5’7″ white guy, but still. So I don’t put a lot of stock in his idea that Mr. Bundy’s Auto Repair was roaming Wallace looking for us, but at that moment I didn’t have the emotional energy to fight it.

I hear that happens when you’re on the run for your life.

Coming tomorrow: Amber Alerts, Apathetic Friends, and AAA.