I worked as a Spanish teacher at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN for two and a half years. At least two times a week, I commuted from Nashville to Columbia – a 40 mile drive. During those years, car trouble was never a problem; it was smooth sailing between Nashville to Columbia and back. However, on my last day of work, all hell broke loose.
Two things happened to me on my way to work: 1. My flimsy khaki pants ripped completely down the seam. 2. A rock was in my path on the highway, which smashed against my exhaust pipe, releasing a lot of carbon monoxide.
Soon after I left home, my pants ripped as I was stretching my legs a little. The rip started below my crotch and ran all the way back to the top of my underwear. Panic set in immediately! The thought of finding another pair at the local mall before class was impossible, because I didn’t have time.
Ten minutes later, a large rock appeared in front of me, resting on the road. I tried to swerve around it but couldn’t do it. Suddenly a “BOOM” sound came from underneath my car. I knew immediately the rock had torn a hole in my exhaust pipe. My heart began beating 500 times a minute as the smell of rotten eggs swirled around my head. Immediately, I opened my front passenger window, which kept the smell and the toxic danger to me at bay.
I didn’t think I was going to make it to work, but I remembered there was a “Midas” shop on my way to school. So I paid them a visit. The manager came out as soon as he heard the loud noise my exhaust pipe was making. It sounded like a small jet engine. I got out, clutching my pants and explained the problem. He jacked up the car and saw the entire pipe had been almost torn in half. I asked him if the exhaust pipe could be fixed. Unfortunately, he couldn’t repair it for free, because it was not under warranty, and there was only thirty dollars in my pocket and no credit card. The manager also said it would take a day or so to get a new exhaust pipe. I felt screwed.
Angry and embarrassed, I left and forged on to school. The rotten eggs smell from the CO continued its lethal assault on my respiratory system. Even though the windows were down, I felt a little woozy from the gas.
As I drove closer to the college, faculty and students could hear my screeching tailpipe. They probably wondered when the school became an airport. My problem was how I was going to walk to my class with the least amount of embarrassment possible. I parked in the closest lot to my classroom building. As I got out of the car, it was going to be impossible hiding the fact that my free hand was clutching the ripped fabric together. Anyone could see the back of my underwear. Fortunately, there were not many students, nor fellow employees as I walked awkwardly to my classroom. When the coast was clear I turned into the empty room and sat down on the desk.
I was trying to pull myself together, still reeling from what had just happened to me. Soon, students trickled into the classroom. Fortunately, all I had planned for that class was a review sheet for the final exam. Normally, writing on the board cleared up matters about grammar, but getting up would have exposed my caboose. I told them what had happened to my pants. Chuckles filled the room.
Class was dismissed fairly early, because I had a night class and little time drive to the town mall to find a new pair of pants that wouldn’t rip. I cautiously got up from the desk and discretely walked to my car. The windows were still rolled down, so as much of CO would escape into the atmosphere as possible. Still, I knew that starting up the engine and driving to the mall would increase the leakage of gas.
It took me at least half an hour to drive to the mall and find a clothing store. Fortunately, the entire parking lot looked deserted, but I still walked like my legs were almost fused together. To my right was a JC Penny’s, and from what I could tell, the men’s department was close to the front door. I quickly found the pant selections and conveniently found my size. I tried on another pair that seemed to fit. Plus, I made sure they were durable enough, so the scenario wouldn’t happen again.
My new pants pulled me through the rest of the day; I could stand up confidently while teaching my night class. That night as I drove home with my windows rolled down, the horrible screech beneath me somehow resonated with an old rock tune- “Born to be Wild.” After all, that was my last day teaching at Columbia State.