American with a Flat Tire in Korea


Oh No! I was driving across Seoul. I was almost home. The road had been long, and I was tired. I fell asleep at the wheel. I was on a busy road just a few blocks from my house. It was recipe for disaster, but God was taking care of me. I had my hand on the emergency brake for no particular reason except that it was comfortable. I drive with my right hand resting on the emergency brake. They had been doing road work, and I was wedged between traffic and a concrete barricade with road work on the other side. Jolt! An alarm was sounding! A red light was on on the dash board! I was just waking up and realizing that I had been asleep and the light and the alarm were because the parking brake was on. I could have hit another car, but I didn’t. I hit the concrete barricade, and the minute I hit, somehow, I had pulled the parking brake on. I put the parking brake off and went on my way. My car was driving strange. I pulled off the road to check my car out. I had a flat tire, but everything else looked fine.

I was relieved and scared. I called my daughter. I thought she was at home, but she was at the mall. She can’t drive anyway, but she is in her mid twenties, married, and my best friend. I needed to talk to someone who loved me. I knew she couldn’t actually do anything, and I would have to get myself out of this tough spot. We had all planned to go to the movies that evening after I got home, but upon hearing about my mishap, she and her husband decided to cash the movie tickets back in and go another time and come home. I decided to try to slowly drive my car the few blocks on home. I was not in a place where I could leave the car. Otherwise very calm Koreans get crazy and start yelling and trying to cause trouble if you put your car where they don’t want it, and the only thing I could do to prevent trouble was to get my car where I was allowed to park it. I didn’t take it all the way into the parking lot in front of my building, but left it outside.
After I parked the car, I got out and went around to look at the flat tire again. I didn’t seem to have caused any other damage, just a flat tire. I thought that I would have to call someone to fix it, but it was Friday evening. In Korea, usually, everyone takes their car to a car service to fix their cars, but the car service would be closed until Monday. I wanted my car to drive to church on Sunday. I could call my insurance company and they would send someone to change the tire for me for free. However, it was already dark, and I really didn’t want to bother some guy who was tired from working all day. I would feel as if I just wasn’t treating him fair. I decided to leave my tire alone until tomorrow and went into my apartment.
After I got into the apartment, I heard voices in the hallway. My daughter and son in law had come home. My son in law was tired and had to work tomorrow, so he went straight to bed. My daughter came in my room and sat on the end of my bed to talk to me. She said to me I would have to stop driving such long distances alone, and I agreed. She continued by underscoring how lucky I was to be alive, and I had to agree to that too. I hugged her, and she hugged me. She said we would have to call the insurance company to get someone to fix it, and I told I I wanted to wait until the next day, and she agreed. She sat there just talking to me about her day and asking about mine for a long time, and then we decided to go to the living room and watch “Once Upon a Time” on Korean Net Flix.

The next morning, I opened eyes and I heard voices in the kitchen. My daughter and son in law were in the kitchen discussing what needed to be done. My son in law went on to work, and I went back to sleep. When I got up, my daughter asked, “Are you ready to take care of your car?” I said, “Let me eat and dress, and then we will take care of it.” While I was eating and dressing, she couldn’t wait, so she asked to get into my purse and get my insurance card and go ahead and call, and I let her.
If you know how to do it, you really don’t even have to speak Korean well to get this type of problem taken care of. ( However, fortunately, my daughter speaks Korean very well. ) All you have to do is dial the number, and then there is a chart on the bottom right of the card, and each situation has a number by it for you to push. She took care of it easily.
She headed out the front door, and I asked her to wait because I was almost ready. I got my shoes on and went with her. Our apartment is so small that we store things in the trunk of the car, and I wanted to get the things out of the trunk of the car so the man could get to our spare tire easily. We went on to the car and took out the lawn chair, the sponge rubber mattress, the Bible correspondence courses, the grammar books I had written, etc. out of the trunk and put them in the back seat. I keep Bibles in my room, on the bookshelf in the living room, and in my car, and I was careful to protect my Bibles that were in my trunk. We also had a game that had completely dumped, and I had to put it all back together. About the time we were finished, a red tow truck pulled up.

The guy got out of the truck and came to look at the flat tire. He asked if we had a spare tire, and my daughter said we didn’t, and I was surprised. I said, “Yes, we have a flat tire.” She replied, “No, we don’t.” I asked, “Did you look?” She said, “I picked up the carpet in the trunk, and there was no spare tire.” I was baffled and was trying to figure out how that happened, but I believed her. The guy with the tow truck said we needed a tire, so he would have to tow the car to a tire place and asked about our car service. He realized our car service was closed, so said he would tow the car to Shinwol dong where there was a “Tire-O Bank” where that sells tires. He backed my car up, then he hooked his truck under my front wheels leaving the car in Drive. He told us we should go too and said we should get in the car. I got in the driver’s spot, and he cautioned me not to touch anything.

He pulled us to “Tire-O Bank” in Shinwol, and my daughter said she felt like she was in a roller coaster. My memories of roller coasters were much more frightening! I wondered if it wasn’t illegal to ride in the car like we did in America, but I really don’t know. My daughter was thrilled!

We arrived at “Tire-O Bank” in Shinwol. The man unhooked his truck from our car and left. We didn’t have to pay him anything. The mechanic came and looked in our trunk for the spare tire. I was still baffled at my daughter saying there was no spare tire, so I walked around to look. When he pulled up the carpet, there was no spare tire. She was right. What could have happened to that spare tire? I didn’t take it out. Maybe someone at the car service took it out.

The mechanic showed us into a waiting room to a cash register at a computer. He explained that a tire replacement that was like our tires was one price, but he recommended a better tire that was more expensive. I didn’t see any reason to go with the more expensive one, so I told him to give us the one that was just like the ones we had. I looked up, and he was wearing big black rimmed glasses without any glass in them. Young Korean guys have a tendency to wear glasses like that sometimes. They do it for two reasons. First, they think it makes them look smarter, and secondly, it is in style. To me, it is just silly. He left and went to pull our car into the garage, and we sat down at a desk with a big window where we could watch our car.

My daughter pulled a deck of cards out of her purse. She learned from me to play games and made it part of who she is. I have always used games to make friends and have a good time, and there have been times that I had cards in my purse, and I wanted to get to know someone who was afraid to talk, so I just pulled the cards out and asked them to play. In a few minutes, they were laughing and talking with me. As we have travelled, if my kids were bored, I would take the cards out of my purse and play Rummy, Crazy Eight, or King’s Corner with them. After church, there are times that there are both Korean and English speakers who can’t speak to one another, and I would pull out my cards and teach them all to play “Old Maid” because they didn’t have to talk to one another to interact, and in a few minutes, people who couldn’t carry on a conversation were laughing, connecting, and having fun together. I have learned that they play the same game in Korea, but instead of the loser being an old maid, the loser is a theif. When my daughter pulled out her cards, I wasn’t surprised. I asked, “Rummy?” because I know she is good at Rummy, and she said, “What else?” We played Rummy while we were waiting.


While we were waiting, another mechanic came to talk to us. He wanted to tell us that we needed to replace more than just one tire. He brought our flat tire and showed us that the rim was messed up. He said that all the rims had to match. He said we could get by with two of them matching, but it was safer if all of them were the same and if we had four new tires. I asked him if it was completely necessary for us to have four new tires and four new rims, and he insisted it was. I know there are times that dishonest mechanics in the States add more and more work to charge up your bill, and I didn’t know if he was doing it or not. We just kept asking him if it was completely necessary, and he kept telling us it was and it was going to be expensive, and in the end we felt compelled to go ahead and let him do whatever he thought was necessary. The bill was hiked quite a bit, but we wanted to be safe.

We sat and finished our game, and they finished our car. The new tires and rims looked really good. We paid for the tires, rims, and work, and they drove the car out of the garage. We got in our car and continued on our way with four brand new tires and rims. After all, it was Saturday, so it was grocery shopping time. If you want to read about a Korean grocery shopping trip, read my first blog here with a big picture of E-Mart.


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