Recently, my family and I found ourselves literally in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, below freezing temperature, late and in the pitch dark with a flat front tire. Usually, when things like that happen, there is a sense of urgency as a parent with their helpless kids sitting in the back, but this time I had a sense of calm. I was aware that my husband was practically born and raised on a race track, having changed tires hundreds of times probably since the time he learned to feed himself. It didn’t occur to me right away however, that the racetrack that my husband grew up on, didn’t race mini-vans. Mini-vans are a whole different breed of car.
We knew that there was a spare tire under the van, but how to get it out was another story. I knew where the jack was, since I was the last to use it (see my blog entry from a few years back when I tried to render the van a very expensive lawn mower). I had forgotten that a set of instructions came with it, but quickly threw them aside, confident that my husband knew how to change a tire.
I stood patiently outside with a light source directed under the vehicle as my husband hunted around for some way to get the tire released. Again, they don’t usually store the spares under race cars at the track. As I stood, even with a sweatshirt and wool coat on, I began to shiver uncontrollably. My husband, being an EMT realized that wasn’t a good sign and started to panic, frantically feeling around the trunk area for some kind of inkling that we could access the tire from the inside. That’s when I came to my senses and picked up the instructions.
Due to reading the instructions, I was able to locate the small little bolt under a tiny carved out half circle of carpet. By using the detached handle from the jack, I loosened the bolt, lowering the tire that rested under the vehicle. By doing that, I warmed up and ceased shivering.
The rest went smoothly as it could, (we could have used some of those pneumatic tools from the race track) and off we went (very slowly) on the spare until we reached our home safe and sound.
Later, after it all happened, I pondered, then marveled over our little experience that we had together. I realized that all that happened was a very good example in team work. I have been very fortunate to have wonderful parents who taught me by example that a marriage is nothing other than a team. Heck, any kind of relationship; co-worker, parent/child, family.. they’re all teams.
Within a team, each person brings to the table their own unique skills and has their own special job so to speak. If a team was comprised of those with the same knowledge and same job, it would crumble. If I didn’t have my inherent female sense to actually read instructions, (something that I learned early on, that if it had to be assembled with the “instructions included”, it was my job.) we all would had frozen to death. We would all have frozen to death if neither of us knew how to change a tire as well. I know how to in theory, I just haven’t actually done it.
Another very important part of teamwork is the treatment of the teammates. Both of us knew very well that the tires were bald (we didn’t know they were that bad), but did either one of us take action before the blow-out? Neither of us took action. Both knew without explanation that if we stood there and laid blame, pointing our pre-hypothermic fingers at each other, it wouldn’t fix a thing. There was no sense in blame or complaining. What had happened, happened, and it was our responsibility as a team to fix it. We were not going to waste precious time by dwelling on the past, or dwelling on what is.
We also had an unspoken agreement to not hassle each other about lacking the skills the other had. We understood, each of us had a special purpose, and didn’t expect the other to know it all. Okay, okay, I did make a quick tongue-in-cheek comment about the strange phenomenon with men and instructions, but that was the end of it.
We also knew that even though it seems as though I am always in his head (as all couples learn to do after so many years together) and it seems as though we always move in sync, but there are times when neither of us know what the other wants unless it is communicated verbally. Even though the light I was shining where I thought it was supposed to be, it turned out that it was not and I was asked to move it slightly to the left or right. There was no, “you should have known”.
In the end it all worked out smoothly effectively because we had the “team”. That’s when I realized what a relationship of any kind really is, or should be.