WHEELS

There are times that are out of the ordinairy. This is a report of a week that has been completely out of control in that respect, though I didn’t even go to a place that was out of the ordinairy or do anything that qualifies as that. It’s an accumulation of events. It can be clarifying to retrace one’s steps.

So this is the report on week 26 of the year 2010 – the story of my spare wheel and more causes and effects.

*

The events of this week were embedded over two years ago, when I moved to the house I’m now writing this in. Right after I moved in, the city started renovating a large building across the street. This caused noise and dust for almost a year. Then the streets surrounding the building – my own street and the street that T-crosses it – were thoroughly reconstructed, including the sewer system. A project that’s at this point still ongoing and again involves dust and noise. I’m sort of living in Beirut, especially when the temperature rises to Californian desert levels, like it did throughout the past week.

We’ll leave my street where it is for now and take a leap to last sunday, when the Tour de France was going to pass through this city, though I’m not living in France at all. That sunday I was going to visit my parents, a one hour drive from here. That sunday both my sister and brother were also at my parents house, which doesn’t happen much because they both live abroad, a lot further away than me. So, ofcourse, it was nice that all five of us would spend the sunday together. We would have a barbeque. The weather was nice, the air was a bit less cramped, not like it became later on in this week.

Due to the expected traffic problems that accompanied the Tour de France circus I had to leave the city earlier than I initially had planned. The highway was still quiet, deserted even and I was well on my way to establish a personal record on the track between my house to my parents house. Then I stumbled across a traffic jam which started at the exit right before the exit I had to take to get to my parents. The traffic jam was a serious one. The cars were barely moving. I was listening to my ipod, so I turned the radio on to hear if there was some sort of accident that caused this unexpected traffic jam. While the cars were crawling across the highway, three, four meters at the time, I gathered there were disasterous forest fires going on, right next to the highway. The traffic was directed from two lanes into one. I started to see a lot of firetrucks and army vehicles. A tank, even. Also I could see parts of the charred woods, a desolate sight on this bright and sunny sunday. A brown fog hovered between the trees. Some parts of the trees were completely black and dead, some parts, like the tops still seemed to be intact. There was a thick firehose lying on the closed lane, a hose of several kilometers long. I was happy I took a bottle of water with me when I left home.

I don’t exactly know how long I got stuck in traffic, but I found it rather miserable to get stuck right before my exit. It’s kind of demotivating. So, after what I gathered to be quite a long time, I was happy to see the signs in the distance that indicated the traffic jam was dissolving close to the exit I needed to take.

Now, and this is important, this exit is situated right before the highway goes up, over a large bridge, where it crosses some roads and a big canal. At this point the traffic could already start to use two lanes and make some speed. I was relieved to see this, but when my car finally broke free I found ‘my’ exit to be closed off. The firehose was directed over the exit. Apparently the water for putting the forest fires out was taken from the canal. I needed to take the next exit, which wasn’t far from this one. I accelerated to get there as fast as I could.

Right on the bridge across the canal I heard a strange noise and the next thing I see in my rearview mirror is a wheel bouncing carelessly across the highway. Two cars dodged it, after that I couldn’t see what the wheel was doing. Because of my speed and the curve of the bridge I lost sight of it. I stopped next to the highway as soon as possible to establish that the metal construction that’s supposed to keep my spare tyre safely attached to the bottom of the car somehow broke loose in an almost impossible way. The rack was touching the ground. I didn’t really know what to do, I would have been quite dangerous to go back on the bridge to find my wheel and, to be honest, I was a bit shocked. I tied the broken rack to my ‘tow’ or ‘pull hook’ (or whatever that thing is called in English), so that thing for once prooved to have at least some sort of practicle use to me and drove carefully to my parents place, only a few kilometers away. Hoping the wheel wouldn’t cause problems. I decided I should probably call the police about it, when I got to my parents home.

Once there, I explained the whole event to my brother, who immediately suggested we should try to find the wheel. The location where I thought I lost it was easily accessable through local roads, so we drove to the bridge across the canal and the blocked exit I was supposed to take if there wouldn’t have been these fires. We started with walking through stinging nettles and other delights of the nature that’s in the highway banks. We walked up to the highway, on top of the large bridge, to see if the wheel was still there, but we couldn’t see anything. Luckily, we also didn’t see some horrible accident the damned wheel could’ve caused, so that was quite a relief.

In the distance we did see a car that was on the blocked exit. It seemed to be a car of the road maintenance organization or something, so we walked through the highwaybanks to ask the person in the car if he’d might have seen anything that would involve my wheel.

We first thought the man inside of the car was asleep. His windows were closed. He looked down. We carefully – we didn’t want to startle the man – knocked on his window. He wasn’t sleeping, he was writing in his note book. Cool air flowed out of his window, he was enjoying his airconditioning while guarding the blocked exit. We asked him if he’d seen a wheel. He didn’t. But he would ask his collegues. He used this radio for that, not a mobile phone. None of his collegues had seen a wheel. Then the guy wrote down my phone number in his note book so he could call me if my wheel would turn up later. He was nice. He also seemed to be happy to get some distraction. It’s probably not that exciting to keep an eye on a blocked exit for hours on a sunny sunday.

My brother and I thanked him, he closed his windows to go back to making notes in his airconditioned universe. We walked back to the car. We walked down the blocked exit to avoid more burns from stinging plants. Down the exit there was another car parked, a truck from some other organization that has something to do with the roads or with fires, maybe. We asked the airconditioned man inside if he’d seen a wheel. He also didn’t know anything about a wheel. He wished us good luck with our quest for the lost spare wheel.

We looked in the banks of the canal to make sure we did everything we could on this side of the bridge and the canal. There was no wheel. We contemplated the possibility of the wheel floating in the canal, but there was no wheel floating around in the canal. Even though I was pretty sure I lost the wheel on this side of the bridge, we drove around, over a small bridge that parallels the highwaybridge, to the other side of the canal. The ways of a bouncing wheel can be unpredictable so you never know.

On the other side there wasn’t really a road, but more of a sandpath, similar to the condition my own street is in at the moment. There was a huge waterpump that made sure the water from the canal would end up kilometers away at the fire. A fireman was guarding the pump. He read the paper, sitting on a bench. We asked him if he’d seen a wheel.

Yes, he said, it’s right up there. He pointed up, to the highwaybridge. He walked with us to get the wheel. Appartently, shortly after I lost it, the police already took it off the highway and put it on the outside of the highway barriers. And yes, there it was, casually leaning against the rails. The fireman told us the firehose from the canal to the fires was seven kilometers long. He also told us the fire didn’t start itself, the forest didn’t combust spontaniously, but someone had lit it. Whether this had happened on purpose or not, no one knew. The fireman too, seemed to be happy to get some distraction. All in all my wheel seemed to have entertained quite some people that sunday.

Happy about the result of our quest my brother and I went back to our parents place. The moment I walked in there I got a phonecall. It was someone of the roadpeople who was given my number by a collegue. He said he’d found my wheel, close to the blocked exit.

Somewhat puzzled I asked my brother what to do. He suggested we should go back to meet the guy with the second wheel. After all, the wheel we just found may not have been my wheel after all and if this second wheel would be the right size too, I’d have two spare wheels. And who wouldn’t want to have two spare wheels? Besides, we had nothing better to do. We agreed to meet at a parking lot down the blocked exit.

On our way there a thought occured to me: this second wheel might just be the exact same wheel as the first wheel, only coming from a parallel universe. Due to a rupture in space and time my wheel also fell from under my car in this parallel universe, the one a bit later than the other. There’s an excellent component for a short story there, I noticed. My brother and I had a good laugh about this. Glorious times for brother-sister bonding.

We got to the parking lot, which is there because it’s used for carpooling, there’s really nothing around this exit except for some roads, the highway, the canal and a bunch of trees, We immediately saw a bright yellow pick-up truck parked in the middle of the lot. There was only one other car parked there. In the back of this yellow pick-up there was a wheel. The guy from this truck was a new character in this story. He told us he just picked up this wheel twenty minutes ago, right by the bridge at the blocked exit.

My brother took a quick look at the wheel and stated this was not my wheel. It was an audi wheel. The logo was right across the hubcap, so that was clear as day. My car is not an audi, therefore it wasn’t my wheel. The road-guy said, well, I’ll take it to the police then. The yellow pick-up slowly drove off the parking lot. It was rather hot so everything goes a bit slower.

The moment we turn around to go back to my car, my brother shouts, I know where the wheel is from! At that point I saw it too, the other car parked on this parking lot was a big silver grey audi on only three wheels. It kinda leaned on it’s brake disc on the front left of the car. It looked sad and comical at the same time.

We ran up to the yellow pick up truck which was still in running distance. We got the wheel out of the back of his truck and put it where it was supposed to be: in the empty void on the front left of the car. Since the car was leaning on the brake disc we couldn’t exactly fit the wheel in there so now it looked even more tragic, a crooked wheel on an otherwise perfectly good looking audi. After this we all went our way.

So now we can only guess what the owner of the unfortunate audi would have thought when he got back to his car - which he had left on three wheels probably after suffering from the slightly disturbing circumstances in which his car had lost a wheel – and found his missing wheel reunited with his car like nothing really happened.

*

Like I stated at the start of this tale, it all started two years ago when I moved to the streets that have been a mess for most of that time. The street across my house has been renewed and has a new layer of tarmac, but my own street is still made of sand and small stones. When it raines the cars that pass this transition in road consistence leave an ever deepening dent in the mud that covers my street in wet times. I can hear the cars scrape over the end of the tarmac layer, especially low and small cars, like mine. When I left that morning, earlier than I would have otherwise because the traffic predictions that came with the Tour de France, I was not completely awake yet and even though I knew I should be careful passing the dent in the street, I probably went over it not carefully enough and I remembered hearing a soft, scraping sound when I drove over it. Which, in the timespan of more than an hour, made the rack that holds my spare wheel gradually crack until it finally broke. If not for the fire, it would’ve broken off, but not on the highway because there wouldn’t have been a traffic jam and the exit wouldn’t have been blocked. There would never have been two wheels missing at the same bridge and the audi would probably still be three-wheeled when the owner would return to it. And even though it’s just the tale of my spare wheel, it’s still an impressive chain of events.

*

The wheel was only one part of the week. This was last sunday so the week in fact still had to start. On monday the pedal of my bike fell off. There’s something wrong with the screw that holds it. Further, due to a totally unrelated chain of events that lead up to a Babylonic failure in communication of Kafka-esque proportions I found out I got defriended or even blocked - I’m not sure - from this virtual social networking disaster called Facebook out of a personal grudge of which I don’t understand completely what I did to make someone dislike me so much. The Facebook-defriending is something so silly it makes me laugh although in fact it is not really funny. Someone told me stories about intrigues in the art-world that made me almost fall off my chair. Also, I met a friend of a friend who told us he’d seen a real u.f.o. even though he doesn’t believe he actually had an extraterrestial encounter at that moment – and still – is not sure what exactly he saw flying through the nightsky a couple of weeks ago. He found out he wasn’t the only person in the area that saw the u.f.o.. He’s thinking about reporting this sighting to a special u.f.o. centre. And he should. A good friend told me she’s pregnant. I got informed that I’m in an exhibition in the S.M.A.K. museum in Ghent this autumn. My stalker – a whole other story which is beyond my control since people with psychic disturbances can not be reasoned with - has a new emailadress which he used to send me an incoherent and more or less agressive message which I showed to a friend who told me I should report this to the police. This stalker, by the way, is the only person I've blocked through Facebook but that obviously makes sense. I had a meeting with my fellow comic book maker, in which we completely finished the storyboard. Now it’s up to me to keep on drawing. The heat makes my hand sweat and I smudge the lines when I accidentally rub over the non-waterproof markerlines I’m putting on paper.

But I think I’ve found a system to avoid that.

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