Three Teens and a Flat Tire

Picture of a flat tire.Three months earlier we had moved to the island of Penang just off the Malaysian coast and south of Thailand.  I was finally settling into my two-year contract teaching high school science at the Dalat International School, and my wife and I decided to visit the the much-acclaimed Butterfly Farm.  They had 120 different species of butterflies flitting about sporting an incredible rainbow of colors.  There were thousands of them flying all around us in their enclosed world of tropical flowers and nectar.

After completing our visit there, we decided to continue on around the road that loops the island and find the Tropical Fruit Farm.  It will help to understand what traffic is like in Penang.  Cars go every which direction, and at the same time, there are hundreds of motorbikes also going every which direction. Like a relative of ours who’s lived here for a number of years said, “In Penang, road lines and traffic lights are merely suggestions.”  Traveling is a life-and-death endeavor; I was recently told that so many folks are killed on motorbikes that the police no longer keep track of the statistics.  Even the Malays that live here admit that traffic is bad!

So, we were very surprised when our GPS routed us up to a very nice four-lane highway that was nearly empty!  Following the road up into the mountain, we only saw a couple of motorbikes and couple of cars go by.  Traveling further up into the mountain, we decided our GPS was giving us false directions with the mountain coming between our GPS and the satellite signal.  Turning back started to seem like a wise idea.  We found a flat rocky area to turn around and headed back down the mountain in our very small Malaysian car.

Minutes later the car started bumping along, and my wife who was driving said, “Is the road rougher than it appears or do we have a flat?”  That was about the time I smelled the rubber.  She pulled over, I got out, and our front left tire was flat as a pancake!  While I was looking at the tire, three teenagers pulled up on their motorbikes and wanted to know if we needed help.  I assured them we were good, and it would only take me a few minutes to change the tire.  Besides, I didn’t know if they were there to hustle us, rob us, or whatever.  I kept trying to get them to  move on, but they just stayed … kinda laughing while they spoke to each other in Bahasa, the Malay language, and very broken English.   Still, I persisted in politely trying to get them to l-e-a-v-e!  Still smiling, they wouldn’t budge.

Then I started thinking, “Lord, is there some reason these guys need to be here?”  As soon as the prayer left my head, I discovered we didn’t have a jack or lug wrench! When we were buying the car a month before, I checked the spare, jack, and lug wrench–all were good.  Apparently, before we brought the car home, someone removed the jack and lug wrench!!  We had no AAA membership here and mechanic shops are tucked away among hundreds of other little shops.  But the one big teen kept repeating to us in broken English, “You rtree no gd, I cld mhs frnnd, h  ees say gud muh ka n tik!!”  Smiling we said, “What was that you said?”  Straining to understand after a couple more smiles and repeats, we got it–“Your tire is no good. I called my friend; he’s a good mechanic!”

Soon after, down the mountain below us we heard a revving motor and then saw a small sedan flying around the corner, swing past us at full speed, hit its brakes, slide sideways, peeling rubber with gray smoke billowing everywhere. The sedan makes the turn, aims at us, and then slams on its brakes right beside us, and out steps our smiling mechanic.   He pulled off the tire, and the inside sidewall had a hole the size of my fist.  I paid him, and gave the three teenage boys some money for their help, and all was said and done in less than thirty minutes!!  Talk about speedy roadside service!

On the way back down the mountain, I prayed, “Lord! Thank you for helping us once again!  Even when I didn’t think we needed help, You knew we did and had those boys stay.  And thank you that we didn’t have a wreck when the front tire blew a hole the size of my fist.  Thank you, Lord, our trust and confidence is in You, and You alone.  Amen from Penang.”

… I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike …        Acts 26:22

Copyright (c) 2011 by William D. (Nick) Nichols

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