I GOT a letter the other day from Newcastle resident Michelle Andrews who wanted to offer thanks to a Good Samaritan who'd pulled over and helped her change a tyre one busy Friday afternoon.
She was so grateful because in the heat of battle she didn't get the name of the Samaritan.
It might have been Eugene, it might have been You Beauty. She wasn't sure.
And fair enough, you do have a lot of things on your mind in these situations.
One moment everything's going fine, the next, "what's that ka-thunka thunka noise?"
I'm sure Michelle, who works in mental health, has a name for the reaction that usually follows.
I call it having a "skitz".
It's amazing the amount of things that have to come together to get you to this moment feeling this deflated.
Someone had to build a nail.
Someone else had to leave that nail on the road.
And you had to drive over it.
In my case, taking the kids to school one busy morning along my super secret suburban rat run dressed in my ugg boots and PJ shirt.
Of course it doesn't achieve anything getting philosophical at that stage.
Action is required.
You may have to attract pity from passing motorists.
And that may be the only silver lining to the ugg boots and PJs.
But overall, a flat tyre is never a great addition to your day.
It's often a classic situation where you can see the problem, but can you deal with it?
And don't think struggling to change a tyre is just a chick thing. Dudes struggle too.
Knowing what a jack is, is one thing.
Knowing where it is is another.
And knowing what to do with it completes the triple challenge.
To some it may seem obvious the jack is somewhere in the undercarriage.
But for the mechanically challenged, knowing what an undercarriage is can possibly turn the triple challenge into a quadruple.
There is a tendency to pull everything out of the boot and go with the heaviest-feeling lump of metal.
Possibly the jumper leads.
"Go where" is the next question.
Some people might know it's a bad idea to position a jack under rusty floors.
Others might proceed anyhow and poke a new ventilation point in the vehicle.
That doesn't really help the mental side of things, except to make you more mental.
Supposing you manage to get the jack under a strut, the next challenge you may have is cranking it up.
There may well be a chance that the jack you've got is a hand-me-down from several used-car salesmen over the years that requires the foreknowledge that a brick and two pieces of wood are further needed to get it up to a height where it will be effective.
Otherwise you may crank and crank and crank, and the upshot is all you get is cranky - that you don't have that brick and two pieces of wood.
I'm not saying this has happened to me but . . . all right, it has happened to me.
Good thing I didn't pull out the jumper leads. (You can't jump start a flat tyre can you? No, I thought not.)
But they can come in handy as a defibrillator if, after getting the vehicle jacked, you can't move the bolts and collapse beside the vehicle exhausted.
If this is the case, then the early jubilation that you managed to find the jack (or the jumper leads) and position it may well soon subside as you and the kids, who are looking to you to get the job done, stare forlornly at something doing nothing, going nowhere.
As unfair as it may seem to you at this moment, it may be you.
If you were a formula one team, you'd have hydraulic spanner things to do the job.
But of course, you're not at Monza, you're stuck on the side of your suburban rat run to school in your uggs and PJ shirt doing to your hands what the tow bar normally does to your knees.
So yes Michelle, I felt immediate empathy when I spoke to you.
In my case, I was able to phone a local tyre shop who advised me, after inquiring where I was, to drive the kilometre or so to his shop. The feeling was that it shouldn't "rim out" too much.
For the first 10 metres or so he was right. But the noise was pretty excruciating and a glance back to the rotary-hoed road behind suggested I was doing more harm than good, mainly to my reputation as a responsible adult.
So I lurched to a halt, hot-footed back home, got the other car, grabbed the kids and took them to school.
For the record, the kids seemed to be having a better morning than me.
Then I dropped round to the tyre shop in the good car and the man came back to the stranded vehicle with some serious tools.
I was grateful that he was able to deal with me so promptly, as the way the day had been going, I hadn't been that optimistic.
But that's flat tyres for you; they can happen at the most inconvenient times, bringing out the best in you, and sometimes, as in Michelle's case, the best in others too.