It finally happened to me. I knew it was just a matter of time, and sure enough my turn came on Friday.
As I was leaving the office and walking up to my car, I saw the flat tire. What can I say? I knew it was coming, and yet I felt deflated.
Since the early days of recovery from Hurricane Katrina, people driving around New Orleans have done so at their own peril. When I came back to town in late September, there were still wires dangling from poles, trees and buildings. There were trees leaning uncomfortably and a lack of traffic signal lights and signs.
And there was a lot of debris on the streets, debris that often found its way into the treads of tires. A friend who works for the electrical utility company said he was getting two to three flats a week driving around New Orleans.
You knew it reached epidemic proportions when the signs began to appear. Along with the hundreds of signs advertising mold removal, house gutting and reopened restaurants, there are the "Flats Fixed" signs lined up along the major roadways.
But this is December, you say. Isn't the debris all picked up by now? Well, mostly. But now we're into reconstruction mode. All over town roofers are working dawn to dusk to install new shingles where blue tarps now reign.
I have no doubt that the majority of nails and sharp trash tossed into the streets by Katrina has been cleaned up. Now we're contending with nails dropped by roofers, construction crews, and even the trucks hauling the construction debris away.
When I pulled my shapeless tire from the car, sure enough I found a squat, wide-headed nail stuck between the treads. It was shiny new, so I'm pretty sure I can blame the roofers who have been working in our neighborhood and throughout the city.
But I'm not angry. Like I say, it was inevitable. How can you repair and rebuild almost an entire city without dropping a few nails?
Let's face it, like my tire, the city of New Orleans is largely deflated. Getting angry about it won't make it better. Just as that nail needs to be pulled to make the repair, we've got to pull together to make this place whole again. Of course, my tire will be ready to roll Monday. Fixing greater New Orleans is going to take much, much longer.
But I know it can be done, and I know one day New Orleans will be rolling again.