Fixing a flat and changing your life |

Fixing a flat and changing your life

Evan Zislis
Life. Simplified

Every day we’re presented with a thousand opportunities to evolve. It’s the little things that define who we are and who we become. My freshman year of college, I got a flat tire driving my 1986 Jeep Cherokee from Bangor to the University of Maine. Long before cell phones, I flagged down a state trooper to call for roadside assistance. I now look back on that day as an uncomfortably defining event that has stayed with me until this week.

On that sunny afternoon, waiting for a tow truck on the side of the road, a pretty girl from my dorm recognized me and pulled over. She gave a little wave, saw my flat, and walked to the back of my Jeep. Sitting on a grassy slope next to the road, I thanked her for pulling over and explained that I’d already called for a tow truck. She gave me a little smile, opened the rear hatch, fumbled around, and pulled out my car jack and the donut under a hidden panel. I was dumbfounded. It never even occurred to me to look in there, or that I could change my own flat tire. And here was this young woman I hardly knew — preparing to do it for me.

She just went to work. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to help, but my inexperience and clumsiness were apparent. With expert hands, she loosened the lug nuts, positioned the jack, hoisted the car, pulled off the flat, carefully placed the donut, reset the lug nuts, lowered the car, tightened the lug nuts, and without a word gave me a beaming smile. Feeling utterly mortified by my helplessness, I surely offered some awkward expression of gratitude. And she gave me a little wink, walked back to her car, and drove away. Moments later, the tow truck pulled up behind me as I loaded the flat back into my trunk.

I remember explaining to the mechanic what had just happened. He paused, gave a little laugh, looked at my donut, and said, “Looks like she did a good job. You have a nice day.” And then walked back to his truck. I sat in my car for a minute, taking it all in. In that moment, I learned an important life lesson, but it took over 20 years to sink in.

Just this week, on my way to a television interview on Good Morning Vail, I got a flat tire driving east through Glenwood Canyon on I-70. Naturally, I called the studio, explained that I’d miss my interview, and directly proceeded to call for roadside assistance. Dispatch informed me that it would be about an hour before a tow truck would arrive.

All at once, I remembered that sunny day in Maine and her confident little wink. In that moment, I decided I would finally learn to change my own damn flat. So, I watched a three-minute YouTube video on “How to change a flat tire” and with all the conviction I could muster, got out and walked to the back of my Subaru. In a little less than 15 minutes, I stood on the side of the interstate, staring down at the shiny black donut beautifully mounted where my flat had been only moments before. Grinning like a complete idiot, I pulled out my cell and called the tow truck and told him the entire story. He laughed and generously congratulated me.

I’m usually terrified to try new stuff. To be honest, it’s been a defining characteristic of mine since I was a kid. But recently I’m learning to replace my terror with a sense of curiosity for the mystique of the unknown. I’m learning that the difference between who I am and who I want to be is what I do. And with every literal and metaphorical tire I change, I become more confident to try new things I never thought I could do. And I evolve.

Evan Zislis is author of the bestselling book “ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World” and “Aphrodisiac: Clearing the Cluttered Path to Epic Love, Great Sex & Relationships that Last.” He is founder and principal consultant of For more information, like ClutterFree Revolution on Facebook, call 970-366-2532, or email

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.