Ugh. The week before Christmas, time to get the tree (hoping for a late shopper’s discount), and the truck’s dashboard lights up red. The battery symbol flashes, the rpms drop, the engine dies, and I steer and brake the 4,800 pound truck without power steering or power brakes to a spot on the side of the road that should leave enough room for a tow truck and safety. Ho. Ho. Ha. A little more than a day later I have a renewed appreciation for the compassion within community and the humor of the universe. Ho. Ho. Yeah.
I have a truck. I didn’t buy it. My father gave it to me when he moved off the ranch after his second wife died. He married her after my mom died, and moved from suburban Pittsburgh to her twenty acres of rural California because he fell in love after 70. Without her, he didn’t need the land, or the truck, and moved back to Pittsburgh. In a situation like that, the appropriate response is thank you for the truck, and bid farewell to 27 years of owning Jeep Cherokees (the regular Cherokees, not the Grands).
The math is simple. In 2015, a 200 Chevy Silverado 1500 is about 15-16 years old. Things break. I’ve held off on a long list of repairs because I didn’t have the spare cash. After my dad died, there was and is hope of enough of an inheritance to fix a few things, and I hoped the truck would hold on until then. It did what it could, and then it couldn’t do anything.
The short version of the story is that, instead of a quick fix by replacing an alternator which would’ve had the truck operating the same day for about $250, it turned out to be a fuel pump in the fuel tank and $860 the next day at a garage that won’t take credit cards. Alternative modes of transportation quickly became either a ten mile walk in hypothermia conditions, catching a bus that only gets to within two miles of my house then walking two miles in hypothermia conditions, or calling an expensive taxi to take me to a part of the island they rarely visit. I’ve bicycled across America. I’ve walked across Scotland. Cold and wet and travel can be done, but not if I’m trying to present a professional image. I vented on Facebook, called a few friends to vent, and support began to arrive.
Within a couple of hours I had four offers to drive me home. After I got home (thanks to someone who knew it was a good time to serve me a cocktail first), I got multiple offers to drive me back to the garage, or someplace to work including people opening their homes to me. As word spread about the financial impact, I received offers of loans from friends, offers of pre-paid invoices from friendly clients, and a reminder of a promised non-holiday-related gift of money that would cover the costs. Modern economics can place a value on such offers from community, but economics misses the greater value of the compassion displayed.
The truck is now fixed. My cash has been maneuvered to pay for it (though I’ve yet to figure out the repercussions to my other bills.) There’s more than a whiff of fuel around the truck, but I’m hoping that is temporary and is only the consequence of a spill during the repair. I’ll let the truck sit for a day to let the seals set, and then try to let it sit for a weekend because, if it has to be fixed again, I don’t want to deal with that while the shop is closed.
Ironies and synchronicities have been evident throughout. The truck broke down. That’s sad. It broke down just after I’d mailed off my Christmas packages, deposited a major check from a primary client, and paid myself. The truck broke down in one of the few places where it could safely get onto a shoulder. This is one of the windiest and wettest Decembers on record, and the weather was calm and dry. The breakdown almost occurred beside a friend’s backyard, and only a mile from the garage – a garage which was beside the sites of three meetings I was supposed to facilitate that afternoon. As the truck was being delivered by the tow truck at the garage, my old Jeep drove up and parked across the street as if in sympathy. As I woke up about the time the stock market opened, my portfolio was up about the same amount as the price of the repair. The offerings of help enabled a serendipitous encounter with one person, a long-delayed deeply emotional conversation with someone else, a prompting with an advocate of my idea for a coworks, and a better payment arrangement with a long term client.
There was even a mad dash reminiscent of silent movies. As I was working from yet another coffeeshop, I set down my tea to steep, opened my computer to check for emails about an eagerly anticipated meeting about the coworks Kickstarter campaign, I noticed that there was only one bus that would get me to the garage before they closed, and the bus was leaving in minutes. I left the full cup on the table, dropped the computer into the briefcase, and scurried to the bus stop. A few minutes later, the bus arrived. After it dropped me off, and as I walked up to the garage, the truck came down the road from its test drive. The mechanic recognized me, handed me the keys, I walked inside, asked a few clarifying questions, and quickly drove back to the coffeeshop to find my tea still there and my table still available. Minutes after I unpacked the computer, the person I was meeting with arrived as if it was all orchestrated and choreographed. The conversation about the potential for Langley, Whidbey, the new economy, and the coworks was so good that they had to kick us out when they closed two hours later.
Spending $862.32 on a truck repair in the week before Christmas can change holiday plans. If I lost myself in angst and anxiety, I would miss the precious nature of the ironies and synchronicities that arrived. During the holidays, it is easy to overwhelmed with shopping and tradition; or too aware of the financial inability to participate in traditions. You can’t wrap the gifts I’ve received in the last few hours and days. You can’t photograph them. But, I can certainly appreciate them, the value of friendship, relationship, and community. Thank you, all.