Taking $tock

I’ve had good days and I’ve had bad days. Given the choice, I prefer good ones.

However, the last Monday of April didn’t qualify as good.

On my way home from work the display on my car’s electronic dashboard suddenly began flashing. Several warning lights came on simultaneously, and the odd response I got when I tapped the brakes indicated this was not a test of the car's emergency warning system, but an actual mechanical malfunction.

Fortunately the large dealership where I purchased the car was just two turnpike exits past the one I customarily take, so I drove there and cautiously pulled in.

The attendant asked if I had an appointment, which of course I didn’t. I explained the problem. He listened sympathetically, went back to see his supervisor, and returned a moment later to mournfully report they were booked solid that afternoon. No mechanic was available, but they’d try to diagnose the problem early the next day. He was clearly a keen student of body language, because he rapidly deduced I wasn’t interested in renting a minivan for 100 dollars a day. He did, however, offer to have the dealership’s shuttle service take me wherever I needed to go, as long as it was no more than 12 miles distant.

That’s when I got the first sign that my luck was about to change. My residence, it turns out, is precisely 11.78 miles from the dealership. The upbeat shuttle operator was just what the situation called for: an engaging conversationalist, a good listener, and best of all, a safe driver. Once I got home I arranged to borrow my son’s car so I could make the 75-mile round trip to work the next day.

The service people messaged me early the following morning. My car needed a wheel hub and bearing assembly replaced, and also a new right rear ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) wire. The estimate had four numbers to the left of the decimal point, but I needed reliable transportation, so I gave the okay.

The cost, when combined with the mortgage payment that was due the same day, assured me of spending more during the month of May than I’ll bring home. From a fiscal perspective, that qualifies as a very bad day.

But then I paused, took a deep breath, and assessed the overall situation.

An unexpected four-digit expense is a bummer. But as a result of that misfortune my son cheerfully let me borrow his car, just as his aunt gave him the temporary loan of hers. I was, after all, getting my reliable transportation back. I’m not food insecure, I’ve got electricity, and access to tap water that’s safe to drink.

My son’s tennis team is enjoying a good season. All three of my children are looking forward to continuing their education this fall. Two special people I hadn’t heard from in a while, neither of whom knew anything about my car situation, reached out to say hello. I saw the long-since-graduated student who made me the special pencil holder that sits atop my desk at school for the first time in over a year. An encouragingly large number of my current students are throwing their hearts and souls into their final project. And the place where I am currently house-sitting is 36 minutes closer to school than my usual residence is.

Given the choice of a good day or a bad one, I’d still opt for the good one. But I’m not 100 percent sure of that. Maybe it’d help if I could remember what a truly bad day actually feels like.

Andy Young
May 10, 2024

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