Do You Have Triple A?

   If I had a buck for every time someone asked me that the past 24 hours, I could pay for the tow truck tomorrow. I don’t often have mechanical issues, but when I do, they seem to come hard and fast. I’ve been fortunate in that for my driving career (about 25 years) I’ve had relatively reliable transportation. I was raised as an independent, only child, out in the country, and have always relied on myself to get from place to place or to do what needs to be done. I suppose most of us think of ourselves that way, until something happens that forces us to come to a screeching halt. A serious illness, care-taking of a parent or spouse or child, a brush with death, or a vehicle breaking down seems to make us pause and take stock of what we have, what we might be grateful for in our lives, even if it is just the brain matter to figure out how to call a tow truck.

   This isn’t the first time I’ve had vehicle issues, and it probably won’t be the last. Not that I’m pessimistic, but I know a bit about statistics, and I also have experience that dictates as long as I deal with machines, they will break down. I have yet to ever run out of gas, though I’ve come close a time or two, but have managed to coast to a service station. I offer thanks every time I arrive somewhere safely, even if it is just getting to work without incident (and the weather in Phoenix the past week has put that to the test). On road trips, I do my due diligence in getting the oil changed, the tires checked, and having a mechanic do a once over, just to ensure that everything is as it should be. Breaking down in a city the size of Phoenix is one thing, but in the middle of the desert off I-10 in July, is something different entirely. And I have the experience of both.

   I’ve had to set my independence aside and actually ask others for help. I borrowed a friend’s car to run a couple of errands. I’m getting a lift from the mechanic’s joint to school, and then hoping I can finagle a ride back to the repair shop in the afternoon. It is only a mile from my home, so worst case scenario, if they have to keep my truck, I get to walk home tomorrow night. This makes me think of the elderly, and their fight to keep their driving privileges which is directly linked to their independence. (And in the back of my mind I’m wondering how much it costs for assisted living complexes, and if, when the time comes, I’ll be able to move myself there.) A friend asked why I have to go to work, as I sometimes take days to get other things accomplished. My answer was that I had not planned this (yes, I’m a bit of a control person I suppose), I have no lesson plans, and I have a full day with all kinds of things to get done at school. Will all that stuff be there on Tuesday? Absolutely. Will the world stop if I don’t show up? No. Then why the desire to scramble for a ride, to arrange a tow truck, and the hope that I can get a lift after school? I go back to my yoga training.

   We all know unequivocably that as we design our lives to chug along smoothly, Life, the Universe, God, whatever, tosses in a monkey wrench to teach us a lesson or to see if we’re paying attention. By removing that which I depend upon to keep my life running nearly wrinkle-free, I have the option of sitting up and taking notice, or whining about my poor luck. I, of course, choose the first. In yoga, we’re taught that ‘everything is as it should be’. I, being a diligent yoga student, and human being, have the choice of realizing that this is occurring and responding in kind, or pegging a ten on the freak-out meter. In other words, this is the situation, and I can deal with it to the best of my ability, or I can make matters a lot worse by wallowing in pity and fretting about how to handle the fact that my truck isn’t safe to drive, every place is closed on Sunday, and how am I going to get to work tomorrow. Instead, I’ve decided that I’m going to have my truck towed so I know it, and I, will arrive safely at the auto repair place. I could rent a car for the day, but have found someone who is available to pick me up and deliver me to work. I even have a prospect or two for getting me back to the repair shop after work. Could I make a big deal over this? Without question. And if I hadn’t completed the yoga program, I might be more inclined to do just that.

  So, what does any of this have to do with writing? A lot. I’ve posted before that we write from where we are. Hence, the topic of this post. I don’t, but will look into getting AAA coverage this week. In the car on the way home as my friend dropped me off this afternoon, we talked about times when our vehicles left us stranded. In my earlier years, I did quite a bit of traveling. It was not unheard of for me to pack up at a moment’s notice and head to Lake Havasu, Huntington Beach, Rocky Point, and at one time, Wisconsin after seeing a friend in Arkansas. But with age comes responsibility (at least in my life) and it takes a little more to get me out-of-town. It was in some of those travels across the country that I was retelling to my friend today. The time my alternator went out and I was towed to Gila Bend and a semi truck graveyard. Then there was the drive to Tucson for a conference, and the timing belt broke. Coming back from a trip, I was visiting the Four Corners and the Reservation, and blew a tire right when I got on I-40. A trucker stopped to help, and I limped back to Holbrook. The mind wonders when pulling into a rest stop after dark and only one car  in the parking lot, or choking on a Whopper while driving down the highway, or passing a truck and trailer on a dark road near midnight in New Mexico, believing that I should have gotten into a head-on collision with the car in the other lane, but somehow managed to survive. For the most part, I look back on these incidents and don’t think much of them. At the time, I was calm and collected, usually, as I was driving by myself so there was no one with which to ‘create an elaborate story’. It just happened, and I responded in kind.

   When was the last time you were stranded by a vehicle? A breakdown on a country road, in a snow storm, trying to cross a flooded river, a dead battery late at night and no one is left in the parking lot? What happened? Who was there? What did you do? What went through your mind? How did it turn out? Recollect the details, the feelings, the thoughts. Our lives and experiences offer incredible fodder for our pen. I did a short story as an assignment for a class about the incident of the blown tire. My teacher particularly liked: “Tires. Rims. Cheap.” Perhaps I’ll find it and post it on my web site, along with the other stories, poems, and excerpts from my novels.