I got a bad case of the stupids today.
As I’m driving to work, I have a problem with my car. I have a choice: continue to work, or turn around and either go home or drive to a mechanic near where I live.
I decide to continue on to work. This is a stupid choice. There’s hardly anyone at work today (Columbia University is closed tomorrow and the next day), and there’s nothing important for me to do. The main reason I keep going is the thought: “It’s probably a minor problem, and it can wait until Thursday. In the meantime I’ve got plans for New Years Eve.”
As I get off the Tappan Zee Bridge, the problems get worse. I figure out that the car’s battery is almost drained; probably it’s the alternator (again). I arrive at the Nevis parking lot, stop the car, and quickly determine that it won’t start up again.
Fortunately, I carry a portable jump-start battery in my car, and I was able to start my car with it. I got lucky here: if the car hadn’t started, I’d be faced with a complicated tow and an expensive journey back home.
I tell them at work that I’m taking the day off to take the car to an auto-repair shop near where I live. As I drive back across the Tappan Zee bridge, the car’s behavior grows even worse. Finally, just before the exit ramp off the NYS Thruway, five minutes from the auto-repair shop, the car quits.
I call my insurance company (I use USAA Roadside Assist instead of AAA) and learn that normal towing companies are not permitted to operate on the Thruway without a special license. They put me through to a division of the NYS Police, who transfer me to the Thruway’s towing services.
I wait in my car for about an hour for the tow truck. I’m driven the one mile from where my car is to the mechanic.
By this time it’s the middle of the afternoon, and I know there’s no chance my car will be fixed today. I walk home. The simple journey that normally takes me twenty minutes took three hours today.
As I was waiting in my car, and later while walking home, I reflected on how lucky and privileged I was:
– I work at a job for which it’s no big deal to take a day off.
– I had a network of resources (insurance company, Thruway Authority, towing company, mechanic) to take of my car.
– I had a cell phone that kept me in touch with all these resources.
– The cost of the tow and the repair is not cheap, but I can afford it.
– I had an iPad to keep me occupied while I waited for the tow.
For all these things that give me the luxury of being stupid, I am grateful. I’ll try to be smarter in the future!