I love Christmas. It is my second favorite time of the year, beaten out only by Halloween. (Yes, Nightmare before Christmas is one of my favorite movies because it combines both.) The reason Halloween edges out Christmas is because the holiday season can be stressful. Getting gifts for everyone, managing schedules, organizing events – you know the drill. This year, I was going into the holiday season feeling pretty good. 2018 has been a good year for me personally – I achieved my lifelong dream of publishing my first book and it was the first year with no chemo or surgery recovery since I beat cancer. The usual holiday stress was pretty much nonexistent this year.
Then about a week ago, my car started to have a rough idle. “No big deal,” I told myself. “It’s just the spark plugs, quick and easy fix.” I took my car into the shop to get repaired…and then things got interesting. And by interesting, it was nothing but bad news: When I turn it on now, it sounds like there’s a demonic gnome hopped up on energy drinks hiding in the engine and banging anything remotely metal. In short the engine is shot, and I’m looking at a 3-4k repair I can’t afford on a car that’s not worth half that much. Which pretty much means, four days before Christmas, I’m getting the news that I’m going to have to buy a brand new used car, which I also can’t afford, which is…just the best.
Happy Holidays! Santa brought me a big old bill this year. Hooray!
Joking aside, one thing I decided was that I wasn’t going to let this ruin my holiday season. I love this time of year, I’m not going to turn into the lovechild between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch because of a measly little (okay, big) expense I hadn’t planned on.
In the vein of cheering myself up and sharing a bit of a fun story, here’s three good things I learned from my car deciding it was time to take one last trip to that big old scrap yard in the sky.
1) Strangers can be helpful.
Do you know what’s really hard to find at five PM on the Friday before Christmas? A mechanic that’s going to be open before the 26th. See, the first place I took my car didn’t do the kind of work I needed. They did spark plugs, which is what we thought I needed, but when they realized that wasn’t the problem they had to refer me somewhere else. (Something something lifter…something something valve…I don’t understand cars so just had to ask them to tell me how borked I was. The answer was very.)
I didn’t know that at the time, so I went to see a movie with a friend instead. What was important was that, by the time the movie was over, it was five pm and most mechanics were closed.
Most. After some intense googling by my friend and I, we were able to find one that was right down the street from the first garage. They were open until 7pm, and they were going to be in and working on Saturday until three-thirty, meaning I could actually get some answers in a timely manner.
And that is where I met my new favorite mechanic, Grant.
Grant was great to work with. Even though I had just brought my car in near the end of the day, he took the time to do a quick diagnostic while I waited. Then, he broke down what had happened in terms even I could understand, and why it was going to require replacing the engine completely. He was also able to put my mind at ease at ease; I had been worried the last place I had taken the car had damaged it in some way, and he assured me that was unlikely and was able to explain why. Keep in mind he did all this at what was now six pm on the Friday before Christmas.
He had nothing but bad news for me, but he took the time to deliver it in the best possible way, and I cannot appreciate that enough.
2) Friends are amazing.
If you live in a city with a decent mass transit system, you might not understand how important a working car can be. I live in Saint Louis, which has the opposite of a decent mass transit system. It has a notoriously bad mass transit system. Being without a car for several days isn’t just inconvenient, it’s near impossible. Just for example, from my home, it’s a half hour walk to the nearest bus stop. Pretty much my only option was going to be relying entirely on Uber or Lyft, and while those are better than not being able to go to work, it’s not exactly cheap. A rental car is a must right now, which is less expensive than the other options, but still not a welcome expense.
Of course, all of those options pale in comparison to my friends.
One of them, the friend I saw the movie with, was more than happy to ferry my butt around the county to make sure I didn’t have to spend hours sitting at mechanics or spend money on Uber. She not only drove me around, but she took me to see the movie to take my mind off my concerns, and she was the one who found Grant on google. In short, yesterday would have been a million times harder without her.
Then another friend stepped up in a major way. She’s off work over the holidays, (one of the few chances teachers get to breathe) and was generous enough to lend me her car until I can get things sorted out with the rental – and told me to keep it an extra couple days so I don’t rush anything. All she asked was that I run a couple errands for her in exchange. In Saint Louis, that means she voluntarily kept herself in the house while I get my life together, and I cannot appreciate it enough.
3) Centering yourself is critical
I might have given the impression so far that I took the loss of my car with the cool, calm detachment of an action movie hero watching his two hundred and thirty-third explosion of that movie. If I did give that impression, here’s my chance to come clean: that is not, in fact, how I reacted. I did not flip out externally, but internally I was a bundle of nerves.
Then I reminded myself of something I saw on a meme once:
Was this a bad day? Sure, it was a day when my car broke down, and it’s going to create some rough times ahead. At the same time, it was also a day I spent hanging with a friend, watching a movie I really wanted to see, and making serious progress in a scene I’d been struggling with in the Weird Theology sequel. If it had just been those three things, I would have called it a great day.
So why let the car make it a bad day?
Instead, I chose to focus on the positive side of this; the day overall was good. I have friends who will go to bat for me. The holiday season is still a great time of year. I’m in a place where dropping a ton of money on a car isn’t going to ruin my life, just make things tight for awhile. I might have to pick up some extra work and make some extra money, but I have the luxury of being able to do that.
Sure, it doesn’t magically make my car start working, and it doesn’t make the bad thing any less of a problem. Instead, it means I can face what happened with a better perspective. And hey, if nothing else, I got a blog post out of the whole ordeal.
I’m calling that a win.
Have your own holiday mishaps to share? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to get your free book here.