spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

The Big UhOh


PictureA Volvo that looks worse than my car.
I dropped by Quality Body and Fender to look in on my little Scion IQ, which couldn’t be driven until a new bumper came from Southern California and could be painted the requisite orange and reattached. The old bumper did not just fall off. I had to try to turn left from the right lane and bump another car for it to dangle unsafely and be beyond repair.

Having done wrong by sideswiping another vehicle, I did try to do right by continuing through an intersection and stopping at the curb to locate the distraught other to whom I owed an apology and my insurance assurances. But no one was anywhere. No damaged car knocked sideways by the impact. It seemed impossible but that was it: no one, nothing.

To understand why I risked turning right from the left lane, we have to go back a couple of hours to the moment I noticed the small lit upturned bowl with the exclamation mark on the dashboard glowing its warning about tire trouble. I had seen that indicator lit many times when I lived on Gough in San Francisco and it hadn’t alarmed me like it should. So when I did pull up to an air hose in a filling station near the location of my therapy appointment in Berkeley and saw the nail in the left rear tire and gauged how flat the tire was, I knew this time I was in real trouble. Air was escaping about as fast as I could pump in 40 lbs. of new air.

That excess air was part of my plan, which did not include panicking or canceling my weekly meeting with my beloved therapist. I assured myself I could stop at multiple air hoses until I was out of quarters and still get to a Big O in Berkeley in time to repair the tire without sacrificing the hour of trauma therapy I was now in desperate need of.

However, the false confidence fueling my behavior did not serve me well. With the tire flattening even as I sat in the orange chair I favor, I fiercely defended my thought process when my therapist hazarded the opinion that I might feel better canceling our morning meeting to deal with the tire. Oh the angry reaction. “I’ve thought this through!” I snapped, defending my territory, my right to be stupid, as it turned out.

And so it was that panic to replace the once-again flattened tire had me veering recklessly from the left lane to turn right onto San Pablo in Berkeley where I expected to find the Big O tire store. By this time though I couldn’t remember its location nor mine either.

And so with a damaged front bumper and a really flat tire, I pulled an illegal U turn and stopped near a small shop that did repairs. While it didn’t stock bumpers or replace tires, Andy who worked there drove the car in, jacked it up, removed the tire, patched it, filled it with the correct amount of air as well as checked the other three tires, and refused payment for his kindness.

He told me I could make it safely now to wherever the bumper could be repaired or replaced. With that assurance, I checked on Foxie, the dog, who was crated in the back of the car and drove away in search of Automobile Row/Broadway, making many wrong turns and seeming to choose only streets with speed bumps over which I would travel very slowly.

Eventually, I arrived at the Toyota sales and service but they did not do collision repairs. I was wearing as thin as that sad left rear tire and was close to dangling as loosely as the bumper, when the manager said Quality Body and Fender representatives were on their way to deliver a repaired Subaru and they would take the car. When the man from Quality arrived, I handed him the keys and let the dealership’s shuttle driver take Foxie and me home to 100 Grand Ave.

By the time of this posting, the car has been repaired and returned. And I found a prism of wisdom through which to look at this experience in chapter five of Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. Here’s my paraphrase: Experiences have “delightful” and “difficult” parts.  Here’s Pema: “Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving-kindness for yourself.”

My last word: I had been foolish and careless, yet all around me had been kindness.

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