“Just ignore that,” the woman at the car rental place said.
I looked at the light-up orange icon. The words “Oil Change Required” were blinking on the dashboard. Surely, I thought to myself, she knows her rentals well enough to make that call — the way I know my car can go another 23 miles before running out of gas after the “empty” light comes on and it dings at me. Or how I know that my bumper is the perfect height for fender benders that don’t leave a scratch on either car — if I were to ever have one, I mean. Ahem.
We were finally getting the door fixed on my Chevy Traverse. Ages ago, while we were driving 55 mph through a construction zone on an interstate, a large plastic trash bin had hurtled at us and bashed into the passenger-side door. There was a large dent, and the door handle had been knocked off, making it impossible to open the door from the outside. For months, I have allowed stretching across the seat to open the door from the inside count as my daily yoga routine. It turns out that folks are right about how a daily asana practice increases positive thinking. Certainly, no one likes having her door bashed in, but the severe dent makes clear that had the bin hit a few inches higher, I would have had a face full of broken glass. And perhaps because of this grateful attitude, I felt little need to expedite the fixing of the dented door. It not only gave me a workout but also provided great resistance against would-be thieves by eliminating one of the doors they might have otherwise broken in through.
A few days ago, we experienced our first beautiful spring-ish day of 2018. All I wanted in life was some quality time outside. I put the car seats in the rental car and decided to pick my kids up from school a bit early. On the drive, I daydreamed about what we could do to enjoy our hours of sunlight and warmth. Would the kids want to head to the park or grab a bite to eat at the barbecue joint by the train tracks?
I slowly slipped from this reverie as the rental car slowly came to a stop. Against my will.
This is not my car. I have no idea why it suddenly died in the middle of the road. Perhaps the “Oil Change Required” light had something to do with it. But I was just supposed to ignore that.
I picked up my phone to call the folks at the rental place and ask them to send me a tow truck. That’s when I saw my phone had only 3 percent battery left. As confidently as I know that my car can drive 23 miles after the gas light turns on, I know that my phone will die any moment after it hits 11 percent. The odds were not in my favor.
I called my husband instead. He would have to pick up the kids now, and I figured I could quickly explain to him where I was and have him take care of calling the rental place.
My phone was down to 2 percent when I dialed. He ignored my call.
I assumed he was on a work call, so I dialed his cell. He ignored my call. I called again. Ignored again.
My phone was at 1 percent. I called one more time. He answered with the words “I’m on a work call. Can I call you ba—”
“This is an emergency!” I yelled, trying to get him out of autopilot mode.
“Oh,” he said, shaken. It worked. I had his attention.
“My car died, and my phone is about to die. Pick up the kids, and call the rental to send a tow truck. I’m at the corner of—”
The phone died.
It took a while, but I flagged down a driver, who let me use his phone. He didn’t speak English, and the phone was all in Spanish, but we figured it out.
Then I sat on the curb and waited for the tow truck. Hadn’t I said that all I wanted was some quality time outside?
I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t have ignored the oil light.
Katiedid Langrock is a
nationally syndicated columnist