Lessons from Car Garages

I’ve always said that it’s one thing to have the theories in mind and another to live them.  It’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk.  I struggle with such consistencies as much as any.

Yesterday I noticed a light appear on my auto’s dash, telling me a light was out somewhere on the car.  I pulled into my favorite garage as the snow and wind blew and the bays were empty.  Inside the manager was leaning on the counter talking to a mechanic leaning against another.  I told them about the light and was assured it would be just a few minutes to fix it.  I handed them the keys and while the mechanic was doing his work I chit-chatted with the owner.  The mechanic came in saying he’s gotten the broken bulb out and went to a cupboard to retrieve a new one.  “Almost done!” he assured me.

In a few minutes, sure enough, the car was driven out and I paid the bill and drove off.  Turning at the first block, the light reappeared on the dash, occasionally blinking on and off!  It was late now in the day, so I drove on back to home for supper.  Getting out of the car, I opened the trunk to check the area where the mechanic had replaced the bulb.  I saw the inside paneling dangling back and forth with some wires loosely wagging in the air!  I felt shock, disbelief, then anger and a bit of rage emerged from my normally attempted “cool, quiet, detached Dave” demeanor. 

Walking into the house, I felt more anger, saying to myself that I would never return to the garage for as much as tire air!  I explained it to my wife Naomi and she said, “Just take it back and tell them to fix it.”  I replied I was too angry and disappointed and would take it to another garage today.  I would never return to my long time faithful garage.

Well, the evening went nicely with our grandsons, being with them as their parents vacation in sunny Maui, a place with no need of a car with winter light problems.  We watched some Olympic events, tumbles and all, and I played a video game with a grandson, finding myself laughing and enjoying every minute of it.  I went to bed and slept the best I had since returning from our own vacation in Florida.

After breakfast this morning, I remembered the car light situation and a twinge of anger tried to creep back.  For my meditation time, I had read a nice section from the Course about having Everything and yet becoming so frustrated over those ego needs which never are satisfied!  “Be still and listen to the truth,” I reflected.  “You have been given Everything so now give as you have received.”  And I thought, I will return to the garage and simply tell my story.  If they make me feel stupid and unreasonable, I will say nothing but quietly go on and find another garage.   But I will try to be kind, loving and gentle, without so much as a hint of leaving spittle on their door.

I arrived at the garage and the manager looked surprised as I entered, asking what was wrong.  I quietly told him my little story of leaving and finding the inside of the trunk looking like a dog fight arena (I have never seen one, but this was the image!) where nothing was cleaned up.  The manager was very intense in listening to me.  At once, he apologized profusely, saying I had long been one of his favorite customers.  Yesterday’s mechanic was off today and he quickly summoned two others who drove the car in, fixed the wires, bolted the panel back into place and continued to apologize.  The manager keep saying how angry he would be to the returning mechanic, doing some things to him which obviously would make sexual activities a problem!  I was treated like more than a prized customer, but as a friend they did not want to lose.  My last words were, “Don’t be too hard on the mechanic.”

As I drove away, I thought of my quick anger and frustration yesterday over an 11 year old car with a broken rear light which had been stoked by a likely tired and lonely mechanic.  I had asked the manager not to be too hard on the mechanic but simply tell him the story and let the lesson settle in.  Then I thought what a wonderful little life lesson this had been for me.  I felt tears begin to swell as I drove along, enhanced by wonderful classical music playing on NED FM.  I felt so humbled by the manager/owner of the garage.  I felt and I hoped I had grown a bit more in such qualities of patience, honesty, trust, and detachment from things that don’t really matter.

I shared with my wife the story.  The rest of today went fine.  After lunch I took my grandsons bowling using their parents SUV.  Coming back I noted a light on the dash giving warning that tires were low on air!  (I don’t have that on my 11 year old.)  We pulled into a garage to fill the tires up.  It was directly across the road from the earlier garage.   I put four quarters in the slot for three minutes of air.  I then discovered the hose wouldn’t release to come further out than about six feet.  Before I could move the SUV around for the other side, the pump stopped.  I went inside to ask for mercy to give me another four quarters.  The attendant said, “Oh, we don’t even own that air pump; a company in Jamestown does.  You’ll have to contact them!”

It yesterday redux!  I stood for a few seconds in disbelief, thanked her and walked out.  I  jumped into the driver’s seat with blood pressure rising a bit.  Then I took a deep breath, began to smile, and drove off with the light still on, giving thanks for the day with three happy grandsons, and lessons passed, if still not completely learned.

About David Persons

Retired minister who still writes, speaks some, hikes less, and golfs.
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