2019 was not very nice to me
by Dennis Ernst • March 07, 2019
Can we start 2019 over again? Seriously, it's not been very nice to me.
It all began on January 28. I just landed at the Detroit airport during a major snowstorm, took a shuttle to my car and found the battery was dead. Forty-five minutes later, still under blizzard conditions, I headed west for a meeting in Grand Rapids taking place the next morning. Just outside of Lansing, the expressway was shut down in both directions due to a five-semi pileup. They routed traffic through the city where road crews weren't keeping up with the accumulating snow. It was there, on the corner of Willoughby and Cedar, my car blew its radiator, dumping coolant and transmission fluid onto the snow below turning it to a shade of green nearly identical to color of the traffic light I was suddenly unable to obey. Despite the cacophony of horn-layers behind me---likewise rerouted and likewise unable to obey the signal, but because of me---I was going nowhere and so were they.
I called a tow truck, cancelled the meeting, found a hotel and hunkered, down but not out. Even though my plans were scuttled and my car disabled, I found comfort in knowing I wasn't the driver that caused five semis to pile up and block both sides of an expressway for hours. I only blocked an intersection for thirty minutes. Perspective.
Early the next day, the service manager at the local Honda dealership let me know it would take $800 to get me back on the road. My heart sank. With no other option, I okayed the repair, which he said could be finished by the end of the day. Keeping good his promise, he called at 4 p.m, but with more bad news.
"Your radiator is fixed and the car is driveable, but when we took it on the test drive the power steering went out. You now need a new power steering rack, which will run another $1800."
"Keep it," I said. "I'm not putting one more dime into that vehicle. I'm done."
And done I was. It had been a great car, don't get me wrong. But it's best years and most of its value were well behind her. Besides, I had just wasted $800 on a new radiator and wasn't about to waste another $1800 just to find out what major system was going to go out on the next test drive. I know a money pit when I see one, and this had all the markings. I asked the service manager if he wanted the car in exchange for my repair bill, but it wasn't even worth that much in its current condition. I ponied up the $800 and arranged for it to be donated to a local charity that fixes cars up and gives them to those who are struggling.
Having the rental car for a week allowed me get home and to shop online at my leisure for replacement transportation without the pressure of desperation. After a diligent search, I found one of the same make and model I had just used up, only younger and with a lot more life left. It was even the same color. It would be my 15th since I bought my first car from my brother in 1972. Only two of them were brand new vehicles, the rest were "pre-owned" as they say. That's an average of one car every 3.1 years. This one should be good for at least that long, Now that I have a garage for only the second time in my life, I could take better care of it and squeeze out an extra year or two. At least that was my thinking.
Just seventeen days after driving it off the lot, I was coming home from the post office when a sheet of ice lifted off the top of a box truck heading toward me in the other lane and smashed down hard onto my new-to-me car, smashing the grill, hood and windshield into smithereens. It hit like a ton of bricks, stunning me into disbelief. I managed to pull over and assess the damage. The driver of the box truck never stopped. He probably never knew it happened.
There's probably a lesson in all this. Two candidates come to mind. The first is that no matter how bad you have it, someone has it worse. When I think of the pileup on the interstate that caused my detour, my day ended up with a disabled vehicle and a cancelled meeting. There were at least five drivers whose big rigs and their cargo were severely damaged. Their day was far worse than mine. The next day there would be a 40-car pileup on the same expressway. I would not be among them.
The second takeaway from all this is that I can't always control what happens to me, but I can control how I react to it. Fortunately, anger is not my strong suit, but it seems to be for a lot of people. I've been through enough airport delays to see anger on full display. But it's rarely necessary, isn't pretty, seldom helps, and is always at the expense of your dignity. When my car stranded me in a blizzard, then ice crushed my newer car weeks later it was distressing for sure, but not something to be angry about. I'm grateful to have been wired that way. Threaten my wife or kids, though, and I'll short circuit before your very eyes.
They say good things come in threes. This issue of Phlebotomy Today marks the beginning of its 21st year of publication. That's three sets of seven years. Although 2019 may not have been very nice to me so far, at least I still get to pen this column and serve some of the most dedicated people in healthcare. The way I choose to react to that is with gratitude. But they also say bad things come in threes. So far this year, two of my cars have met with great misfortune. I'm choosing to react to that by driving my wife's car for a while.
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