Oprah Broke My Car (Or Why Maybe It’s Okay That Everything is Falling Apart)

I’ve been experiencing a bunch of technology issues lately. So many in the past couple of weeks that I am pretty sure there is some kind of message in it. Yes, I am the kind of person who looks for messages in mechanical malfunctions. You got a problem with that?

First my car battery died while I was waiting for my kids. In the snow. While improperly dressed. Let me explain. Back before we had the kids I used to get up very early to take the wife to work. Since I work from home, I didn’t bother to get dressed, just threw on a jacket and some sneakers and got in the car. We would argue about it all the time, me insisting that I wasn’t going to get out of the car so what did it matter? She insisting that I might have to and then wouldn’t I feel stupid? Me ignoring her and getting into the car in my bear pants. Let me explain. Due to my lack of interest in getting dressed (ever) the wife bought me an at-home lounging outfit. She stressed the at-home part. Several times. But when I put on those pink fleece pants with little bears on them and zipped up the cozy matching jacket, I couldn’t help but remark that it looked very much like a jogging suit and therefore I could probably– “No! This is for in the house ONLY!” she repeated firmly.

So, I’d be driving her to work in my bear pants…

Then came the kids. And you can’t very well insist that your kids dress themselves properly when you’re cruising around in flannel PJs most days. Which, I will confess, I didn’t really think through before signing the adoption papers but it’s too late now. So now I have to get dressed in the morning. But I don’t have to get carried away. Sure, it may be snowing but I’m just going to be in my nice warm car, right? I don’t even have to go into the school to get them. What could possibly go wrong?

So, I’m freezing my balls off in my car, waiting for roadside assistance to show up, and I’m thinking there must be some kind of lesson in this. And if you’re thinking that the lesson may be to dress properly before leaving the house, I can assure you that most certainly is not it. How do I know this? Because if I’d been wearing my bear pants and fuzzy jacket, I would have been snug as a bug in a rug, thank you very much, so back to the drawing board with you!

Then last week I couldn’t find my keys. Gratefully, I grabbed the valet key which we keep in a safe spot. This says less about how careful we are with keys and more about how we never go anywhere fancy enough to use a valet. Anyhow, I finally got the kids wrangled into the car, turned the key in the ignition and the damn thing wouldn’t start. Again, I waited for the roadside assistance guy who, after jump starting the battery, informed me that my battery was fine…and left. Thanks, jackball. Luckily our dear friend Lou came to my rescue and drove me and the kids to school. When I got home, I found my keys, right under the couch cushion where my son had left them. I texted Lou to tell her the good news and she asked me if the found key worked in the car. Silly Lou! Why would one key work and another wouldn’t? That’s ridiculous. But maybe I’ll just try it…

Listen, automobiles were mysterious beasts to me before they had heated seats and remote keys and various and sundry other buttons that apparently do things but I just don’t touch those because something might inflate or propel or I don’t know what just stop laughing at me. But this car is a new-fangled jobby and I don’t even pretend to understand it. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when one key worked and another didn’t, for that is the enchanted way of the mystical car. Luckily I hadn’t yet called the tow truck to take the car to the mechanic who probably would have reminded me about our remote keys being reprogrammed when I’d lost mine last year (long before our kids came home so I haven’t yet found a way to blame my son for that). And he probably would have pointed out that the valet key had not been reprogrammed so, of course, it wouldn’t work. And I probably would have felt really stupid because that is how I’m most comfortable in front of mechanics. I was grateful that I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day (and the rest of our bank account) to fix the car but I wondered what the hell cosmic purpose was served by wasting three and a half hours out of my morning and stressing me out of my proverbial tree. You remember the proverb about the Stress Tree, don’t you?)

This weekend, while getting out of the car, I was so busy yelling at my son not to step in the puddle that I didn’t notice when my brand new iPhone fell into said puddle. Thankfully, I noticed pretty quickly and was only a block away from a store so was able to shove the phone into a bag of rice pronto. When I got home and read that you should take the SIM card out, I did, but noticed the phone had turned itself on and refused to do otherwise. No matter how many times I turned it off or reset it, it came back on. Now, if you’ve ever read anything online about what to do when you get your iPhone wet, the first thing you will read on every single site is, “Whatever you do, don’t turn it on!” But what the hell do you do if you can’t turn it off? In a panic I called my tech-savvy bosses who pointed out that we live in Vancouver and there is no such thing here as an iPhone that has not experienced water damage. They told me not to worry, to put the phone back in the rice and leave it. These are the kind of people who I suspect cook their rice in some kind of hacked Macbook / rice cooker / WIFI contraption using open-source software and cloud computing so the fact that they were telling me to put my very high tech gadget into a very low tech bag of rice concerned me, but I did it. And, of course, I wondered why this latest in a string of technological mishaps had happened. What was I to understand from the phone refusing to turn off? I pondered the symbolism of this like it was a first year university English assignment, wondering if the phone was symbolic of me and what I need to “disconnect” from. Oh, and for those of you thinking the lesson here is not to yell at my son, I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

After 48 hours in rice, my phone is working as though the puddle never happened, turning off and on at my command and keeping me connected to the world. But now my printer is broken. Not “paper jam” broken, not “clean printhead” broken, but “ink system failure” broken. After a couple of hours of inky-fingered troubleshooting I gave up, admitting defeat, not just to the printer but to all technology. Okay, I get it. You’re trying to tell me something. But I still don’t understand what it is.

I keep thinking about something I heard Oprah say once. (Yes, this blog will contain references to Oprah approximately every four posts.) She was talking about an experience involving missed flights and cars breaking down and how extremely frustrated she was because, let’s face it, Oprah has places to be. I think it was the man sitting beside her on the flight she finally managed to catch–which makes it sounds like Oprah sometimes flies stand-by which I like to imagine she does just to keep it real–who told her that he was a Buddhist, and that, in Buddhism, they believe that when things go wrong in a series like that, it is the universe trying to distract you because something really amazing and important is trying to be born into your life. And if you aren’t kept out of the way, you will screw it up. With you distracted, it can be born as perfectly as it needs to be. Now, I’m paraphrasing both Oprah and the Buddha here, one of which I’m sure is sacrilege, but that was the gist of it.

So, I wait. I wait for the precious thing that needs my stumble bum out of its way so it can be born. I wait for it to reveal itself and I prepare to go, “Oh! So that’s what that was all about! Okay, totally worth it.” And I hope that it is coming soon because, frankly, I’m terrified the coffee maker may be next.


3 comments on “Oprah Broke My Car (Or Why Maybe It’s Okay That Everything is Falling Apart)

  1. wow. funny, smart, helpful. what was my favourite line? i cannot choose. also i am at a loss to understand the wife’s resistance to you wearing bear pants in public. maybe she is jealous and wishes she had her own? i know you are trying to write about something deeper but i am just focused on how awesome those pants must be.

  2. I too am distracted by the potential awesomeness of said pants.

  3. I keep forgetting to get the wife to take a picture of me in my bear pants! Will get right on that, Sarah and Brian.

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