A story of attitude and gratitude when things go wrong
As I crawled into bed late Monday night, the ringing of an anxious phone call sounded, and with it, my Tuesday started going wrong before it even arrived.
A friend, Tina, had promised another friend, Sally, a ride to an early morning appointment. Only, Tina now had a last minute morning appointment herself, and could no longer give Sally a ride.
So, Tina called around trying to find someone to fill in for her, and — until I heard that ringing — wasn’t having any luck.
Of course, filling-in wasn’t a huge problem, it simply required making some schedule adjustments and dropping a few activities.
Tuesday, it begins
With temperatures hanging out in the 20ºF range, Tuesday morning was a rather cold day for the Seattle area, and an icy blanket of frost coated the landscape… and our car.
The icy frosting meant getting out of the driveway took a bit longer than normal, especially since the heater in the car wasn’t working, making the window defrosting process a bit slow.
After repositioning the vehicle to get the morning sunlight to warm the windshield — and after a bit of scraping with a squeegee — my wife and I hopped in the car and were off to Sally’s place.
Given the cold, the tailpipes of everyone’s vehicle exhaled a white cloud of water vapor, and as we pulled up to a stoplight, some of that white cloud appeared to come from under the front of our car.
Hoping that it was simply the result of a breeze blowing the adjacent car’s fumes under us, we kept on.
At the next stop light, the same thing happened, and then again at the next.
With only a little ways to go to pick up Sally, I kept an eye on the dash’s temperature reading and everything seemed to be alright.
After pulling into Sally’s place, I hopped out of the car, peeked under the front of the car, and while I didn’t spot any steam, I did see a bit of dripping fluid.
Seeing the unmistakable color of glowing green, I realized we were leaking antifreeze, and since the place we were taking Sally was 20 miles of heavy traffic away, it didn’t seem wise to push ahead with our vehicle.
Luckily, while Sally couldn’t drive for various reasons, she had a vehicle to use.
So, we hopped in her car, and making our way through the traffic, we made it to her appointment just in time.
Trying to maintain at least a minor amount of productivity, while Sally and my wife went in for the appointment, I walked to grab an espresso from a local coffee shop where I hoped to do some work.
After ordering, I grabbed a seat by the entrance windows and got out my laptop.
For some reason though, after about 60 seconds, the internet connected part of the coffee shop’s wifi stopped working.
Trying a number of times to disconnect and reconnect, it became apparent that anything requiring internet at that moment wasn’t going to work too well.
So, instead I redirected my efforts to do some of the things that were possible offline.
Only, I’d spent too much time fussing with the connection, and within a couple of minutes, I got a message from my wife; they were done with the appointment.
The appointment finished about 15 minutes earlier than expected, though it wasn’t clear to me yet whether that was a good or bad thing.
So, I walked back over, met up with them, and discovered the trip was all for naught; Sally was supposed to have brought some paperwork that no one had told her about.
A defeated return
So, we hopped into Sally’s car and, after a quick stop for food, headed back to her place.
Getting back to her place meant it was time to figure out how to handle our antifreeze-dripping car situation.
Calling around to the reputable shops in the area, we discovered no one had availability for us to drop the car off until late in the week.
So, we decided to try heading to our friends’ place up the hill to pick up our little two person electric vehicle. From there, we planned to leave the troubled vehicle until the day of our appointment.
(We just moved to a new place after staying with our friends for a while, so our second vehicle was still up at their place.)
Not quite picking up the little one
As we made our way towards our friends’ place, I kept an eye on the engine temp, and watched for any troubling or unusual signs from the engine compartment.
At first, things looked okay.
A few puffs of white vapor appeared from the front, though not enough to instill panic, and the dash said the temperature was doing fine.
That soon changed though as we began to climb our first hill.
As we climbed, the engine RPMs climbed, and as the engine RPMs climbed the temp gauge began to slowly climb as well.
Easing off the accelerator, we reached the top of the hill, and coasted down towards the next stop light.
As we did so, a fair amount more white steam came out from the front of the car, followed quickly by what appeared to be a miniature geyser which coated the windshield with a spray of hot water.
The cloud of steam and tiny Old Faithful made it clear we’d never make it to our friends’ place.
Luckily, the direction we were heading up to this point was the same direction we’d normally head to go home.
So, when we got to the light, instead of heading forward up another hill, we made a left for a straight shot back to our place.
At this point though, even though the temperature gauge wasn’t too above normal, the cloud of white vapor — not to mention the miniature geyser — coming from the front was more than I was comfortable with.
So, I pulled over at the nearest turnout, shut the car off and waited for everything to cool a bit.
With no place to leave the car, and no real options other than paying for a tow, after the steam ceased, we decided to begin our journey once more.
I crept back onto the road, and taking advantage of our vehicle’s hybrid technology drove so delicately that we primarily used only the battery.
After a very slow journey and pulling off the road a few more times — due to puffs of steam on some uphill sections, and to let other people by us since we were limping along — we successfully made it back to our place, and turned the car off to let it sit.
The tale doesn’t end there…
With our steam-car back at its home, we now had to get to our other vehicle since we needed to drive something in the coming days.
(Quick aside: I rather miss our time in New York City, where in addition to the many other great aspects of living there, we had no car, never needed one, and never wanted one. Yay for walking, cycling, and mass transit.)
After coordinating a time in the evening when our friend, John, could take us to our other car — thus avoiding a costly car service — it looked like things were going to smooth out. I’d work a little bit, we’d head up to grab our electric car, and immediately come right back home to eat and do a bit more work before calling it a day.
After the early darkness of the winter evening came, John picked us up and took us to our electric vehicle.
We quickly grabbed a couple of other items we’d left at our friends’ place, hopped in the e-car, and… saw that we barely had any charge left — certainly not enough to make it back to our place.
(When we last left the car, there was about 60% charge remaining. With the string of unusually cold Seattle temperatures, the battery apparently lost most of its charge.)
With little charge in the battery, our hopes for a quick return home to a meal that was already cooking in the oven were dashed, and we now needed to spend some time unexpectedly up on the hill at our friends’.
Eventually, after another unanticipated delay and a very chilly ride home, we made it back to our place.
(Given the low charge level and how slow a standard outlet charges, we didn’t want to risk using extra electricity to run the car’s heater. With the day’s events, we decided it was better to be cold and driving than to end up stuck part way home.)
In a nutshell
Looking at the day’s events, there are quite a number of mishaps and other such events.
Among the bigger things that went “wrong”:
- Starting from the night before, a well-planned day of high productivity went out the window.
- The morning greeted us with a thick, icy frost and a car with no heater, plus, we had no proper ice-scraper.
- Our car started steaming, leaking anti-freeze, and at one point shooting hot water into the air.
- Sally’s appointment was a bust, and in a sense a waste of time.
- There weren’t any reputable shops around that could take us that day.
- We had to crawl home, wasting a lot of time that could have been used more productively.
- We had to bother a friend — and wait a while — in order to get our other car.
- In large part due to the unusual cold, our fully electric car was out of charge, so we burned through more time, waiting until it charged enough for us to head home.
- We had to drive back home in 20ºF weather without using the heater since there wasn’t enough charge to feel comfortable wasting electricity.
That’s really only one way to look at it, and happily, it’s not the primary viewpoint I had throughout the day — and this is really the point of this post.
Even with the long string of unfortunate events, I felt pretty good about the day, and even what happened.
Truthfully, I’m actually happy and very grateful for what transpired.
(Feeling happy and grateful throughout the course of these events is not something I would have experienced in the past, and it’s that transformation and perspective shift that I want to share with you)
They are events to be grateful for
In addition to spending unplanned time with my wife and our friends, and encountering new places and new experiences, quite a few things really went right on Tuesday.
A shortlist of the things that went “right”:
- It was a beautiful, sunny day. So, in addition to enjoying a lovely sky, we could melt the ice on the car with the sun’s warm light.
- We encountered the problem with our car at a place we could park our vehicle and take another car to the appointment.
- We didn’t breakdown completely at any stage, we didn’t need to get towed, and we didn’t get stuck outside freezing somewhere on this particularly cold day. (It’s possible we could have gotten stuck on the freeway, or far away from our home if we hadn’t run into the problem early enough. For instance, we could have broken down on the section of I-90 that floats atop Lake Washington, and was being buffeted by a bitter wind.)
- The direction we headed to get our electric car was initially the same direction to get back home, so we were going the right way when we needed to change course.
- Our car made it back home. We searched specifically for a hybrid car for environmental and gas mileage reasons, and big thanks are owed to that hybrid system since we could drive a fair portion of the distance purely on battery.
- Our friend had availability to pick us up and take us to our other car, and it wasn’t even too far out of his way.
- We were able to hang out at our friends’ place and have dinner while our electric car charged enough to get us back home.
- We have quite a few good friends in a place we haven’t lived for very long.
- We recently made a cross country drive from New York City to Seattle in the car with the issue, and didn’t have any issues during that drive. It would have been much more troublesome to run into this problem during that trip.
- I’ve been planning an upcoming road trip that takes me over a few cold, isolated mountain passes, and remote areas. It would have been significantly worse and more dangerous had this happened on that trip.
- We found a reputable repair shop down the road from us and that’s close enough we can make it there on battery alone, thus avoiding costly towing.
- Our oven has a “cook time” timer that turns the oven off after a set time — and we even remembered to use it before going to pick up the electric car. So, we didn’t burn the food, or the place down.
- For some reason, I brought my laptop with me to pick up the electric car. That meant I got some things done while we waited for our electric car to charge.
- Our friends were able, and willing, to hang out and eat dinner with us while our car charged.
- During the whole escapade, I remembered to remain mindful and grateful for the positive aspects of what was taking place, and I also recognized that in the grand scheme this situation wasn’t really that big of a thing. As a result, the frustration, emotion, and negative thoughts in my mind didn’t carry me into a worse situation.
(That isn’t a tooting of my own horn, that’s a statement of thanks to the broader world. I’m really grateful for having been exposed to concepts such as mindfulness and gratefulness previously and for having practiced these things. I’m especially thankful and happy for being able to experience this situation in a manner that didn’t make me stressed, unhappy, unpleasant to be around, or that made my day feel awful. That is quite different than how I would have experienced it before life taught me another way to approach things. It’s also a manner of interacting with the world and troubled days that is available to you as well, and that’s why I’m sharing this story.)
My productive Tuesday, was far from productive. I had a lot of car trouble, and pretty much nothing seemed to go “right”.
Yet, there was a lot to be grateful for and to be happy about.
It’s useful to look at all the things that appear to be negatives, and instead really point out positives. Recognize and appreciate those positive things, and through that, experience greater happiness.
Key mindset shift:
- See the positive in events and circumstances, and recognize that many times the “negatives” are actually pointing out the positives.
Realization to consider:
- Even unfortunate situations may actually be fortunate.
Actions to take:
- Recognize the good in the tough and bad situations.
- Be grateful for the good that is there.
- Practice mindfulness and gratitude before you “need” it.
Fellow Journeyer @ BigSkyRise
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