Tow, Please Tow Me

In the vein of Lovely Inconveniences.

Yesterday on my way home from the Jarvis Masters hearings, I was driving down San Pablo when an object appeared in the road. Only when I drove over the object did I realize what it was: a sharp rock the size of a bowling ball.

The crunch of the undercarriage sounded real ugly. I pulled into an empty corner lot, stepped out to have a look, and sure enough, velvety black liquid was pouring from my mom’s Volvo.

I’d never seen a pool of oil that big. Part of me wanted to smear it on my arms, just to feel.

Out comes the Triple-A card. (Maybe my first time using it?) Before I’d even connected with the California office, a friendly man from the car transmissions store across the street had come over to lend a hand, and an eye.

Looks like the oil pan, he said.

Awkwardly, I patched back and forth between him — meeting his eyes, answering his questions — and the AAA person on the phone. Pretty soon he got shy or bored from my half attention, and retreated to his store. “One second,” I said into the phone, and hollered a clear thanks to him. He waved and disappeared.

The tow truck would be there in an hour. In search of a bathroom, I began to walk the stretch of San Pablo. On foot I got to see more clearly the things I’d sped past just minutes ago in the car. A tiny taquería adjacent to a car wash. A strange eco- toy store. Salvage yards sourced largely from UC Berkeley frats and sororities, brimming with windows, chairs, stone buddhas, a pink sink and matching tub.

When I finally found a place to pee, it was inside one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever seen. A barbecue joint overflowing with antique radios and stoves, Black family portraits and Southern paraphernalia. Where crown molding would go, there were rows of roof shingles.

Eddie, the AAA driver who picked me up, brought the car to a shop, waited for me, and then drove me home. We joked in the massive cab.

Now, there are a lot of important factors that reduced my stress around this incident. No one was hurt. My family can afford the car repairs. I wasn’t late for some important appointment. I was in a safe, well-lit area.

Still, I have to credit some of my calm (even enjoyment) to the dhamma study. This is a practice that teaches us to stay in the moment, rather than wasting time grasping at the future (I should be home by now; It’s been over an hour, where is that tow guy?) or harping on the past (Why didn’t I swerve or something? What was that damn rock doing in the middle of the road, anyway?). Rather than wishing it hadn’t happened to us, we accept responsibility for the continual flow of our life. There’s no escaping it.

And why would we want to? Without being Pollyanna-ish (meaning, I think, refusing to acknowledge unpleasantness), we can still open up our vision enough to include the beauty of inconvenient or ouchy circumstances.

Will I take pains to avoid unknown objects in the road next time? Yes. But I certainly don’t regret my tow day.

* * * * * * * *

PS: It’s another Full Moon Walk night tonight! Think about taking a stroll, wherever you are.

PPS: I’ve been messing around with new themes for the blog, but I think I like this one better than yesterday’s experimental one.  Agreements?  Disagreements?  Hope this guy works alright for you, for now.

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