What’s Good? What’s Bad?

Let me tell you about my day last Friday.  My car had broken down over the previous weekend and could not be repaired, so I had to purchase a new one.  I had found exactly what I wanted over the internet, and I was driving to pick it up when I received a phone call from the salesman saying that another sales person had sold it to someone else.  I was very disappointed, of course, because it is hard to find a car with a manual transmission that isn’t a sports car (too small and just not me) or a pick-up (too large and just not me.)  But Jay called me back and said that his manager had worked it out and to come on down.  Phew.

Two hours later, I am 5 minutes away from my new car.  (Yes, I had to drive all that way.  I told you this was a special car.)  I pull into a gas station to fill up the rental car gas tank, because the stressed out woman at the rental car office that morning had insisted that I do so, no other choice.  Okay.  I hadn’t noticed which side the gas cap was on, and when I got out of the rental, sure enough I was on the wrong side of the pump.  So, I quickly got in the car to pull around to the other side, and -- “SCRAAAPE!” -- heard the unmistakable sound of crunching metal.  Yep, I had hit one of the curved concrete pillars that are on either side of gas pumps.  And, I had declined the collision insurance for the rental car.  (I was going to be in the car for less than 2 hours.  What could happen?).

I felt myself beginning to get crestfallen.  But I took a deep breath (well, a number of deep breaths over the next few minutes), recomposed myself, and drove to the autoplex.  I dropped off the rental car at the office, walked the 500 yards to the car dealer, and proceeded to purchase my awesome new car.  

I had a great experience with the car salesman, and since I had done my research and knew I was getting a great deal, I did not feel the need to haggle.  I had also done the financing ahead of time, so the process was quite smooth (long, but smooth.)  About 2 hours later, the car was mine and the manager boomed across the loudspeaker, “Congratulations to Hetty Irmer, all the way from Silver Spring, who is the new owner of a Mazda CX-5!”  I said to Jay, “Did that just get broadcast all over the autoplex?”  “It sure did,” he smiled.  (By the way, there was hardly anyone there to experience my 15 seconds of fame.  No one else bought a car that afternoon!)

I drove my new car the 500 yards to the rental car office to deal with the requisite paperwork related to the accident.  That also took forever; turns out that the only employee there was a manager-in-training who had never filed a damage report.  Over an hour later, it was all done.  I had to pay a hefty deductible for the damage (a whole lot more than the $17 collision waiver…ouch).  But it was done.  I walked out and got in my new car, ready to drive home.  It was beginning to snow.  The car wouldn’t start.

I called Jay, who came over on his golf cart and checked the battery: dead.  It was a few minutes before 5 pm, and luckily the mechanics were still around.  They replaced the battery at no charge, and I drove away.  I arrived home at 8 pm, 11 hours after I had began my odyssey, exhausted and relieved; happy and proud about the car; still a little embarrassed & disappointed about the accident.  Was it a good day or a bad day?  When I told a neighbor this story, he said, “Oh, man, that car has bad karma!”  I don’t agree.  

Do you know the parable about the Chinese Farmer?  (Check out this short animation on YouTube).  A farmer experiences a series of events which his neighbors label good or bad.  The farmer simply replies, with equanimity, “Maybe.”  

We can’t know how things are going to work out in life.  When I got home, I intentionally chose to focus on the positive of my experience.  The way I see it, three unfortunate things could have happened last Friday:  the car I wanted could have been sold out from under me; the rental car could have gotten dented; the new car’s battery could have died after dark in a snowstorm on my way home.  (Not to mention the myriad of other unknown possibilities.)  Was it good?  Was it bad?  Maybe.