“This car is one panic stop away from the brakes hitting the floor.”
I listened in shock as the mechanic frantically relayed to me what he had found during his once-over of Cameron, my rickety ’94 Camry. What was supposed to be a routine oil change had turned into a terrifying discovery, which basically saved my life.
Too dramatic? Well, maybe. But it’s true…
Driving home from work Monday night, I had noticed the brakes weren’t working right. Actually, they weren’t really working at all. Cameron didn’t stop at the red light, despite the fact I had the brake pedal pushed practically to the floor. I let off and slammed on the brakes again, and the car finally rolled to a stop. Needless to say, I was a little shaken.
Dad suggested checking the brake fluid. Sure enough, it was low – which was also odd. Cameron’s a leaky old thing, but I had never had to refill the brake fluid. Ignorant fool that I am, though, I topped off the fluid and didn’t think much more of it.
Even as I drove to work the next day with still malfunctioning brakes.
I was a little nervous at first, but the brakes didn’t completely “fail” again, so I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’d just have my mechanic give Cameron a quick lookover when I took him in for the oil change, I said to Mom later that night. He’d been in there enough times, those guys knew it didn’t hurt to look him over every time he came in. If there was something major, they’d find it and they’d let me know.
And so they did.
After waiting all day for the call that my car was ready to be picked up – and growing increasingly frustrated as the hours ticked away without hearing a word – my phone finally rang, and my “hello?” was answered by a very panicked mechanic telling me something was very wrong with my car.
“Let me put it to you like this: Imagine you’re at the top of a 100-story building, and you’re hanging over the edge, with the only thing holding you up is your pinkie finger. That’s where you’re at with this car right now.”
The rubber brake fluid hose had eroded, he said. Literally the only thing holding the fluid in was a little “bubble” in the hose. All it would take was me slamming on my brakes once. I had essentially been driving a death trap for the past week or so.
He said the repairs weren’t too expensive, and then proceeded to tell me how much it would cost… I cringed. Compared to the $900-$1000 it would cost me to get my struts replaced (which…still need to do that…), no, the cost wasn’t bad at all. But thanks to multiple other expenses I had already been slammed with this month, $215 really wasn’t in my budget.
But neither was skipping out on the higher-paying of my two summer jobs for almost two weeks (until next payday) because I didn’t have a functioning vehicle.
My mechanic actually breathed a sigh of relief when I gave him the go-ahead to get started on fixing Cameron. He said he’d have the parts in by tomorrow morning, and have the car done by that afternoon; and he was true to his word.
As I drove Cameron back to the apartment, I had to laugh. Boy did it sting, having to empty my checking account and dig into my measly savings to write that check. But the morning I’d dropped that car off for the oil change, I had also been planning on driving up the road afterwards to get my ID renewed. That was a huge part of the reason I was so frustrated when 20-til-5 rolled around, and there had still been no news from the mechanic. The renewal process takes so long to go through, I could only do it on one of my rare days off… And here I was, my one day off this week, and I didn’t hear a word from them until after the ID office was already closed.
(Side note: getting that stupid card renewed has been a long, drawn-out and frustrating process that I had really hoped I could finally put to an end – hence the grand levels of annoyance.)
But. Had I told them I needed Cameron back “right away”, and had they not looked and found that hose, I probably wouldn’t have made it far enough up the road to ever need an ID card again. And as much as it sucked having my plans thwarted and having to pour more expenses into that silly old hunk of metal I call a car, I can’t help but thank God for His “divine interference” in not giving me a choice in the matter – because stubborn ignorant little me would have continued to think nothing of those blasted brakes.
A coworker of mine was telling me the other day that “it’s the little things in life that will make your day”. Finding out that I was basically on the edge of an early grave – or maybe just an extended hospital visit – wasn’t exactly a “little thing”. But it still made me think…
There are two ways I can look at what happened: 1) I can look at it and grump about everything that went wrong because of it, or 2) I can choose to see it as the incredible blessing it truly is. Sure, it was a painful one – not everything beautiful in life comes easy. But it was a blessing nonetheless. And one that I, a sinner through-and-through, most certainly did not deserve.
Kind of puts a new perspective on how quickly it can all be over. How little control we really have in life.
How important it is to make every day count.