Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Driving at Night With My Headlights Out

At 9:36 last night I was 8 miles west of Chapel Hill on I-40 when the lights on my dashboard started going out.

A half-hour or so before that I had gotten in the car after a seminar in Cary and when I started it the little battery on the dashboard lit up; that means an electrical issue. I had bought a new battery a couple of months ago so I didn’t think that was the problem; and the car was running fine at the time.

The basic challenge was that I know about as much about how a car works as I know about what a gall bladder does for the body. My friend, Ken Jackson, is having his gall bladder removed today or tomorrow, but it could be his spleen or pituitary gland or spotsidonia nodes. I don’t know what those things are either. In fact, I made up the spotsidonia nodes thing…but see, you didn’t have a clue either did you, so there.

My problem-solving skills came up with, “Keep driving and let’s hope for the best.” I had two seminars scheduled for today in Gastonia, about a 3-hour drive, and I hated the thought of letting those folks down.

The headlights went out at 9:41 and I was doing about 70 mph. I know it was that time because I just picked up the phone to start calling my friend, Elaine, to let her know what was going on…just in case. I was able to hang behind an 18-wheeler for a few miles until I saw an exit. When I cruised to the top of the off-ramp the car totally died but I was able to coast to a stop on the side of the road.

As I’m walking to a convenience mart at Exit 157 I’m talking to myself in my head about how I might have been smarter and I'm (out loud) thanking Elaine for talking me into getting AAA. Stopping on the side of the road for a second I pull my AAA out of my pocket, shine the phone light on it and notice that it says my membership ends on January 31, 2014. Ruh, ro.

So—making no assumptions that I actually know what I’m doing in life—I call AAA and, sure enough, I have an old card in my pocket; later I find the new one in the glove compartment.

By a little after 2 am, I’m 76 miles east in bed falling asleep, the car is delivered to the great repair folks at Woods Auto Repair and my fun-to-ride-with tow truck guy, John, is on his way back home.

This morning I’m thinking through the lessons I learned: Listen to smart people; Elaine talked me into getting AAA, and especially suggested I get the prime service that includes 100-miles of towing. A small investment almost always pays off; if I had not had AAA I’d be in a hotel waiting all day for someone I don’t know to fix the car and still out the seminar business for the day. Understand that sometime decisions don’t go the way you want, but sometimes they are the only decision…if it happens again I’d still make the decision to keep going.

Look around, what seemingly small decisions are you putting off that could have large consequences?

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