Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dent Free No Longer

Alas, my car is no longer dent free. Ernie was backing out the car to go to church today... and you know the rest of the story. All of a sudden I hear, "Dad, Ernie needs you"! Oh no, that didn't sound good. No one calls for Dad for ordinary run of the mill things, that is my job. Calling for dad is saved for the REAL emergencies. My front side met with Lax Boy's bumper and my car lost.

A few scratches on a car is not a big deal to me, but you have to know the rest of the story as to why we were taking a few private, hyperventilating breaths.
Once upon a time, there was a new car...

I had parked it in the driveway for a RS meeting. My counselor's husband backed out of his garage into the front side of my car (ouch - same side as the newest dents of today). Okay, not my fault, but in a car only 6 weeks from the dealer, not too fun.

Winter comes, and I go to Wal-Mart to shop. Someone side swipes the OTHER front side of my new car - bad enough that the door creaks when it is opened and closed. White paint on red, my husband was seeing red. What can you do? It was a hit and run in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Dear Spice man reminded me about defensive parking at the very back of the parking stalls. I know, I KNOW! Sometimes you just gotta get in and get out.

Fast forward to May. The dents didn't bother me, I KNEW I didn't cause them, but somehow they really got on Spice man's nerves. Something about washing the car, being spring, I don't know, but we decided to belly up and put the money down to get both sides fixed. When it was all said and done, my car looked good, looked new again. I was happy, Spice man was happier.

Until today. Oh dear. Another dent with scratches.

When I heard the news of what had happened, I took a breath and walked out into the garage. I watched my son, head bent over the bumper of his brother's truck slam down his hand on that bumper and shake his head back and forth. I knew he felt as bad as could be. Nothing I could say would make it any worse.

Then I remembered my dad.

I had just backed out my yellow rabbit from the garage and plowed into the green rain gutter on the side of the stairs going up to the front door. Green paint on yellow, some scratches in the paint of the car. I was crying. I was 14 (crazy Kansas driving!)... scary enough as that was. My dad just smiled and said "it's okay, it's only a car and you are okay".

So Ernie, it IS okay, it IS only a car and you are okay.

Keeping with the subject of dented cars...

I highly recommend the book "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. He initially gave this "last lecture" while a professor at Carnegie Mellon. The thoughts he expressed became so popular that he appeared on Oprah and in the Parade magazine. If you don't know, this man is dying from pancreatic cancer and has written this book to help his 3 young children remember him. There is a chapter (the chapters are small - 18) in it where he talks about the time his wife crashed one of their cars into the other one. She was worried about what his reaction would be. After he didn't get upset, she promised to get estimates for the repairs. This is his response.

"I told her that wasn't necessary. The dents would be OK. My parents raised me to recognize that automobiles are there to get you from point A to point B. They are utilitarian devices, not expressions of social status. And so I told Jai (his wife) we didn't need to do cosmetic repairs. We'd just lived with the dents and gashes."

She was somewhat shocked at this explanation. He goes on to say,

"Well, you can't have just some of me, Jai. You appreciate the part of me that didn't get angry because two 'things' we own got hurt. But the flip side of that is my belief that you don't repair things if they still do what they're supposed to do. The cars still work. Let's just drive 'em.

Okay, maybe this makes me quirky. But if your trashcan or wheelbarrow has a dent in it, you don't buy a new one. Maybe that's because we don't use trashcans and wheelbarrows to communicate our social status or identity to others. For Jai and me, our dented cars became a statement in our marriage. Not everything needs to be fixed."

Interesting thoughts. I hope that Ernie understands a car is just a thing. It still runs and not everything needs to be fixed (again). Now if I can convince my husband...


Kori said...

good thoughts! Sorry 'bout the dents - I have a few choice dings and dents on our car, thanks mostly to me and being distracted by the circus going on in my back seats. I'm glad Mat thinks I'm still worth keeping around - dents and all. - I'm chewing my nails right now worrying about the teenage years to come...sounds like a whole lot more dents and dings to come, not only for our cars, but for me as well. Looks like you guys are doing a good job of it--I need your top twenty rules for surviving teenagers

Pedaling said...

alive children in one piece is what matters - yes- and shauna pretty much learned to drive with my car and now i am stuck with all kinds of bumps and scratches!

J.E. said...

Tell Ernie It's OK. I know the anxiety it causes though, I've never been in a 'moving' car accident and I say moving because I have had many back-ins & back outs into parked cars. Great story! I guess C. and I are on the right track according to that guys story, we have had dents in our car for the past 3 years. Oh well, they each tell a good story.