For the most part, I’m a pretty fortunate fellow. I have a loving fiancée, a good (if not high paying) job advancing the science of biochemistry, and a nice apartment. Yup, all in all my life is pretty nice, which is why when things go wrong, they seem to really go wrong.
My Tale of Adventure
First, let me set the stage. It’s around six o’clock on Friday evening. I’ve finished up the last test I need to run, to determine if the bacteria I’ve been forcing to produce my protein of interest have actually done so. (They have, in case you were curious.) I’ve cleaned up, put everything away and gotten into my car to swing by my apartment, to pick up a few things before I go to visit Sondra. So far, so good; nothing to complain about yet.
It was on the road where I had a weird encounter. At a stop light as I was driving to my apartment, I had a woman in the car next to me gesture to me to roll down my window. After I did so, she shouted over that both of my headlights were out. I tried flicking them on and off, but no avail; they weren’t lighting up. I hadn’t noticed because all of my driving to that point had been in the city, and with all the street lights, the road in front of me was adequately lit even with my headlights out.
I yelled back my thanks, grumbled, and flipped on my hazard lights as I took a detour to the nearby Wal-Mart and its auto center. By now, it was after seven, and since they closed at eight, the fellow at the desk told me they might not be able to get to my car in time. So, I spent the rest of the hour reading a copy of Inc. magazine in the waiting room, hoping that I’d be able to get my headlights fixed.
When the repairman came to get me, there was bad news, and there was good news. The bad news that whatever was causing my lighting problem was an electrical issue, something going on in the internal workings of the car, and couldn’t be fixed by them. (The Wal-Mart center was a tire/oil change place, not a full service garage or anything.) The good news: although I hadn’t realized it, the brights weren’t affected by whatever was crippling the low lights, so as long as I didn’t mind being a bit of a jerk and keeping my brights on the whole time, I could drive with my lights on, after all. As a nice little bonus, Wal-Mart’s mechanics didn’t charge me anything for the time they took to check out my car and determine that it was a problem beyond their ability to fix (or at least, what Wal-Mart would allow them to do).
I drove back to my apartment using my high beams, without getting any angry honking or other adverse reactions (an advantage to having a low set car is that even your high beams aren’t that high). When I got into the apartment parking lot, I played around with the lights a bit, seeing if I couldn’t get the low lights to work. I discovered to my amazement that they went on, if I turned them on and then flicked my high beams. Problem solved, it seemed.
I gathered my things from my apartment, and set out toward my fiancée’s apartment. Everything went fine for first three quarters or so of my trip; my low lights worked fine, and it was a pretty uneventful drive…
…Until I got on the last highway taking me to my fiancée, when I noticed the lights flicker. I tried to flash the high beams, and the low lights went out leaving me in darkness. I was surprised, but undeterred; I figured I could just use the high beams like I had planned originally.
When I tried turning on my high beams, though, they didn’t come on either. At this point I was getting worried; I tried flashing the high beams again, and noticed than when I pulled the high beam bar towards me, the high beams came on, even though I couldn’t get the lights to come on any other way.
I ended up driving the last twenty miles of the trip with my hazard lights on, holding the high beam bar with my left hand as I drove. Luckily for me, I was nearly at the end of the trip, the snow had stopped, the road was clear, and the traffic was light; otherwise I would have stopped and not tried to push my luck. (I am far from being a big risk taker, at least when my life is on the line; if there seemed to be a risk to continuing, I would have stopped.) I made it there alright, although later than I had planned (much later; if we include my detour to Wal-Mart), and with a rather long story to tell (as you’ve just read).
The Lessons I Learned
Well, relaying that story took much longer than I was expecting (although, if you think it took a while to read, just think of how long it took to live through). In the spirit of making lemonade from the lemons that life hands me, here are a few lessons I drew from my experience:
-Try to Help Out Others: Had those friendly people not pulled up next to me and pointed out that my lights were out, I might have gotten all the way onto the highway without knowing about my car’s troubles. Had I done so, I would have been in a much worse position that I was otherwise. It was very nice of them, and I certainly intend to pay it forward and try to help out someone else, as well.
-Keep on My Car’s Performance: I’ve been trying to keep up with the maintenance on my car, particularly given some of the issues I’ve faced in my past. But, I still need to improve my observational skills; I honestly don’t know when my lights first went out. (Most of my driving last week was from my apartment to the university, all city driving during the daylight; I haven’t used my lights since last week.) Making a point of checking my lights and fluids once a week or so (perhaps when I stop to get gas) would be a good plan.
-Being Helpful can Increase Your Business: Not so much a lesson for myself, but because of their willingness to check out my car (and not charge for the service rendered), my local Wal-Mart managed to endear themselves to me, and ensure more future business. If you (or your employees, as the case may be) treat customers well, you can expect repeat business; it’s a good lesson to keep in mind.
So there, a few good lessons I got out of this whole ordeal. I hope everyone else had a less harrowing drive home last Friday.