Fun with Cars and Nosy Questions

The first thing I discovered the morning after getting back from my epic road trip was a dead car battery–which was highly unfortunate because I had tons of errands to run that morning. It was early, I was more or less bright eyed and bushy tailed, and, mostly importantly, willing to run them. And because cars now vs “then” (if you don’t start them at least once a week, they won’t start; and I won’t say how embarrassingly long it took me to figure out how to make my key fob thing produce an actual key or where the keyhole on the only door with one was). The biggest sigh. Extra sigh, even. I had jumper cables but no power source, so I got a neighbor. Who happened to be a dude. (I took too much delight frankly in this guy not knowing how to use the jumper cables and having to show him). Still no glory. So I broke down and called AAA because that is, after all, why I have it.

Red SUV in a driveway with its hood up and a closer shot of a big coffee cup and part of a laptop showing.

Side note — i was also forced to slow down at a time I wanted to gogogo. And having some coffee and writing on my front stoop while waiting for AAA to come was actually not a bad thing for my psyche in that moment. I can acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, occasionally the universe knows what its doing when I feel like its playing with me like its playing with its food

AAA showed up within the hour, I got it started. The tech said something about how it might have killed the starter part? Of the battery?? But if I went on a long drive today and it started tomorrow, I should be fine. The car ran, stopped, and started like a champ on my 17 errands. It started the next day, no problem.

Fast forward a week, I went to run an errand after work, and… dead as a doornail. The errand happily could wait til the next day. So I slept on it and called AAA again. The tech got it working. He said it’ll probably be fine. I gave him a bit of a crusty look and said just replace the battery this time please. Mind you — this is a new battery less than a year ago.  And he’s pointing that out and saying I could try to keep it. I’m like: we did and it’s been one week. I don’t have to drive everyday. I don’t want to get stuck with my car not starting at the grocery store, post office, liquor store, eye glasses place, home depot, airport long-term parking at midnight after a long trip etc. He looks at me like I’m not communicating clearly, so I ask: “What is magical and different about what you are doing now versus last week?” and he responds, “Oh, uh. I’m doing the same thing.”

Yeah, no, my dude. I explain (minirant?) to him that I have no family out here. My friends all live far away or have families and aren’t “available” to come rescue me the next time this happens and it’s not in my driveway. And while I’m sure the service call fee reimbursement thing from AAA is awesome for you, I aspire never to need to call again–at least not for a battery problem for the next few years. Lemme pay for a new battery.

He pauses long enough and gives me a perplexed look that I know I’m not going to like whatever comes out of his mouth next. He questions “You have no family here?” Like he couldn’t have heard me right. Sigh. Because I live in an area where there are major extended families, too large families and many never, ever leave the neighborhood in which they grew up, let alone the state. I give him another crusty look and say, “Nope. Took my only child to college. So now there’s no one in the entire state who is family.” And that flummoxed him. I had a moment of… are you going to come and break into my house etc. thoughts and mentioned how awesome the burly dudes that are my neighbors on the streets are…. So I’m not alone – but for purposes of “rescue” if I break down somewhere, yeah, I really am.

He goes to get the new battery and when he’s installing it after being quiet for a long time asks “How did you even get out here alone?” Like i pulled a handcart across the plains on my own or something. And yet, that is a fine question to ponder. How the hell did I get to live in this state with no family here indeed? 

Back of a woman in a red jacket with short, brown curly hair holding a younger girl with a brown ponytail in a purple jacket

I went to law school as the beginning of a second career when I was still married to the ex. The plan: get in, get the degree, get out. Because Utah. Here because ex’s parents were supposed to be back up child care for my daughter who was 2 when I changed careers (punch line – they were not willing to be that back up care once we got here and I had just assumed that the ex had bothered to ask them). Then extra punch-line–the ex changed while I was in law school. I changed while I was in law school. Further apart. And we had been barely hanging on by the tiniest thread of common interests and beliefs and respect before I started law school. 

During my second year of law school when one typically interviews for firms, I flew out across the country to interview with firms all over the damned place. For two months. Because existing plan of record with the ex. Because conversations of “where do you want to live” with the ex wherein he said he had no opinion–could be happy anywhere. Sigh. I got offers several places. I had interviewed with 2 regional firms with offices here that I thought I could stand working for as a fallback in case I didn’t get any offers out of state. I got offers from them too. And at the end of it all, as I couldn’t get my ex to say anything about which offer to take or even a hey… of these states and cities in which would you most like to live… I finally got mad and he, rather sheepishly, not looking me in the eyes said… is there a firm here you got an offer from you could choose? Grrrr.

The icing on that particular frustration cake is that he later admitted to knowing he wanted to stay here when I originally asked where I should apply to work in the beginning of the whole damned process. He said he never imagined I’d get all those offers out of state so he didn’t think he needed to say what he wanted BEFORE I did all the damnable traveling. And he wanted to stay here because he ended up enjoying living here and being near his parents more than he anticipated. Which are legit and very acceptable reasons. That diminish in importance when you hope that other people (i.e., the firms I interviewed with he anticipated rejecting me) will do your dirty work for you. He’s a master of attempting never to look like the bad guy–never being on record as the guy who said “no”. (A theme we may explore in another post.)

I thought through all of that while the tech changed the battery and ended up just saying: I got stuck here. I didn’t tell him I could have moved and paid $$$ for a child custody arrangement where my ex would get my daughter all summer long. But he demonstrated to me the first 6 months after our divorce that our daughter’s well-being would always be at the extreme bottom of his considerations in his decision making. I just said I didn’t want to be away from my kid because of custody summer nonsense, so I stayed here. And now she’s all grown up and away at college in a place that fits her like a second skin. Which is great and as it should be. But that does leave me in a place where I have no family. And sure, I have plenty of friends. But that still doesn’t get me rescued on a snowy dark night staying late at the office or when I take a long drive to some remote mountain pass with no cell service or even getting groceries on a snowy day. Protip — maybe next time just delightedly charge me to change the damned battery. And maybe realize that your family of origin doesn’t look like everyone else’s and people’s circumstances vary widely. And just leave me to my coffee and writing.

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