The phone rings. The car shop tells me I need $3,500 in repairs. 2 days ago, the car was running fine. Yesterday, it started idling poorly. They tell me it's not a defect, recall, or covered by warranty, and that sometimes bad things just happen.
I don't have time right now to go through all the math to figure out whether or not a new electric car would be, on balance, a better environmental choice than just fixing my gas-burner. Or to figure out which car I would get. I tell them to do the work, and remind myself to look into alternatives.
I often say there are two kinds of problems in this world: the kind of problem you can solve by writing a check, and the kind of problem you cannot solve by writing a check. I hope all of my problems are the solvable-by-check kind. And for the moment, I can write that check.
In the Lyft on the way to pick up a rental car, I observe the other drivers. It is raining. They are honking their horns, impatient. Passing on the right, pulling illegal left turns from the center lane in front of cars they feel are going too slow. Zippering through traffic, making driving more dangerous for everyone so they can gain 30 seconds or a few car lengths before traffic clamps down on everyone. What can be so important? I often think that the young men driving like this must have never really experienced tragedy or consequence.
At dinner, a friend shares some life-changing news. I am reminded that everyone is wrestling with so much that we cannot see.
I tend to plan for the worst and hope for the best. This usually means I am somewhat prepared for most bad outcomes, and can be pleasantly surprised the rest of the time.
I left my car in the 5th and Mission garage and walked to the doctor a few blocks away. I listened to music on the way there and tried to think positive. 8 AM on Valentine's Day? Rough time for a doctor's visit.
I heard what I expected. I took notes. I didn't cry. I didn't shake too much. I tried to keep it light and stay focused. This has to be a rough gig for the doctors. The least I can do is try to make it easy for them.
Less than an hour later, I was back in the garage, walking to my car. I saw a van parked precariously close to it, backing out and coming within a half an inch of hitting my car. As I am frantically waved at the driver to stop, a woman pulled around in a car and, impatient, started yelling at both of us that she needed a spot.
I turned around, walked over to her car, and explained that I was leaving, and trying to prevent this guy from hitting my car. If she could wait 60 seconds, she could have my spot.
She swore at me, flipped me off, and sped into the depths of the garage, her child in the seat next to her.
On the way home, I thought about that woman. What was going on in her life that made her act like that? I observe the constant nastiness, selfishness, and short-sightedness of so many around me. I wonder what burdens and stresses they must be carrying.
I think of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb says: "Your last recourse against randomness is how you act – if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour."
Shadows and possibilities and numbers loom in my head. The distant future collapses to the next week, the next day, the next hour. "Get to the next screen". Stress makes me focus intensely.
I hope for the best. I plan for the worst.
On the way home from work, the rain finally stops. The sun breaks through the gray clouds that have covered San Francisco for the past several days. The constant downpour and darkness have been getting to me. And today has been unexpectedly emotionally charged.
For a moment, I consider pulling over to the side of the road and howling across the Bay "I AM STILL HERE!"
But I know the gods do not respond well to that kind of hubris. And it's cold.