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Thinking about car repair

I know, for the most part, it’s so mundane and often so annoying that it’s something many people purposely don’t think about unless they have to. I’m not going to go all ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ on you and suggest there is something deeply meaningful in getting your car repaired (although if you are looking for a good read that is a great book). What I am doing is thinking about actual car repair because I recently got my car worked on and I learned to love my mechanic even more than I did before, nothing actually useful in terms of car repair. Thankfully, that is currently not a problem for me.

I am one of those lucky people who is friends with someone who has their own repair shop. I don’t worry about what Shawn tells me my car needs because I knew him before he was in the business. I’ve actually had him refuse to charge me for things that didn’t come out perfectly. I recognize that makes my car repair experience different from most peoples. Constantly being on guard for little extra charges, for outrageous fees, for stretching a job into another hour, etc. I have friends who are never satisfied with the work that has been done, and friends who love their auto repair person like family, and some people who do their own car repairs. The things that unify us are the slightly hysterical…but they are almost universally part of the auto repair experience. First, the approximation of the sound something on or in your car is making that has caused you to visit the garage that day. Second, the demonstration of how the car moves, or doesn’t, and how that has played a role in your visit that day. And third, the absolute idiocy that we feel when the car does neither of those things when it is at the auto shop.

I mean, how do cars manage to be so good at making noises and movements you are sure are incredibly specific until you try to describe them and wait for the car to prove you right when all you get is a smooth running car. Sentient beings? Cursed? I know, I’m being silly, but don’t you have to be every once in a while to keep yourself from drowning in all the negative news?

But I digress, what does car repair have to think about? Well, in all seriousness, I think the thing that struck me most was that like most things in life, car repair has some really clear rules. Some parts fit in some cars but not others, some repairs are worth it and some are not, some repairs are simple and some require removing other parts to get at something and it gets complicated. Now, I’m not saying life has rules like don’t repair your friendship the cost isn’t worth it, but don’t we make those kinds of decisions using pretty much the same questions? Is it worth it to do something? Will fixing something be easy or complex? Can we do it ourselves or do we need help?

So as I reflect on my car repair experience, I think it might make sense to stop and think about all the things in our lives that we live with according to rules, either ours or societies, and why we don’t struggle with some but do struggle with others. Can you remember the last time you thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just fix that carburetor myself’ and then actually learned how and did it? Never? Me either. But when personal things come up, we don’t want to go to therapy, we don’t want to ask our friends for help, we don’t want to accept that we can’t handle things alone. But we can’t do everything by ourselves. Why is it so easy to justify in some parts of our lives and so hard in others? Definitely time to stop and think about that.

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