Living on the edge

February 26, 2009

beetleI hate when this happens. I got in the Beetle Tuesday morning, and it wouldn’t start. It had the death rattle. Dan, the incomparable auto repair guy, said it sounded like a dead battery, so I had AAA lug it over there on a flatbed. The AAA driver jump started the bug before he took it away, so I had some assurance that it would live to fight another day. Dan had it overnight and came to the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with it. The battery is still good, even after a few “stress tests.” The alternator is functioning properly. The wheels turn in circles as Nature intended. Aside from the faded flower in the bud vase, there is nothing wrong. Good news, right? Except that the battery was dead on Tuesday morning for no apparent reason, so now I live in constant fear that it will be again be dead for no reason—and not in front of my house but, say, tonight, when I get done teaching my class in Passaic. Passaic, for the love of Pete!

I once had a Rambler that would just stop running, perhaps when I was in the middle lane doing 55. I’d coast over to the side of the road, get a ride home, and send Wayne the Mechanic out to get it. Wayne would get in and turn the key, and the car would start. “Mr. Paolino, I can’t fix it if it isn’t broken.” Yeah, I studied logic in college, too. But I drove that Rambler with my heart in my throat, because I never knew when it would stop running.

Maybe I’m missing the thrill inherent in such experiences. After all, if it weren’t for that battery, tonight would be just another night in class. Instead, I’ll be in a state of anxiety all night and, if I go out into that dark parking lot—in Passaic, for Pete’s sake—and the car does start, that’ll be more enlivening than the usual trip home. Maybe that’s what Winston Churchill was talking about when he said, “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.”


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