I’m on the east coast this week, visiting my grandparents in Maryland and my college roommate outside of Boston. This entry was hand-scrawled the other night and transcribed.
I’m making history tonight: I’m paper-blogging for the first time. I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of my grandpa’s 1990 Mazda in the parking lot of the Greenbelt, Maryland train station, writing under the dim light of a lamppost. I parked here four hours ago when I took the train to D.C. to meet some girlfriends. My fretful Chinese grandpa had cautioned me about 20 different possible dangers, including pickpockets and car thieves. He requested that I phone him at every turn: when I arrived at Greenbelt, then at D.C., and again upon my return to Greenbelt, and when I arrived safely at my car.
I gently told my grandpa that I’d lived in a fairly rough neighborhood in San Francisco (the Mission District), and I knew how to handle myself. I didn’t want to stress him out and planned to say at the end of the night, “See? You had nothing to worry about.” I would have succeeded in doing this, if not for one threat that neither my grandpa nor I had foreseen: Headlights that don’t beep when you leave them on as you exit the car.
After an energizing coffee date with my friends in D.C., I arrived back at the Mazda around 8:30 pm, safe and sound, ready to call my grandpa and assure him that things were fine…and then I realized that nothing was happening as I turned the key in the ignition. I knew immediately that I’d left the lights on and had drained the battery. I got out of the car and fruitlessly approached various commuters for jumper cables — doesn’t anyone carry these anymore? — and ended up phoning AAA. I called my grandpa and reassured him that he didn’t have to drive to the station, and that I was in a well-lit area, and that within 45 minutes, AAA would arrive and jump start the car.
Then I sat and waited. I couldn’t call any friends because my cell battery was low, and I hadn’t brought anything to read, so I decided to write this blog post on the back of my itinerary.
The pleasantly surprising thing about this situation is that I never got upset at all, not at myself, not even at the circumstances. I didn’t think, “I’m so irresponsible for not checking the headlights!”, or “This kind of thing always happens to me!” or “Now I’ll have less time to spend with my grandparents.” Even though all I wanted to do was catch up with them over Chinese takeout during my last night in town, I rolled my eyes at the silliness of the situation and laughed. I’d done the best I could, and there was really nothing much else that I could do. I didn’t even wish that things could be different, because they weren’t, and that was that.
So here I am, smelling of coffee from the cafe, hungry and tired, without anything to read. If things had gone differently, I could be chatting with a friend by phone right now, or at home with my grandparents. I could be doing something more enjoyable and productive than sitting in a Mazda in the Metro station. But things happened the way they did, and I still feel calm, and even amused. And that — the fact that I could accept things as they were, not wishing they could be different — is what we call progress.
The story doesn’t end here! Read the conclusion of the Greenbelt, Maryland tale in Reschooling Tool #6: Choose the Ridiculous Interpretation.