Dear Tim Herrera,
Thank you. You, sir, got me off my butt and stopped me mid-complaint. You brought me to a dead cold halt as I let out a caterwauling whine. You pulled me back, reeled me in, sat me down and gave me a Come-To-Jesus lecture. How? How, you ask? With your headline.
Do That One Thing You’ve Been Putting Off.
Anyone who knows me recalls my strained experience with not one but two real estate agents. But only a few have heard the story of my lovely little RAV4, on which I took a chance despite its high mileage (92K at purchase but with an extended warranty for another 35K). Those who heard the story know that the salesman promised features which it turned out that the vehicle didn’t have, features on my I-want-this list, He assured me The Car Does That You Just Don’t Know How To Use It Yet. Of course, wah wah wah, the car didn’t do that, didn’t have the promised features, and Yours Truly had signed a sheet of paper stating that no oral promises had been made.
Film At 11, oooh aaaahhhh ahhhh.
The dealership (search for me on Yelp to read a sanitized review) resisted my relentless and increasingly less non-violent barrage of e-mails for a month, and finally hired a shop in Lodi to install after-market versions approximating the missing capacity. The product doesn’t quite provide everything promised, but fairly close. I remain convinced that one more gizmo will bring me full circle, and I intend to persist. But, Mr. Herrera, that’s not why I have soared to the top of your fan list.
This is why:
The company here in California which the Kansas City dealership hired to install the after-market item didn’t do a perfect job right out of the gate. The guy knew it; I knew it. He muttered something about ordering another part and maybe it would work. I drove away, desolate, discouraged, and yet: Telling myself, that’s what the heck you get for allowing yourself to be bamboozled in the first place. I started doubting my selection (92K!!! even with another 35K certified — wow, dude, why didn’t you just say NO?) and the gloss disappeared from the experience. When people asked, “How’s the RAV?”, I murmured, “Oh, it’s okay,” and looked away.
I didn’t call the Lodi guy. I didn’t (God forbid) reach out to the KC dealership. I accepted the botched repair as I do every other disappointing performance. I seethed inwardly, but figured that the whole affair stemmed from my inherent stupidity in trying to buy a car without somebody going with me. Never mind that the person I asked to help declined to do so with a visible sneer, causing me to wonder why I bothered to inquire. I repeated, over and over, that the car drove well, rode well, could power through off-road experiences, and allowed ease of ingress and egress far superior to the 10-year-old Prius which I had traded — but which, truth be told, actually had the feature which I had been promised and which the RAV did not have.
A month passed. Two. I told myself that this remission of capability afforded me a chance for life-growth. Character-building. Practice not-complaining. I made various trips to Lodi for other purposes — to go to the bank, buy supplies at Lowe’s, visit my new favorite antique mall. But I studiously avoided the stretch of roadway where the installer sits. Once I stumbled on it and tried to get myself to stop, but I felt so stupid for buying a car without one of my main requirements and ending up with an inferior fix that I found yet another excuse not to do so. I used the events surrounding the RAV as yet another in the long list of Proof That I Am Undeserving, along with three divorces and the curled, sneering upper lips of all those people who stare at me when I walk across a room.
Then, you, sir, came into my life. I had never read anything you wrote. I browse the NYT most mornings, from my tablet, in front of whatever window happens to be nearby. I don’t recall previously seeing your bi-line. I don’t usually read How-To-Fix-Yourself articles. I can’t reconstruct the minute sequence of events which prompted me to do so yesterday. I skimmed the first few sentences, then slowed; regrouped, and finally, digested every word. I made note of your request to be notified if anyone tried your suggestion.
I already planned to go to Lodi yesterday. My car needed an oil change. I had no groceries due to having spent a week in Kansas City. I had, finally, after three months of living in the Delta, called my prescription refills into the CVS here instead of the one “back home”. So I had plenty to do, without adding another errand.
I treated myself to a cup of coffee first. And a bagel, even though I’m gluten-free. I’ve always thought one should not tackle a difficult project on an empty stomach. Then I put the address of the target company in my phone’s GPS, and set out.
I parked and entered the store with far more trepidation than I should have felt. As it happened, the owner immediately recognized me and sang out, “Ah, there you are! I have that part! I’ve been waiting for you! Why didn’t you come?” He beamed at me. I stumbled over an apology as he came from behind the counter, grabbed my keys and went outside to the RAV. Fifteen minutes later, I drove away, thinking of you, Mr. Herrera, and wondering how I could ever explain to you how a sixty-two-year-old, of whom a judge has taken judicial notice of relentlessness, cares so little for herself that she assumes she deserves every disappointment. How can I ever account for my inability to balance acceptance of life’s annoying conditions with reasonable requests for accommodation? How can I tell you that sometimes, a swift kick in the butt propels me forward better than three months of gravitating between the desire to go nuclear, and the certainty that I have no right to ask for anything, let alone that which I’ve been promised?
Or — put another way — how can I think you for inspiring me to add one more errand to my day in Lodi, an errand which turned out so incredibly anti-climactic, that it might have been business-as-usual instead of an everlasting symbol of one woman’s acceptance of herself as well as confirmation of the essential and ordinary goodness of humanity?
I don’t know if my words would ever be enough, so I’ll close with just this: Thank you, sir. thank you. Yesterday, because of you, I did that one thing which I had been avoiding. And it worked out marvelously.
It’s the seventh day of the fifty-first month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Tim Herrera’s article.