Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul. My oldest got back really late last night from his class trip to the eclipse totality. I gave myself a small pat on the back for staying put and not being stuck in the same traffic. This late arrival led to a late start in school, at 10:15. Now, my other kids get picked up in a carpool so this late start meant that I had to drive him. Time to insert gratitude for having the flexibility that these schedule changes are mere inconveniences than major life disrupters. He was a bit nervous about getting to school on time, feeling that this was like a pardon not to be squandered. I had some errands to do, so I hustled 11 yo to come with us.
It happened. Statistically, it was supposed to happen sooner, but it happened today. The fastest and most direct way to the school requires one to get onto one highway, exit onto the left lane of another highway and then exit on the right off the second highway in 300 feet onto a service road. One is expected to transverse three lanes of traffic while entering on the left (fastest moving lane) in 300 feet. I used to avoid this route. I used to tell kids to shush, as I cannot see the traffic on the second highway till I exit the ramp. But I have been lucky to successfully merge, cross those three lanes, and exit where we need to exit. It does not help that the next exit is a few miles away.
Today, since I was coming mid-morning, I was not able to cross all three lanes while going at highway speed. There was a car merging left, and the guy in the right-most lane did not give me space to exit. So we ended up being pulled towards the next exit, with my teen slowly hyperventilating how he's going to be late. I asked him to Waze our way. We were arriving at 10:16. But I was quite rattled. I kept saying how this was bound to happen, how at least we did not crash, but internally I was in turmoil.
After drop off, we set out on the same highway to run our errands. I decided to go to Office Depot not far from our old residence since I needed to make multiple copies for homeschool chemistry class. Lo and behold, their price is 14 cents per copy while I am getting reimbursed at 10 cents per copy. Multiply that by a couple hundred pages and I slowly backed away from the counter, thinking that I need to find a place with a better rate.
As I got into my car, chatting with 11 yo, I put the key into ignition and ... nothing. It would not start. It just started! We drove here! What now? I tried this, I tried that. No, it would not start. The previous time this happened was with our old van, two days before Rosh HaShana and we needed a new alternator to the tune of a crazy amount of money, a day in the shop and a rental car, Today I had to pick up 2 yo at 2:30 on the other side of town. No wonder I went into the hyperventilating mode.
Time to insert gratitude that we broke down in the major shopping plaza, that I do have AAA, that AAA repair shop is in the same plaza, that there is kosher food available right there, that a friend who was texting me at the exact same time offered to help. I am also grateful that I did not leave 11 yo at home, because who knows how long this would take?
I decided that it is quicker to walk over to AAA than to call the hotline. It turned out to be a smart decision, as they sent a mechanic with a jumper battery to see whether they could just jump me. The car started enough for me to drive it over, but the battery was dead. They assured me that it is not the alternator, just a battery and they can switch it out right in the parking lot, here is your bill, have a great day. As I ran the rest of the shopping errands, we got some lunch. While we were eating it, I said out loud how it is Elul and maybe these two car malfunctions were a kapara (a redemption) for something I did. Incidentally, we went over Vidui yesterday and the line at the end where we ask Hashem to erase all our sins, but not through illnesses and major suffering stuck out to me. 11 yo listened to me musing out loud and said, I get it already, you've convinced me. I muttered how I am trying to convince myself.
On the heels of the eclipse, we definitely take the sun for granted until there is a major celestial event that brings our awareness to what it does for us day to day. I was thinking how I take my car for granted. We went for years with one car and that was hard. I loved having two cars after that. I was very aware of what a difference in mobility a car makes, especially with small kids in a spread-out city. But that was many years ago. Now we have had two well-running cars for over 8 years, so it is not on my mind so much.
However, there was another theme, something that I did not articulate out loud. As much as both of these incidents could have been a kapara, did I really need it like this? Do I really need to get into a near accident? Do I really need to drop a large amount of money on a sudden car repair? Do I need to run mental lists of whom can I call to get my baby from preschool if this car issue turns out to be serious? What happened to kapara of reaching into a pocket for a quarter and pulling out a dime?