First, I realized that for the past year when asked how old I am, I’d been answering 47, when I was actually 46 – somehow, I managed to squeeze two years of living into one actual year, because I was convinced, even when I did the subtraction of my birth year from 2014.
So, given that I’ve now caught up with myself, how was my birthday?
Here’s how things happened – GLW’s
[Good Lady Wife’s]
car had a recall for a potential fault with the door locks, she was alternatively booked to chaperone our eldest’s school band and asked me to take the car in. No problem, thought I.
Guy at the desk confirms it’ll take about an hour.
A few weeks’ back we’d taken the car in for a warning light, which they hadn’t been able to hunt down
[“I think it’s because you have your iPod in the car…” Er… No]
so I take the opportunity to press the point and ask them to check again, while confirming that there is no iPod in the car. “OK”, says he and I head up to the waiting area at about 9.15am, choosing to sit in the quiet area
[a pre-emptive avoidance of mobile conversations]
I had planned to spend the day of my birthday with my guitars and my new amp – really digging in to the tones available. No problem, thought I, this’ll be done in a couple of hours and I’ll be able to do that before the kids come home from school. I brought the manual along anyway and spend a half-hour or so reading up on the tone stack
[Mesa-Boogie manuals are really good]
10am arrives, and I am suddenly joined in the quiet area by a flustered lady, carrying a canvas bag. She sits three seats away from me, and starts talking to herself, sighing heavily, and rummaging through her bag, diving in and out, in and out.
Pretty quickly, I began to recognize her patterns of concern are similar to autistic/Asperger’s kids I’ve known; all she needs is space. Being British, I sit amiably and do my best not to intrude on her space, or to let her know she’s intruding on mine.
I’m managing to tune her out pretty well – now on my iPhone; Facebook and other sites, reading reviews, checking over the new novel – when she says:
“I wouldn’t be where I am without this!”
and she forces a postcard of Jesus in front of my eyes. I tell her I’m not interested, and go back to reading. For her part, she carries on the discussion with herself – she’s worried about her drivers license now, and her mother who is over 90 apparently. She keeps diving into her bag, out again a few moments later, in again, out again.
A few minutes later:
“Sorry about that, you were just the nearest victim…”
I say “no problem” and go back to reading.
Her mobile rings and she answers it
seems to realize she’s in the quiet area, so walks away down the corridor, which doesn’t change the volume at all. Everyone in the waiting room is listening to this one-sided conversation. Turns out she’d run into a snow-bank earlier, hence being at the garage. This is the first of several phone calls where she’ll repeat this information.
At 11am, the guy comes up to tell me they’ve worked out what was causing the warning light
[clue, it wasn’t the iPod]
and it’s going to take about an hour to fix. Great, I think, out of here by midday – to an afternoon of sumptuous tonal fun.
The woman is back to worrying about her drivers license. And decides to up-end her bag all over the floor, narrating her way through every piece of content.
A couple more phone calls – to tell people she can’t find her driving license.
Midday comes and goes, I’ve read the manual cover to cover several times, my iPhone is perilously close to losing power, and I don’t have a charger.
By this time, in between looking for her drivers license, she’s reading the signs in the quiet area, the ones that instruct patrons to respect others’ need for quiet. She moves from this to narrating her orange while she peels it.
My phone dies. I’ve read the manual inside out.
1pm arrives and they come up to tell her her car is fixed
[which makes me suddenly realize that it was two hours after my car was going to be ready in one hour]
She packs up all her stuff and stands to leave, heading out of the quiet area before suddenly turning back, reaching into her bag for a business card:
“Here, I want you to have this”
the business card says “I’M A MORMON” on it and has a telephone number scribbled on the back.
“No thanks,” I said, and she left. I burst out laughing, I couldn’t help it. A couple of people in the waiting area look at me with something between warm sympathy and outright pity.
I go back to the desk and, sure enough, they’d been so busy the guy had forgot to go and check whether my car was done
[it had been by noon]
and I finally got out of there around 2pm – 5 hours after arriving. Not bad considering I was going to be there for about an hour originally.
Later that afternoon, I was on Skype with Mum and Dad, telling them the above story, when my sister calls and happens to ask whether I had a good day. “Not too bad,” I say:
“I spent the day at the garage waiting for my car to get fixed, while an autistic mormon attempted to convert me.”
and I collapsed into hysterical laughter.
Everything is a lesson, I’ve always believed, and my birthday was just that. A lesson in patience, non-escalation, being open to the experience, and not jumping in to fix. All of those things would have been difficult for previous versions of me. In that moment of laughter with Ali, Mum and Dad, I realized I wasn’t carrying any angst – something the younger me would have done by the shovelful. At minimum, he would have found a convenient excuse to move somewhere else in the waiting room.
As it was, I hope I managed to give the lady what she needed: the space for her cycles, a non-judgemental ear and a target for her desire to help.