This is a legacy post from a blog I wrote in 2018 about language, storytelling, and the shape of things. Delivered here straight from the archives, please enjoy the following issue of The Quiet Post.
I write this from the driver’s seat of a rental car, which sits on the street outside my home, which I am currently locked out of.
Welcome to The Quiet Post, where I try very hard to find the headspace to write about the softer side of the world while contemplating this lovely view:
Here’s the good news: I’m close enough that I can connect to my WiFi network. A single life preserver tossed out to sea.
I suppose this is my own fault. I had a plan for today’s post last Friday, but when I tried to piece it together it fell apart. Then on Saturday I was lazy. And on Sunday, Easter, I set aside time to write in the evening, when I got home from visiting my family.
As I was driving home on the highway, the battery light came on. Okay cool, I thought. No big deal, I’ll make it home and then call the auto shop in the morning.
A couple minutes later, the radio cut off. Which was unsettling.
A couple minutes after that, the turn signal stopped working. It didn’t cease functioning entirely. Rather, it began to blink rapidly and feebly, a final plea for help.
Then the car clunked. Then the accelerator stopped responding. Then all power cut out.
If you have never had the pleasure of hurtling sixty miles an hour down a highway in the absolute silence of a dead, two-ton vehicle, I have to say that I cannot recommend it.
Like a forty-five pound curling stone slowly, yet inevitably, spinning off course, I maneuvered the car to the nearest exit ramp and came to a stop in the right hand turn lane where it gave one final wheeze and gave up the ghost.
Absent flashers, the wonderful new task I was appointed with for the next half hour was to crack open my door and wave for the confused, overly-cautious, and sometimes belligerent cars to drive around me.
Eventually, my parents arrived to relieve me of my duty, and together we moved the car to the safety of a small parking lot outside a Thai restaurant, where despite our best steering efforts it somewhat adamantly slid into the only handicap parking spot.
The sun set. While waiting for the tow truck, my parents passed the time watching a tennis match on one of their phones. As I sat in the back seat, in the darkness, reading by the light of my own phone, the sound of the ball and the crowd and players through the tin can speakers became a comfortable metronome that smoothed the rough edges of the ordeal.
Two hours passed. The tow truck arrived. It was 9:30 at night.
The next day—today—I went to pick the car up from the auto shop. The alternator and serpentine belt had been replaced, and all was well. The car had risen. An Easter miracle. I was relieved it was over, and excited to go home, write, and curl up with a blanket to watch an episode of Veep.
Just one small thing, which is that we soon discovered the technician had accidentally taken my car key home with him.
Which explains why I’m in a rental.
And as I drove it home through the snowy back streets, avoiding the rush hour traffic, my dad called to let me know I’d left my house key in his car after he’d dropped me off at the auto shop.
Which explains why I’m sitting in the street.
Sometimes the world isn’t quiet. Sometimes everything falls apart around you like a 2005 Honda Element as you desperately try to point your bow toward safety. There were things I wanted to write about, plans I had made, but none of them seem important at the moment. I really just want that blanket and that episode of Veep.
But those moments wrapped up and cozy, as nice as they are, can’t be the only moments we look for quiet and safety and stillness. Sometimes you have to find it in the driver’s seat of a blue Chevy Malibu with the name of an auto shop painted on the side.
The point, after all, of this project, The Quiet Post, isn’t to avoid the stressful and difficult things. It’s to be okay with them.
See you next week.