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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dead Batteries and Self-Induced Isolation

This Christmas Eve, Ian and I spent 4 hours chasing after a new car battery to rescue our dead car.

We had spent the morning downtown, having lunch and walking the streets, listening to brass bands playing on sidewalks, admiring the Christmas tree in Pioneer Square, and watching the statue man stand still like a statue in the cold for tips (that's got to be harder than it looks).

On the way home from our restful Christmas Eve activities, Ian decided we should stop at the Safeway close to our house for some Christmas Eve snacks. While I sat in the car with the headlights on, Ian went into the store. He was in there for a good 15 minutes, I'd say. I watched several carloads of people come after him and leave before him. By the time he returned, I tried turning the car over to the dull sound of clicks, signaling a dead battery. I felt like a dunce for leaving the headlights on, but Ian said he's been suspecting that the battery wasn't holding a full charge anymore and expected it to go soon.

We felt fortunate that this happened close to our house, as it was only a 7 minute walk from where the car died. But we felt not so fortunate that this happened on Christmas Eve when places that sell batteries are not likely to be open.

We took our groceries home, then brainstormed on the best mode of rescuing our car. In retrospect, the thing to do would have been to hang out in the parking lot of Safeway with the hood raised and wait for some good Samaritan to give us a jump so we could take the car home and worry about a replacement battery Monday. But, I guess the best way for me to explain why we didn't do that is that we are both very independent people who like to do things ourselves before depending on help from others. Character flaws, perhaps, but that's just how it is. Ok, maybe that's a cop out. See what I mean at the end of the story.

It was 3:30:PM, and on Christmas Eve, that means options would quickly be running out. There's a Les Schwab about a 10 or 12 minute walk from home, so we decided that instead of trying to figure out a bus route to go to some unknown auto parts store far from our home, we'd try walking over there. I suggested that Ian give them a call first to see if they were open, but he was like, "let's just go." And I was willing to just go along instead of calling myself. Another thing about Ian and I is that we are both rather averse to making phone calls if we don't have to. It's kind of a phobia that I actually think is not too uncommon. Anyway, since Murphy is in charge of the universe, Les Schwab was not open today.

A Jiffy Lube was open (just in case you need your oil changed on Christmas Eve), but they do not sell car batteries. I seemed to remember in my childhood seeing car batteries stocking shelves at convenience stores like 7-11 (am I hallucinating about that?), so we poked our head in a couple gas stations along our way, but I am either dead wrong about that, or gas stations have just stopped stocking them. Running out of options, I got over my telephonophobia for a minute on our walk and called the local Fred Meyer, asking if they stocked car batteries. Our Fred Meyer recently remodeled, and while the layout is much improved, the selection is much diminished: they no longer have an automotive section at all, so no dice.

We looped back around to the Safeway, since we were closer to that than our home at this point, and tried the car again. No avail.

At this point it was 4:15 and we didn't have many options left. We thought of asking our apartment manager to come give us a jump, but they appear to be away, and besides, we feel crummy about bugging people on a day many treat as holiday. Finally, we decided that Sears Auto Center would be the last choice for a car battery on Christmas Eve. We called ahead (lesson: learned) and found that they would be open until 6:00. Only problem now was traveling the 4 or 5 miles to get there on time. We looked up a bus route which would drop us at the mall where the auto center was located 45 minutes before closing, but we would be dropped off clear on the exact opposite side of the mall parking lot area, and would have to walk fiercely in the cold to get there after having already waited a half hour in the cold for the bus.

We did all this, got the battery, and then called a cab to take us back to the car, because there's no way we were going to carry a car battery back through that long walk and bus ride (car batteries, it turns out, are quite heavy). A $23 cab ride later, we were standing at the car again. Ian decided to just jump the car with the new battery and take the car home then change the battery later from our own parking lot. Immediately upon raising the hood and connecting the jumper cables, a woman parked in front of us asked if we needed a jump. We told her no thank you, but it was ironic that we were so reluctant to ask for help, and we went on this big adventure, and just when we were close to finishing our independent quest, some kind person offered to help. All we really had to do was ask and this whole day would not have been the headache it was.

This experience underscores something that Ian and I have both been experiencing lately: isolation. For some reason, this year we have both started to feel quite homesick and lonely. We just miss being around people that we know and love. We don't make friends easily, and though we have made friends here, I can't say we're particularly close to any of them. I do enjoy some of them quite a bit, but I have not achieved the same level of intimacy with anyone in Portland that I had achieved in Salt Lake.

Ian and I were talking about these lonely feelings lately and Ian said something that struck me: "You know how when we first moved here, we thought the people of Portland were all so nice and friendly, unlike the people in Salt Lake?"

"Yeah," I replied. I can't say I'd describe the people of Portland the same way today.

"Well, it was us. They were friendly to us because we were receptive to meeting new people since we were in a new place and didn't know anybody. They reflect back to us what we give to them."

That made a light bulb go off for me. I think it's true. I for one tend to keep pretty closed off from people for a lot of different reasons. One reason is that it's only the people who are close to you who can really, really hurt you. Another is that even strangers can hurt you, though maybe not as badly, and I have had plenty of experiences in life that have made me distrustful of the way people will behave toward me. Another is just that I am an introvert. While extroverts find social settings a great way to unwind, I find them taxing on my system, and I need a lot of alone time to balance it out. Thinking back on my close relationships in life, they have, for the most part, been with people whom I grew up with as a child, or with whom I lived as a roommate. A couple exceptions exist, but in all cases, there has been an environment ripe for intimate development of a friendship. I'm not the type of person who's going to become best friends with someone if we haven't ever had a real conversation about who we are as people. And growing up with people or living with them is a great way to facilitate those conversations. It's harder to get there without that.

But the bottom line is, we are alone because we have made ourselves that way. I can take a lot of alone-ness and not feel lonely, but I think it is to the point where something's got to give, and I guess Ian has convinced me that the change has to come from me. But Inertia also rules the universe (right up there with Murphy), and it is hard to make myself move when I am so used to standing still.

I guess I have a lot to work on in the new year.

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heidikins said...

Oh my goodness, what a hassle! I'm glad that you did manage to get your car back in batteries before the holidays (completely) hit. I understand the self-sufficient thing, and the independent thing.

Wish I lived closer, I would have been happy to come rescue you from Safeway in the first place.


Nix said...

I typed a bog long response from work last night, and somehow the Internet ate it.  It is not here.  :(

I shall endeavor to re-create soon.

Nic said...


Tauni said...

Wow!  I totally would have lifted the car hood and begged for help.  I guess I am too lazy to be completely independent! :)

Manuela said...

I feel the same way.  It seems to me at least that it's hard to meet people.  Especially once you're not in school any longer or otherwise thrown together with random people, it becomes a much bigger and scarier effort to put yourself out there to people. 

Sra said...

It's true. And when people do randomly talk to me out in public, I'm usually thinking "Why are you talking to me?" When you are in a college setting, you are not so suspicious of efforts to socialize. I am in a school setting still, but law school people can be pretty annoying and back stabbing and just better-than-thou a lot of the time.

Sra said...

You're probably just a more balanced and practical person.

Sra said...

The internet always eats your comments. It musn't like you.

Sra said...

Yeah, it just made me think of how, if we were in Salt Lake, there were a number of people I would have called to help me out, but here I couldn't think of anyone I felt close enough to to justify disturbing!

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