Dude, I’m so sorry about your car.
I was downstairs with AAA, coffee in one hand, cell phone in the other, texting my cousin Basia upstairs. My car refused to come to life after a series of jumps, leaving it deader-than-dead on the side of 14th Street.
In a loading zone. On a Monday morning. Which, may I remind you, is a $100 ticket.
I turned my attention from AAA to my phone to text Basia back. It’s seriously fine, I typed, As far as I’m concerned, we’re lucky this didn’t leave us stranded on the highway somewhere.
Forty-eight hours earlier, the two of us drove ten hours from Basia’s now-former residence of Burlington, Vermont to Washington, DC. We packed up everything she owned in my Dodge Avenger and shipped whatever didn’t fit to her mom in Dallas, loaded up on caffeine and started the trip.
The drive went flawlessly. The biggest hurdle we faced was deciding which podcast to listen to. We filled up for gas one time. My car didn’t make any weird noises.
I wasn’t thrilled to start my Monday dropping $200 on a new battery, but I was completely shocked—and relieved—this whole ordeal was going down outside my apartment, not on the shoulder in upstate New York.
You can consider yourself lucky or unlucky for any situation—depending on how you look at it.
Since I was sixteen, I’ve said, “I have bad luck with cars.” My list of stories runs deep—I’ve been in three totaled vehicles, three [additional] collisions, one hit-and-run by a drunk driver, in addition to hitting a small collection of animals, poles, and curbs along the way. Twice in my life, I crawled out of a shattered window after a vehicle flipped and landed on its roof.
With the exception of two scars across my left eyebrow, I walked away from every single incident without a scratch on me.
I claimed to have bad luck until two years ago, when my friend Erica challenged me to think of things differently. “You could say you’re unlucky,” she said, “Or you’re the single most lucky person to ever sit behind the wheel.”
I could stare at my dead vehicle and think, “Of course my car’s dead.” Or, “Of course I would be the one to make a ten-hour drive on a bad battery, and make it all the way home before it needed to be replaced.”
It’s up to you on how you look at it.
I was thinking about the lucky vs. unlucky argument this week. My friend Mere and I were walking around Logan Circle minding our own business when suddenly we heard an explosion.
Not a gunshot. Not a car backfire. Explosion.
I wasn’t around for the Revolutionary War, but when I whipped around and saw a second fireball blast through the roof behind us—that is what I imagine a cannon to look like. By the time I connected with the 911 operator, fire trucks had already arrived on the scene.
Somewhere between the black smoke, onlookers, pets being rescued, and firemen breaking every last window on the fourth floor, Mere and I realized we knew someone who lived in that building. One of the funniest, nicest, smiley-est guys who went to our same gym.
You know those people with outstanding reputations, who’s genuinely adored by everyone around them? Because they’re SO nice and SO happy [quite literally] all the time? That’s this guy.
Which is why it shouldn’t have come as such of a surprise when I texted him, offering apologies and is-there-anything-I-can-do’s (which, let’s face it, is the absolute dumbest things a person can say, like what the hell am I going to do about a burning building), that he responded with the following:
“Everyone is safe! The kids, adults, dogs and cats in the building all made it out. What a blessing!!” Smiley face emoticon.
What the HELL is wrong with you?
A BLESSING? Well actually, yes—a blessing.
I have no idea what it’s like to go to work one morning, and go home that night realizing whatever you left with is now everything you own in the world.
That is really, really shitty luck.
It is really bad luck that his building caught fire, and a Residence Inn is now his home. It is also really great luck that his unit was on the first floor, where a few necessities could be salvaged, versus the fourth floor where the main explosion happened.
It’s really bad luck that the fire happened in the middle of the day, when everyone was at work and no one could rescue any belongings. But it’s also really good luck that it happened in the middle of the day while everyone was at work, when no one needed to be evacuated and onlookers could instantly recognize the emergency and dial 911.
It’s so funny how your brain can flip things like that—turning a negative situation into one you are grateful for.
It’s also extremely humbling to recognize that if other, lighter situations are the worst thing you go through this week, you must have a pretty great life. I mean good Lord, here’s someone whose home just burned to the ground, and I’m complaining about a fucking car battery.
It all comes back to how you look at it.