I bought my first car in 1978, when I was 21 and one year out of college. It was a new Honda Civic hatchback which, when the wind was right, would get me about 42mpg on the interstate. Of course, the speed limit at that time was 55mph, which worked well for the Honda’s performance ability. Still it was a great little car and took me up and down the center of the country a number of times.
We have owned 19 different cars since then – that actually sounds like a lot of cars, except that we went from one to two to three to four cars all under the umbrella of Cross-owned. What I have never owned, and have refused to own, is a junker. There are just some things in life that I want to take for granted, that they will perform and be dependable and just not keep me up at night worrying about them. This includes anything in the plumbing family, and actually most any appliance or electrical device – and cars.
In 47 years of driving, I have had three flat tires, and numerous dead batteries (don’t get me started on them again…), and an assortment of water pumps and leaky gaskets and such, but all within the tolerance of a “dependable” car. Now, when these things have happened, I have reacted like any reasonable person would – I get mad and disgusted that something I need to count on has failed me, and by extension, our entire family, and most of the free world. It’s really kind of a bit of a sick feeling, because it’s totally what I did NOT expect to happen. You know, some people drive vehicles that they must know are going to let them down – so much so that when indeed they do go to pot, it’s not really a letdown. It’s just a matter of timing. But I take cars in faithfully for regular oil changes, and check overs, and tire rotations and all sorts of things. And I drive safely, never speed – ever – and enjoy getting into a car that I believe is a quality ride.
Now, in recent years, the auto industry has gone a bit off the deep end in the technology aspect of a vehicle. Our latest purchase has heads up auto speed that is projected on the windshield, as well as two different blind spot detectors, automatic cruise control slow down and even stop if I drive too close to another car, a rumble vibration in the steering wheel if I get close to leaving my lane, and a backup camera that shows everything behind me, and even – somehow – an above the car 360 degree view as I pull into a garage or such. There are gauges and lights for every conceivable condition that may arise. If it could only fly, I’d be a supremely happy guy.
However, there is one warning light that has bedeviled me from the day they decided to invent it. I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about. It was actually invented in the 1980s and went on luxury cars in Europe, the first being a Porsche. In the US, it was actually part of a federal law for cars built beginning in 2005, so the technology has been used widely for 15 years. It still remains a cursed warning light.
I’m talking about Mr. Low Tire Pressure Light. It’s created to somehow magically detect if you have a tire that is a little low, air pressure wise. The moment that happens, a shrill warning siren goes off and an orange or yellow flashing flat-tire-looking light shoots out from the dashboard. It reminds me of those airplane movies where suddenly the fuel tank is empty or the oil pressure has dropped, or the ailerons have failed, and the plane goes into an immediate nosedive until the hero is able to pull up on the stick and bring it seconds away from crashing into the mountain.
It happened to me yesterday morning, as I was taking Cheri to work. I backed out of the driveway and drove ten feet, and suddenly, we were crashing into the mountain. It flashed and rang, piercing the not-yet-dawn drive. Now please understand: over the past number of days, I have driven nowhere near a construction site, and I am very careful to swerve out of the way of road debris, so as not to poke, puncture, slash or slit any tire of any car. The tires were fine when the car was pulled into driveway the night before.
The only thing that happened – and this is what makes the warning light so insidious – is that the temperature went from a high of 43 degrees to a low of 4 degrees overnight. If you remember your 8th grade science class, you will recall that the “hotter” the air is, the faster the molecules move and the farther spread out the molecules are, so that warm/hot air is less dense than cold air. This meant, of course, that my nice warm 43 degree air sitting my tire after it had been rotated and checked for pressure in November overnight became a dense 4 degree air, which didn’t nearly fill the tire as well. Cue Mr. Low Tire Pressure Light.
Here are the other two things, though. First, I have four tires, and one warning light. What it seems to say is, “Do you feel lucky, punk? One of these tires is not like the others – or maybe two of them are dense… You can’t risk just guessing which one is low, can you? And I’m not going to tell you, either. You just have to check every stupid tire to make sure they are all ok, since my light will glow on the dash until it drives you crazy.”
Second – and this is the pits – when does the air in the tire get dense, again? That’s right… when it gets stinking cold outside! And there is no way you can push a button from inside your car, and have it automatically increase the pressure inside the tire, so that it’s the right pressure, and the dumb light goes off. No – what you get to do instead, on a cold December morning when the temp is hovering just above zero, and of course it’s a day when the North Dakota winds pick up from the north, and blow an arctic blast down the back of your neck, is to drive your car over to a gas station, and wrestle with the 40 foot long air hose – and hopefully you have an air pressure gauge that works, and not the little silver one that your dad used to use, which if you pushed on it just wrong would only bleed even more air out of your tire, which may have indeed been the one that originally didn’t need filling, but now it does…
I drove all yesterday with the light glowing, hoping it would just correct itself. Call it my grown-up Christmas wish. It didn’t.
However, I am here today to give testimony to a blessing. I had promised that this morning I would give Cheri a ride to a medical appointment clear across town. It just so happens that the auto service center I use is also clear across town. It came to me in a dream that after I dropped her off, I could simply drive over to the place, and drive inside where it is warm and have them fill the tire, or tires, for me. Which is what I did. And sure enough, all four tires were equally “dense,” and each needed about five pounds of pressure added. In five minutes time – free, I might add – I was filled and driving off the lot, and in moments, Mr. You-Know-Who shut off, and I’m now fully prepared for winter driving.
Oh, and I did put in a bottle of Iso-Heet to keep the gas line from freezing, now that the warmth of the sun has gone away until March.
Life happens to us every day. There are an incredible number of ways to be disappointed or let down or become fearful of life in general. Or, instead of reacting, as I did, it is also possible to take a deep breath when the bad or irritating things happen, and respond to what needs to be corrected, or fixed, or “un-densed” as it were. We always have that choice. Sometimes it takes some time to get there, but if our goal will be to respond to this world without going off the handle, we will increase the level of peace and joy in this life. That would be my hope and recommendation this day. I’m also hoping my tires stay inflated…
Word for the Day: idioglossia. Kind of a fun word. Pronounced id-ee-yo-GLOSS-ee-ya. It’s from Greek, completely, and the words are ideo, meaning “personal” or “private” and glossa, meaning “tongue.” It refers to a strange phenomenon of having a private language that only one or two people speak. It’s often the case in the secret language shared by twins, where they have gestures and words that are inconceivable to even parents sometimes. Actually when it is a shared twin language, it is more appropriately called “cryptophasia” which means “secret speech.” A lesser form can exist in families where one or two words are specific to that family alone. In our family, the boys early on would watch me wash and squeegee the car windows, and they took to calling the tool a “carper.” To this day, we will use the “carper” and not think twice that no one else would have the slightest idea what it means. And we really don’t know its etymology either. Odd.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.