A road trip gone bad can result in a no good, very bad day. A routine trip which we’ve traversed dozens of times over the years turned into a journey of epic proportions a couple of weeks ago. Our truck’s recent repairs (new transmission, radiator and sundry other mechanical parts) should have given us a smooth ride. Instead, the engine started to lose power while climbing a steep mountain pass. It had never done that before. Hubby eased off the gas, slowing the truck even more. Then, when he stepped on the gas again, the truck began to shake violently. All the dashboard gauges lit up, flashing vigorously.
Spotting a small access road off the highway (which we’d never even noticed before), Hubby eased the truck onto this road, braked, and turned off the motor. The truck gave one last shudder and was still. We looked at one another, a sense of disbelief settling in.
After a moment, Hubby pointed out that we were safe, and we had cell phone coverage. We would figure it out. That reminded me of a children’s story in which something bad happens, but then there’s a bright side. But then something bad happens again, followed by something positive happening next. When I read that book to my kids, it was to teach them to look at every situation with a positive outlook. Now that teaching came to my mind — could I think of the good side in this bad situation? I began to list the bad vs the good in my mind, keeping me from sinking into a “woe is me” attitude.
What was the bad news / good news?
The bad news: we were stranded in the mountains, miles from any towns, in a broken down vehicle. My first thought: we’ve just joined the ranks of vehicles that break down along this exact stretch of steep highway. My second thought: now what?
The good news: We were safely off the highway and were not rear-ended by any of the other vehicles roaring up the highway. The sun was shining, so even though it was just above freezing outside, we were warm and dry on the inside. We had a cell phone and we were in range to make calls. Our first call was to BCAA to arrange for a tow truck. A second call went to the transmission shop. If the issue was the transmission, we’d be covered with the warranty, but we had to get the truck there first.
The bad news: the transmission shop was hundreds of kilometres away. We would have to pay for the bulk of the towing fees, as our basic BCAA coverage did not include long distance towing. Plus, we didn’t even know if the problem was the transmission. We had to make a decision: tow to the nearest town and hope it could be repaired, or tow it home. We opted for home.
After about an hour, the tow truck arrived.
The good news: the tow truck driver was pleasant and conversational. He secured our truck onto the flat deck. We were on our way.
The bad news: climbing yet another steep hill about an hour later, the tow truck driver looked at the gauges on his truck and said, “hmmm, that’s not good”. He continued to drive. Another glance at the gauges, “that’s really not good”. He found a level spot on the road and pulled over. Immediately, steam and acrid smoke poured out from under the hood. We bailed out of the cab, catching our breath. Could this really be happening?
The good news: the driver had cell phone coverage, so was able to call his company to arrange for another tow truck for us. We could stay warm and dry inside the cab. I had a book to read and snacks to eat. Both exceedingly helpful in distracting me from our situation.
The bad news: the driver found the problem with his truck — a split part, causing all the coolant to pour out. He’d hoped to rig a repair, but not likely. Another call to his company to arrange for a tow truck for his tow truck.
After another hour, the replacement tow truck arrived.
The good news: our original driver had strategically parked on a level part of the highway, so transferring our truck went smoothly. The new driver was pleasant and conversational and soon we were on our way again.
The bad news: by this time we were tired, grumpy and hungry. The few snacks I’d brought were long gone. We’d been on the road, or by the side of the road for eight hours.
The good news: we arrived safely at the transmission shop conveniently located next to a burger place. Those hamburgers were exceptionally delicious. After unloading our truck, the driver gave us a lift to our front door. We were happy to be home, after a long and exhausting day.
The next morning we heard from the transmission shop.
The good news: the problem was not the transmission. Also, good thing we stopped the truck as quickly as we did, the mechanic said, or the engine would have been toast.
The bad news: the problem was not the transmission. No warranty coverage. What happened? The ball bearings inside a sleeve that powered a cooling fan exploded, shooting metal throughout the engine. Took out the new radiator along with several other hoses and engine parts.
The good news: they could fix it.
The bad news: it would cost a lot of money.
The good news: we have an emergency fund.
The bad news: these repairs will drain the emergency fund.
The good news: I’ll write about the whole thing in a blog post.
Life’s like that
Months or years can go by with hardly a ripple. Suddenly an unexpected storm kicks up, similar to a road trip gone bad. A detour looms and a destination is blocked. Try a bad news / good news exercise. Just as I discovered, there are glimmers of good in a bad situation.
And for added inspiration, you might try reading a children’s book or two. Though I can’t recall the exact book I read to my kids, I came across a couple of other titles along the same lines: Dr. Seuss’ book Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Or there’s Jeff Mack’s Good News Bad News story.
Have a bad news story? Can you find some good news in it? Comment below.
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