I’m sitting here, in a narrow leather chair at the wheel repair shop… surrounded by wheels and rims and men with grease on their hands and cars in various stages of disrepair. It’s been storming all night, loud clapping thunder that was only out witted by the sharp electrical flashes of lightning that covered the entire sky. But now, as I sit here, the sun is shining. The clouds have disappeared and there is that wonderful smell of a fresh rain filling the air.
The wheels on my car have been squeaking — for a while. It’s rather embarrassing. That’s what brought me here to get them worked on, the embarrassing part. My neighbors would turn when I came down the road. Strangers would wince as I pulled in to the grocery store parking lot. I, however, ignored the sound for a while. I simply turned up the radio and sang along as if nothing was wrong. It worked for a bit. But then, even I became too aware of the squeak to not take action.
My wheels squeak all the time. I think this must have been an important detail because the look on the repair guy’s face when I told him this fact made me think it was an important issue. He looked horrified to be honest — in that way that wheel repair guys can look or brake repair guys or those guys who change your oil. They ask us these questions knowing our answers will confound them — but they ask them anyway, “… didn’t you hear it squeak?”
Apparently, our cars are engineered to give us warning signs when they are in need of some attention. We are, in fact, supposed to heed those warnings. When your oil goes low, a bright light flashes (best you should attend to this right away). When your brakes go bad, they squeal (and if you ignore the squeal, it becomes a very over-powering grinding sound). When your wheels go bad they squeak, all the time. When you neglect these things, you get stares from your neighbors and grimaces from complete strangers and gasps of horror from the repair guy (they are often appalled at me).
So I’m sitting here, at the wheel shop. Getting the repairs I should have taken the time to fix several weeks ago. I ignored all the warning signs my car was giving me and instead only went for assistance when I was too embarrassed to drive any further and now I am (quite literally) paying the price. And… I’m watching the other people come in and out of here, they know what their cars need. They seem so confident in the announcement of the various afflictions. But me, I’m lowering my head. I’m keeping my eyes on my phone, pretending to read something intently. I’m speaking softly when it’s my turn. I’m aware of my neglect.
We are a lot like our cars I guess… we give off warning signs when we are in need of repair. When you run too far and too fast the day before, your legs refuse to move. When you let a cold linger too long, your cough will remind you to slow down and rest. When your mind can’t possibly juggle any more, it drifts away, reminding you to be still.
We need to pay attention to ourselves. We need to pay attention to each other. A warning light would be best, it could flash brightly telling those around us that we need some attention, we need to slow down, we need to reach out. A warning light for those times we need to let others know. So when they ask that question, “… are you all right?”, they don’t look confounded by our answer — or our lack of an answer — a warning light.
So, I’m sitting here, waiting for my car. Lifting my head long enough to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, enjoying the smell of newly fallen rain, watching the strangers around me talk and mingle and smile at one another. I’m wondering what other repairs are going to be needed. I’m wondering what signals will I be able to see now that I’m finally paying attention to the warning signs. I’m sitting here… figuring it all out.