Waiting On The Side

The pedal went spongy. Oh no, here we go again. That weird fight-or-flight energy fills my head and belly—accompanied by a sort of metallic taste.

At least I had a plan this time…don’t panic. Just wait it out.

About twenty minutes should do it. Give it time to cool down. At least, that’s what worked when it happened in October.

Oh dear, October. Yes, that was a bad morning. Everything was fine until the pedal jammed in the traffic jam. As I joined the crawl, something felt strange. The car no longer wanted to engage the clutch or change gear. It just stopped, and I was stuck.

I eventually managed to hop the car to the edge of the road, where I muttered, “Wow, that’s that then.” I could feel myself enter the familiar shutdown state in the face of stress.

“Hold on a sec,” I replied to whatever that first voice was, “look around you. No one else is in the car with us. We’re going to have to figure this out.”

Did I Imagine It?

It was one of those wing-and-a-prayer moments when you hope you’re simply having a bad dream and you’ll wake up soon.

I regretted not printing out the roadside assistance number, which wasn’t easy to find without a phone signal. The inner voice chirped again: “OK, here’s an idea. What if the car isn’t broken, and you just imagined it?” Wishful thinking is strong at times like this. I mean, I couldn’t argue with the hope. That would be great, but I was sceptical.

I put the key in the ignition and turned the engine over. Here goes. I pressed the clutch down, hoping for that divine mechanical intervention to kick in. Ooh, what’s this? It seemed better and slid into gear. Hello! Dare I say it feels fine? No, I don’t dare say that. Why would I say that? OK, but what if I could return to the road and make it to the next service station where I can find some phone signal and coffee? “Coffee, really? No. Anyway. Let’s get out of here.”

So I took a deep breath and felt the biting point engage—first gear, second, third. We’re moving! It was back to normal. OK, weird. HAD I imagined it? Was it just a momentary blip? Maybe it was a dream after all.

There was a shot of adrenaline as I drove past the next service station. “Oh, I hope I don’t regret that,” I thought…Thankfully I didn’t.

“I made it home”.

I landed on the driveway and let out an audible sigh of relief. My body finally relaxed. Only then did I realise how tense I must have been.

Everything was fine until a few months later, it happened again. I felt that familiar feeling beneath my left foot as I approached some crawling traffic, so I pulled over again to wait it out.

The third, or maybe the fourth time it happened, the 20-minute wait was more of a drill than a plan. I had given up on wings, thoughts, and prayers as my primary strategy for dealing with it. We also went with some practical examinations, tests, and experiments. But it happened again. And again.

I Hope The Waiting Ends Here

After waiting three weeks for a replacement slave cylinder, I picked up my car from the garage this week. I really hope we’ve finally figured it out. I’ll keep you updated.

So many things are frustrating to wait for, especially when time crawls at an unbearable pace. Waiting can be painful. You need to know when to pause, when to push when to be patient, and when to take action.

Waiting on the side of the road, whether for roadside assistance or the clutch to re-engage, is made more painful when I feel like I’m in the way (or on display). There’s nothing you can do except wait like a goldfish in a bowl that everyone turns to stare at as they drive past. The closest thing I have had to someone stopping to check if I needed help was a guy lowering his window to shout, “You’re not allowed to park there”, before turning to everyone else in the car and giggling.

That didn’t help. Or maybe it did because I heard myself exasperatedly say, “I can’t wait for this to be over.” And ooh, I noticed how much I liked that as a prompt for us to explore The Haven. Just the first three words…

“I can’t wait”

We use these words for various reasons: “I can’t wait to get home and fix this car. I can’t wait for much longer; this is painful. I can’t wait for dinner, and I can’t wait to see you.”

Then there are those parts of life that once required us to wait but no longer do. What are the trade-offs we make for the payoffs of convenience? What do we inadvertently lose when we gain access to an on-demand, instantly ready, same-day delivery world? And the parts of life where the waiting space has been filled with distractions to entertain, occupy, and keep us busy while we wait.

I often think of the waiting room as a liminal space between worlds. It’s not quite here, and it’s not quite there. But it’s often a great place to observe life. To explore ourselves.

There’s something about hearing your name called—a mix of relief and dread. OK, I’m up. I can’t wait to get in there, get this over with, and get out of here. The clutch has re-engaged, and I’m heading home.

P.S. Does any of this speak to you? Do you fancy joining us to ​explore this prompt in The Haven​? You’re most welcome!

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