Seeing the Light


There exists a vast gulf of uncertainty on every car’s dashboard, a veritable Schrödinger’s cat that lives in dual states of being and not being.  It’s a metaphysical puzzle best summed up by the question, “Has that light always been on?”

My particular light blinked into existence after I stopped for gas on the way home from work.  It looked for all the world like a passenger holding a beach ball, and it’s in a spot I don’t really pay much attention to.  So when it appeared, I sat there wondering if, like the recurring uncertainty over whether I’ve actually locked my apartment door even though I do every single day, it had always been on and I was just paranoid that a beach ball might suddenly appear in my lap.

This was immediately followed by a period of denial.  I likened it to the Check Engine light, also known as the Come to the Dealer and Spend Money light.  I figured I’d look it up and the manual and find out it meant to have the steering wheel tilt adjusted or the seat height checked, something completely in contrast to the ominous specter of randomly appearing beach balls.  Then I’d get home, go online, and find some clever person who knew what combination of radio buttons to push to make the light go away.

But of course I couldn’t wait to get home, so the next sufficiently long red light I came to, I pulled out the manual and looked it up.  Turns out the light was the Supplemental Restraint System Indicator.  Which is a fancy combination of words to say that my seat belts might not work anymore.  And that the beach ball on my lap was actually my air bag being possibly worth about as much to me in an accident as a beach ball would be.

And now we were back to paranoia.

Because naturally, it would be when my safety systems weren’t working that I would have an accident.  That’s just how it works.  My seat belt wouldn’t hold me back, my air bag would fail to deploy, and I’d become deeply intimate with the front of my steering wheel.  Fate is a cruel mistress.

Obviously, none of those dire things occurred.  I did try hitting the brakes really hard to see if the seat belt would catch, but the only thing that endangered was other drivers’ opinions of me.  I’ve got an appointment at the dealer bright and early tomorrow, where they’ll probably try to talk me into that steering wheel adjustment and that seat lifting.  But I’ll stick to my guns and ask only that they get that beach ball out of my lap.

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