My O.C.: Tried and True

A load of challenges at the wrong time yields poignant lessons.
Illustration by upklyak on Freepik

The day wasn’t starting out well. Yesterday wasn’t great, either. My husband, Ben, fell, fractured his right ankle, and ended up in the emergency room. After learning he could not put any weight on his right leg for two weeks, he was transported to a skilled nursing facility. Fortunately, it was close to our home in Rancho Mission Viejo. I spent a sleepless night worrying, knowing he disliked even the mention of hospitals. I determined to cheer him up with daily visits, but first he needed clothes and toiletries. I headed to my car, arms loaded with stuff, and maneuvered a bit so I could open the car door. Locked. 

My touch should have unlocked the door. Since it didn’t, I found the key fob, took out the hidden key, and put it in the lock. Nothing. For the second time in two months, my 14-year-old Lexus had locked me out. When it happened the first time, I thought it might be a fob battery issue. Unable to be opened, the car was towed to the dealership in Mission Viejo. The service people thought it was the car battery. Adjustments were made, and the car was returned. All fixed. 

Or not. Apparently, this was a more serious issue, but I had no time now to deal with it. We still had a second car, which is not really needed for two retirees, but it was certainly convenient for times like this. I got in and made my way to Ben. On the drive, I thought about the cars I’ve had—I keep them for a long time. Women are said to become attached to them, which fits me perfectly. I only change cars when the one I’m driving has a final, irreparable collapse. My previous car, a Thunderbird, just gave up one day. That’s when I treated myself to the Lexus. Sleek, dark red (carmine), and I loved it. Now it was letting me down.  

Trying to decide what to do was more than I wanted to handle at the moment. Earlier in the year, our family doctor and our tax accountant told us they were retiring. Looking for replacements was time-consuming; they were difficult to replace. Adding an injured husband and a tricky car had me on overload. 

 

I was encouraged when I found Ben in a lovely private room being well taken care of. He wanted only to go home, so I skirted the issue by bringing up the car. He wanted me to buy a new one, and although shopping for a car is akin to having dental surgery for me, I had to agree with him. Whatever was causing my car to freeze me out could strand me the next time. As much as I wanted to keep the car, it couldn’t be trusted. I’d wait a few days while Ben recuperated, then go to the dealership and discuss a trade-in. Let them figure out the problem and let someone else buy the car. 

Yes, I would like to have another Lexus. For 14 years, it drove like a dream. Whatever was happening now had to be unusual rather than something to be expected. I also wasn’t in the mood to start shopping other makes and models. 

At the dealer, I was connected with Enzo, who was extremely knowledgeable and might have had a degree in patience. I’m sure my frazzled appearance must have suggested he tread lightly. Picking out a new car wasn’t difficult, since I wanted the same model, ES 350. I selected a silver gray on the lot. When I test drove it, I thought I was in the cockpit of an airplane. Buttons, symbols, voices … would I ever figure them out? Enzo assured me that he would see that I did. As I drove around the area, the car kept me apprised of my apparently sloppy habits, as it beeped whenever I was too close to other cars or anything else nearby. The car even stopped on its own if I was too close to something. I liked the safety features, but were they necessary? 

After the paperwork was signed and the car was mine, Enzo spent an hour with me going over the dashboard. It was more than I could retain but enough for me to know the important buttons and symbols I needed so I could drive safely home. There would be another session in my future. I longed for the days when a car only needed a radio, air conditioner, and a heater. I could only imagine what could be featured 10 years from now. Hearing that California will no longer sell gas cars in 2035, I shook my head. Our heat wave in September, and heavy usage of air conditioning, already strained the grid. What will electric cars add to that if it isn’t updated to accommodate them? 

 

We had good news when the orthopedist decided Ben was ready for a walking boot after two weeks. He still was not able to come home, as he needed some days of practice in the new boot, but things were looking up. We had reliable referrals from friends for a new family doctor and tax accountant. I made some appointments, scheduling them between visits to Ben. 

After 16 days, Ben came home, hobbling on his booted foot, and was treated to a ride in my new Lexus. He loved it and was happy I bought it, but the car still intimidated me. I had yet to master all the commands. Each day I felt a little more comfortable, and after another hour session with Enzo, the car started to really feel like mine. I’m pretty sure we’ll be good friends. 

The chaos in our life was disappearing. We found both a doctor and an accountant we liked and trusted in San Clemente. Ben was declared fully healed after his last orthopedic visit. My to-do list was down to one item—the second car. Time to simplify our life and be a one-car family again. Ben agreed, and it didn’t take long to sell the car.  

I tore up the completed to-do list and crossed my fingers that our days would be uneventful, at least for a while. So far, they have been. The holidays are imminent, and the new year will no doubt bring its own surprises, but we’ll be prepared after this year’s challenges.