When nobody has your back

For what it’s worth, this is not just one person’s existential dread:

I had a dream the other night — this is another one of those things-breaking dreams — where I was driving down the interstate and a dashboard light I had NEVER SEEN BEFORE came on, and I didn’t know what it was for, and I figured it was bad, so I pulled off to the side and cars kept whipping by me and no one stopped to see if I was okay and I couldn’t find my cell phone and I thought that I’d be trapped there forever with no help. One of my fundamental fears is needing help — REALLY needing it, not stupid little things like wanting someone to come and hold a ladder so I can scrape the leaves off my roof that can just as well stay there — and not being able to get it. That’s the worst part of being single and living alone: that fear that sometime you may really need assistance and it will not be forthcoming, either because you have made yourself a low enough priority in everyone else’s life that they don’t have the time to help, or that you are unable to ask for help.

I have had exactly one instance of the appearance of a dashboard light I had never seen before. It was my great good fortune to have a co-pilot that day. Approximate dialogue:

Me: What in the pluperfect hell is that?

Trini: What is what?

Me: This [points to warning light].

Trini: You’re out of washer fluid.

Me: No, I’m not. [spritzes the windshield] See?

Trini: But it thinks you are.

The light went off about three miles later. There were several recurrences of the light over the next few months, and then it quit, so I’m assuming it was some particular combination of road speed, fluid level and sudden change in sensor height when traveling over some of our more heinous pavement.

Still, that spill I took in the bathtub earlier this year set me on a scarier mental course: suppose the impact of the fall had left me unable to extract myself from the situation? What then? Do I wait for someone to come looking for me, several days later?

And I’m inclined to think that successfully extricating myself from such a predicament provides little consolation in the long run, because how often do you face the same disaster twice? Surviving A does not necessarily prepare you for B.



  1. McGehee »

    13 March 2016 · 8:52 am

    Huh. I was on the freeway some fifty miles from my destination last fall when my Check Engine light came on. Had Sheldon Cooper been my passenger I would have taken an especially grim pleasure in continuing nonstop to said destination. Instead I simply drove there without any grim pleasure at all.

    A dashboard light I don’t recognize? Considering the cars I’ve owned and the condition they’ve been in at various times when I had neither time nor money to cater to them, the only dashboard light I wouldn’t recognize would be the “Congratulations! Your car will last literally forever, even without gas, oil, or blinker fluid!” light.

  2. fillyjonk »

    13 March 2016 · 12:13 pm

    Well, in the context of the dream, this was a light that exists on no actual dashboard anywhere in the real world. As I remember, it was blue, wavy diagonal lines, with an X under the lines.

    I have had my washer fluid light go on. It’s the least alarming of the lights.

    The Check Engine light made me run out to the dealer; fortunately I was in town and similarly fortunately it was one of the dumb things that can trigger it. (Gas cap loose, I think it was)

    The tire pressure one, it went on enough that it cried wolf too many times, and when it on with real reason (right before my tire went flat), I chose to ignore it.

  3. McGehee »

    13 March 2016 · 1:04 pm

    I hate tire pressure lights because they let me know there’s a tire with pressure below the preset “acceptable” level, but it won’t tell me which one.

    Last time it lit up, I found out when I checked all four with a cheap pressure gauge and found the one with a screw sticking out of it like the proverbial sore thumb.

    I used my emergency pump, then went straight from there to the tire store, and while waiting at the last light to turn in there I had a guy pull up next to me to let me know I had a screw in my tire.

    He was more helpful than the tire pressure light.

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