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.