The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Midnight Pizza and the MRI

Mere weeks after getting Dorrit back on the road, she was due for her first service under my ownership. It was ‘only’ a regularly scheduled oil service. Still, that did not put me at ease. It is like going to the shop for some milk and coming home with a car full of groceries or worse, going to the doctor for a regular check up and coming home with cancer. I knew the car was in good condition, but how would I know if it had a cracked cylinder head or some other catastrophically expensive repair bill.

I booked the car into my local garage and waited for the mechanic to call. Thankfully the car was in good shape, needing only oil and new wipers. I asked them to re-align the headlights as the car had been effectively cross-eyed since the right headlight unit was replaced after the accident damage. I was told the battery was weak and would need changing at some point and I left the car on its winter tires rather than buying summer tires. I will change to all-season tires when the time comes. The final bill came to an affordable $200. Having the car has been a great freedom as I have stated many times in this blog before, but I wasn’t driving every day and I did wonder if it was all worth it.

Over the same week, I was due to attend two day-long Zoom conferences. One was a mental health conference on the Friday and the second was a global 24-hour stuttering conference on Saturday, which I was presenting at. The stuttering conference didn’t finish until 11:25pm (PST) and I had been sitting looking at a screen for two days straight. It was late and I was starving. I hadn’t gone shopping and as a rule, I do not order food as I know it will become a bad habit. My stomach was not agreeing with me growling away. I was still hyper after the conferences and knew I probably wouldn’t just drop off to sleep. I looked at my key rack and saw Dorrit’s key. F**k it I thought to myself. I can work it off in the gym tomorrow. I jumped into the car, drove to the closest pizza takeaway and was back home with food and a cup of tea in my hand within fifteen minutes and before the clock struck midnight. The freedom and ease in that moment was more than worth the $200 oil service.

Having a car also means people may need you to collect them from time to time. Such a request came from my friend Amy who was getting an MRI in Vancouver General Hospital. She was told to get someone to collect her as she was having a medical procedure and would be in no condition to get herself home, even by taxi or Uber. Now Amy and I have a funny friendship. Like other people I have written about (Nina, Rob and Darla) Amy is yet another Landmark friend. I met her on the first day of the Landmark Forum, our first course. We were two clueless eejits sitting beside each other and we decided to go to lunch together. We had an hour and a half for lunch but we got confused and thought we were late after only 45 minutes. I was in panic mode sprinting away from Amy. I didn’t want to get into trouble or look bad getting back to the course late. Amy just laughed and walked slowly behind me. I got back to the Landmark centre sweating and panting when I realized the room was empty and we still had 45 minutes left for lunch. Amy arrived five minutes after me cool and calm still laughing at me for leaving her behind! That incident was to define our friendship and I know there is a lesson in there somewhere for me to learn. I’ll be honest, it annoys the crap out of me. Where I am high strung and dramatic, she seems to be calm and takes things in her stride.

The MRI proved this point. If I was getting a routine scan for arthritis, I would be catastrophizing cancer and an imminent painful death. Not Amy. When I went to pick her up at 9:30pm, I was expecting her to be drugged off her face, but she was pretty steady. They had only given her a mild sedative and she was more than happy to get into Dorrit and be driven away. I joked with her that she was risking her life as it was a pissing rain and pitch black outside. I had worked out possible routes home before collecting her, but I still relied on Google Maps. I was more than grateful for the new wipers and headlight alignment as I could see the road ahead. It was now 10pm so the roads were not crazy busy as we drove further into downtown Vancouver. I was surprised when I got Amy to her door within only fifteen minutes! She was home safe and it felt great to be able to get her there quickly and dry. I got myself home in less than ten minutes too. I couldn’t believe how quickly the whole journey had taken. I had done it all within an hour. Walking and talking public transport would have taken at least twice as long and we would have been soaked.

I have gotten so used to not driving here in Canada that this time saving came as a revelation too me. I’m sure I felt the same way back in Dublin when I was let loose on the roads in my first car, a bright orange classic Mini City. I used to feel embarrassed driving that car as I looked like a young Mr. Bean! I was in a hurry to graduate to a bigger more adult vehicle and I would measure my self-worth against that car. A rather dangerous and short sighted way of thinking as there is always someone with a better car. I don’t feel that way now and in many ways Dorrit is the perfect car for me. She is a typical ‘granny’ car and could pass as an abandoned vehicle when dirty. None of that matters and the fact that I no longer feel the need to compete with every car I see brings a lot of freedom and ease. Which allows me to travel quickly around Vancouver and help my friends. That is certainly worth a $200 oil service.


Next Month: Sparky: The Other Vehicle.