Hitting a Nerve

Jump starting thankfulness


One night, at the beginning of Thanksgiving week, my son called from his place across town. His car was having trouble starting, so I went to see what was up.

I got to his place to find his car wouldn’t start, even though the battery was only a few months old. I used my car to jump his, left him mine, and headed back. My plan was to leave it at our usual repair place and walk home.

Easier said than done.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

I’d just gotten on the 101, the main loop freeway for the Phoenix metro area, when his car completely died. The lights flickered, the gauges stopped working, and then the engine cut out. Mercifully I was able to pull over into the right emergency lane as it did so. I was nowhere near an exit.

Not even the emergency flashers worked. It was dark. I was on a major freeway. I couldn’t make myself visible. Cars and trucks were whizzing by 2-3 feet to my left, and I was hoping they’d see me.

I called AAA and explained the situation. They were sending a tow truck, but it could take up to another 3 hours. I sent some quick texts to family to let them know what was up. I called the AZ highway patrol to let them know my predicament, in case they wanted to come put a flare or two behind me (they didn’t).

And then I settled in. Seatbelt on, staring at the road in front of me ... and had nothing to do.

When was the last time you had absolutely nothing to do?

It’s pretty rare these days. I mean, we all have breaks in the action, so we watch a cute animal video, or play a round of Wordle, or whatever.

But I had none of that. No books, iPad, or computer. Sure, I had my phone, but it was less than 50% charged with no way to charge it, and so I wanted to conserve that in case I needed it.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment like this since I began carrying a phone in 1998. There was, literally, nothing to do but wait. I couldn’t even try to nod off with the seat unadjustable and cars whizzing by.

So my mind wandered, and I thought. I turned over office cases. I went through year-end finances. I thought about my current predicament. I stared endlessly at the road ahead and cars passing me.

At some point I began to realize that I’m actually pretty lucky, and that nothing was nearly as bad as it had seemed earlier in the day. As the initial adrenaline rush drained out of me I calmed down and the things I’d been worrying about that afternoon seemed workable.

The tow truck pulled in front of me, ending my reverie. Mercifully, it had only taken them an hour. I was home 45 minutes later.

I was thankful to be home and I was thankful that nothing more serious had happened in a potentially bad situation.

And, somewhere in there, I was glad to be reminded that having nothing to do but think for a while can be a good thing.

In today’s world of endless screens and texts and calls and notifications, it’s easy to lose track of that.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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