Learning from Experience

April 20, 2018

Jean called and I panicked. The simple nuisance, the car that won’t start, became a huge issue. Jean was with Robert. They were supposed to drive to the subway station and take the Red Line to Park Street in Boston. That was what Robert expected. When Robert expects something, he doesn’t accept changes easily. He will  insist on following the plan despite the fact that it might be impossible to do so. Nonetheless, there was nothing else to do but to take jumper cables and drive to meet them.

Jean and I persuaded Robert to wait in the car for Jean to load the battery in his car.  Yes, Robert was curious and would rather watch closely what was happening, but our argument that it would be safer for him to be inside convinced him. As Jean removed jumper cables from both cars, Robert, who was watching intently the whole process through the window, left the car, took cables from Jean and put them in the trunk of our car. Now, he was ready to go with Jean. As he aimed for Jean’s car, I told Robert that the plans changed and he had to come home with me, because Jean’s car  was unreliable and had to be checked by mechanic.  Robert responded with a very loud, “No, no, no!”

My heart sunk. I considered his protests to be the presage of a long battle of wills that would include persuasions, bribery, flattery, promises, and threats of unspecified consequences.

But his, “No, no, no”, although very loud, was the last sign of his opposition. When first Jean, then I, reiterated the same argument about mechanic, Robert opened the door to Jean’s SUV  not to get in, but to retrieve his stuff from the back seat.  Then, with slight hesitation, he got in our car.

To my surprise, I felt happier than I would feel if there were no need for jumper cables and change of plans. I wasn’t only relieved that we avoided the battle. I was thrilled that Robert demonstrated ability to adjust to unexpected situation by accepting less preferred outcome.

He did so, however, after learning from the past experiences what the car trouble can mean.

Two hours long wait for the AAA, the towing, and leaving the car at the mechanic. That happened years ago when I put a wrong key in the ignition and the key got stuck. It was a traumatic experience for Robert. To prevent it from happening again Robert never let me keep both car keys on the same key chain.

One hour  long wait for AAA to pull us from the deep snow on the side of the road and leaving the car at the mechanic for more than a week. And of course, waiting for AAA to jump-start the car, after Jan left the lights on.

Clearly, Robert had plenty of  opportunities to learn what the car trouble might mean for the drivers and passengers. He didn’t like to change his plans, but he deduced that with car trouble it would be best to return home.

By the way, thank you AAA.

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