September 22, 2012

Breaking Point

I reached my breaking point this week.

I'd gone exactly two weeks without a car (excepting the two days I'd rented one to go to The Cat House), and by Thursday, I'd had enough.

Sure, I was able to get around, on foot and by bus, if I had to. I could get my hair done, attend Tuesdays @ 9, make my audition, hustle on over to Hollywood for my Mortified debut, and even hitch a ride home with a couple friends. But despite the freedom of having no job to commute to every day, I was reticent to make any other plan that wasn't necessary. Could I get there? How long would it take? How many busses would it take? How sweaty would I be when I arrived?

Was it worth it?

By Thursday, I was in full-on hermit mode. If I was going to be ready to be picked up for dinner by 5 p.m., how could I possibly go anywhere or do anything? Even a jaunt to Echo Park takes all day.

And in a fit of classic post-show depression, the denouement from the prior evening's performance high, I didn't really want to do anything.

At least, not without a car.

I called home to tell my adoptive family how the show went, but inevitably the conversation came back to my car. (Having a car in Syracuse is probably even more essential than in LA.) My surrogate mom urged me, "You have been nice for too long. You've got to get that car back."

"Uh huh. Uh huh. I know. Uh huh."

"You can do this, Sandi. Bring that same attitude you have at work..."

"Uh huh." I knew she was right, but I hadn't wanted to fight. It's not what I moved to California for. "I just feel so helpless and desperate..." I groaned.

"You're not! You're NOT."

"I know."

I'd been so focused on proving that I could survive in LA without a car - which I could, but didn't really want to - that I'd shifted all of my efforts there, rather than in advocating for myself, to make sure my car was repaired in a reasonable period of time (which it hasn't) and to defend my right to actually have access to vehicle.

It turns out, I could only (and just barely) last two weeks. Two weeks was my breaking point.

So I started making calls. At first, I started registering complaints against the body shop, Auto Body Masters in Culver City, just to feel like I was doing something. But any investigations launched by the Bureau of Automotive Repair or the Better Business Bureau would take weeks in and of themselves, and my situation would probably be resolved by then anyway. If it wasn't, I could take them to Small Claims Court, but as I know from past experience, that can take years.

Then I posted a satisfyingly negative review on Yelp.

The next day, I toggled between making calls and crying in bed. I called Allstate, who claimed, "We just cut the checks." I called AAA (which recommends Auto Body Masters as a repair facility), who couldn't or refused to help and sent me back to Allstate.  I called my Honda dealership every two hours, hoping they had some influence over Auto Body Masters, their preferred body shop. Finally, I called Honda corporate, begging for help, bemoaning the lack of response from my dealership. After all, I was paying to lease a car I had not been able to drive for the last six weeks. I was paying for automotive insurance that I was unable to use for the last two weeks.

I had in invoke my inner New Yorker. I began pronouncing words like "cawl" and "wawk" and "fawlt" in some subconscious act of cultural aggression and verbal assertion. It, too, was something I could do, but didn't want to. I don't want to be a New Yorker in California. I want to be Californian.

Finally, I called Auto Body Masters and, once again, pleaded my case. "You have to fast-track this car repair. You can't fix any other cars before mine. You have to get this done as quickly as possible."

"We are, we are, that's happening."

"I am losing my mind."

It turns out, it took me approaching a total mental breakdown and clinical insanity to get the body shop to secure a rental for me at their expense. People will push you as far as they can until you break, run away, or fight back. ("It ain't about how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can hit and keep moving forward.")

Sometimes the best way to fight - or maybe to win - is to let yourself lose your mind, alert your opponent, and let them back down.

After all, after you've lost your mind, you've got nothing else to lose. And no one wants to fight someone who's got nothing to lose.

Related Post:
The New Yorker

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