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Brakes And Human Decency

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

A few years ago, there was rattling noise coming from one of the wheels on my car.

I took it into the shop, and a man handed me a bunch of bolts and nuts, and things that I had no idea what they were. I stared at the random pieces of cold metal in my hand.

He said, “Here are your brakes.”

I looked back at him, dumbfounded.

He said, “Come with me.” He waved for me to follow him into the shop.

When we were in front of my car, he said, “Those were making that rattling noise in there.” He nodded to the stuff in my hand and then pointed to my front left wheel.

“So, that’s pretty bad, huh?”

He looked at me like I was retarded.

“Yeah, bud, it’s pretty bad.”

“How much will it cost?”

“Around $400-$500. We need to replace all of your brakes.”

“Holy shit . . . What if we don’t fix it today?”

He turned and faced me. “You want to drive this thing out of there?”

“Sure, I drove it in, didn’t I?”

His eyes narrowed and I noticed the subtle clench of his jaw.

“Let me put it this way to you, bud, if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t let her near this car.”

“Fuck,” I said.

“Yeah.”

“. . . well, are you a good parent?”

He walked away from me.

“Sheesh, it’s not like anyone else ever rides in this piece of shit with me.” I kicked my car and then recoiled in pain.


I ended up jogging home that day. And then jogged back 6 hours later.


It’s funny, I never really thought about someone's daughter being in my care before, and even then, when the mechanic said those words to me, they didn’t stick. I was poor and I needed a car—that was all I cared about.


The brakes in my current car need to be replaced, and as I drive across town to pick up my friend from Costa Rica (definitely not from Brazil, like I accidentally said once or twice) the mechanic's words found their way into my stream of consciousness.


And then, at that moment, I understood what his words meant. I imagined what it would really be like to have a daughter, and my stomach got tight and my jaw clenched, as I imagined myself walking up to pick up someone's daughter.


I never wanted to take care of someone else, but having a car that runs smoothly is basic human decency for the people that ride with you.


I just never gave a shit about any of my cars before.


And I wonder what that says about how much I value my own life.


CH 11/23/23

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