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The Blow-Out

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon

Don't let life's little aches become a thorn in your side.

The time was 8:30 P.M.

It was summer time in Upstate New York and the few remaining sunrays were glinting their way above the horizon and infiltrating the recesses of the hazy landscape. Unfortunately, they also found their way through the windshield of Joey's 06' Accord.

Blinded for what seemed like a mere instant, Joey could not avoid the sharp edged debris that had littered the country road. The hiss of his rear left Goodyear was unmistakable – flat.

Unaccustomed to travel crises, he fiddled with the jack for a few minutes, but it kept slipping and he ended up waiting about 90 minutes for emergency services to come and change the tire.

I met Joey the next day and he described the mishap to me.

"There I was, minding my own business -- next thing you know, flat tire. That thing must have fallen from a flat bed truck, or something. Why are people so careless? I should sue the guy...of course, I have no idea who the guy is."

It was five days later when I met Joey again. I didn't have to wait long to find out where he was up to.

"What a pain," he began again. "I brought my tire in to be fixed and they said there was a cut on the sidewall! Can you believe my luck?! I had out shell out $80 bucks for a new one. "

Joey hardly came up for air.

"I mean, $80 bucks for a tire...the flat one was practically brand new. Did I mention that I wanted to sue that careless driver..."

I was a tad surprised. Perhaps I was being harsh, but I would have thought that five days post-flat, Joey might have adjusted somewhat. Or was his frustration and exasperation really just par for the course?

Like most, I wear my LG CG300 on my belt. The holster comes with a big, strong clip on the back and it works rather well...until it breaks. I remember the first time the holster cracked and my phone fell to the pavement. I was annoyed. I had had it about six weeks. Little did I know at the time that six weeks was about twice as long as its ordinary life-span. It cost me $20 to replace it. That annoyed me too.

It was less than four weeks later when it happened again. This time I got smart. I called Izzy and asked what to do. He gave me his usual response, "Google it!" Twenty minutes later I had ordered three holsters for $10 from a Power Seller on E-bay, shipping included. That helped diminish my irritation, but when my third holster snapped just two weeks later, I found it hard to contain my displeasure.

"This is absolutely ridiculous," I said to no one. "I sneeze and the phone is homeless." I needed to vent, but my neighborhood 12–step, cell phone, case breaking, therapy group had disbanded. I called Izzy again -- that's what big brothers are for. This time his answer totally astounded me.

"This is your problem," he charged, "not LG's."

"You have an expectation that these cheap plastic gizmos were made to endure. THAT'S your mistake."

I thought he had overdosed on talk radio and had heard one too many on-the-air shrinks rail about "taking responsibility for your own actions." How could repeated malfunctioning cell phone products be my fault??

"The broken holsters are not your fault," he explained. "The problem is your attitude. You're getting upset, my dear brother, because you're expecting the product to last a certain amount of time. When it doesn't, you moan and groan. For some reason, you have an expectation that these cheap plastic gizmos were made to endure. THAT'S your mistake. They're made cheaply and are designed to have a life expectancy of a few weeks -- no more. Buy them on E-bay and just accept that using your cell phone will cost you an additional three dollars every month. Simple as that."

Izzy was teaching me two things that I thought I already knew; things that we all think we already know. First of all, don't sweat the small stuff. Broken cell phone holsters are annoying, not crushing. And second, how we cope with any kind of adversity largely depends on what we expected to begin with. Only when I understood that cell phone holsters are supposed to break, was I able to make peace with my "misfortune."

All too often we get caught up the trivialities of life, as if everything is important. Well, everything is not important. Our job is to keep things in perspective, weighing carefully what deserves our full attention and concern and what should cast into life's recycle bin.

No one (I hope) gets too upset when he or she loses an umbrella or a pen. We know that umbrellas and pens and, of course, socks are destined to be lost, and certainly end up somewhere in "sock heaven." That is the expectation. When the printer runs out of ink, we don't normally fall into depression or hopelessness -- we change the cartridge and move on with life.

And this brings us back to poor Joey. It's five days later and Joey is still moaning about the blow-out. The debris came out of nowhere, the guy took 90 minutes to show up, it cost me $80... Joey's been driving for ten years, and flat tires, especially in New York, happen all the time. Crudely put, but perhaps he was due. Of course he's upset about the flat -- anyone would be. But a lot of that aggravation would be avoidable if you put it into perspective. Flat tires happen, and in the big scheme of things, it's no big deal.

So take it easy, Joey. Instead of the $80, you could have spent $800 for a doctor, or $8000 or more for another car.

With the right perspective you'll learn that the small stuff happens all the time. Might as well expect it.

And accept it.

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