Gifts from a Flood


Life Face First: Negotiating One Calamity at a Time

Last summer, I confronted the most burdensome, most onerous quandary of my adult life. After years of ignoring growing problems, I admitted that my seventeen-year-old Honda Civic was past repair, and it was time to (shudder) buy a new car.

Naturally, I procrastinated as long as I could.

When a sudden clanging from under the hood rendered procrastination no longer wise or even possible, I faced the inevitable. I went car shopping.

On December 31, in a mild flash flood, I put on a hat, laced up my boots and ventured forth into the storm.

I was the only shopper crazy enough to test drive cars in a flood. I figured I had nothing to lose (save possibly my life), and I could assess the car’s ability to handle inclement weather.

Besides, it was the last day of the calendar year, and dealerships had just a handful of hours left to meet their sales goals. With showrooms empty of all shoppers except me, I was like an angel out of the storm — an angel with preapproved financing.

Sales managers across the eastern seaboard were offering me deals so good I could have bought two cars and had money to spare.

Then I saw it. The car!

It was a blue 2014 MINI Cooper with white racing stripes, heated leather seats, built-in Bluetooth and a turbocharger. It was sporty, fast and looked good with my favorite pair of shoes.

I’m convinced that this car figured into my very conception thirty-seven-years ago.

I wanted that car. I was going to get that car. And I was going to negotiate a price that only end-of-year sales goals, flash floods and divine intervention could produce.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I drove my shiny new-to-me car home proudly, if a bit perplexed. I’ve never had a car so nice. The MINI did things my old Civic would think out of science fiction.

The blinker is automated to flash three times if you’re changing lanes, but stay on if you’re turning. Cruise control can be trimmed to the exact mile an hour you desire. The headlights turn themselves on (I’ve no idea where the button is to turn them on myself), and the windshield wipers set their speed to run according to how much moisture is on the windshield.

In the Civic, I was just happy when stuff worked. It never occurred to me that blinkers and windshield wipers might have options.

“It’s all a bit much,” I thought. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the features. I liked them a lot. I just wasn’t sure I needed them.

Then last week, I borrowed my husband’s car to take our dog Starla to agility class. She was too nasty to ride in my new car on my leather seats.

The blinker wasn’t automated, the seats didn’t heat up, the headlights didn’t turn themselves on and the cruise control didn’t work.

“I don’t know how to drive this old crappy car,” I wailed to Starla.

Turns out my new MINI isn’t a bit much after all. It’s exactly right, and what I imagined was a crisis was a gift in disguise, even if I had to survive a bit of flooding to receive it.


Nora Blithe

Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at