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Misty Watercolor Headlights

You’re walking down the street. An overheard turn of phrase. The color of someone’s hair. A breeze. Something snatches you from the present. Suddenly you’re traveling through time. That happened today, as I passed a car with a broken headlight.

1987. Minneapolis. I was broke. I never want to be that poor again. Of course my car, a 1979 grandpa gold 4-door Oldsmobile Firenza sedan had a burnt out headlight. I was pulled over and given 24-hours to repair it, or a ticket would be issued. Fixed or fined. I couldn't afford either. I couldn't even afford lunch that day. I had to pay for the repairs, which though minor would've confounded unmechanical me in those pre Google days.

So Firenza and I hobbled into a gas station. The mechanic came toward me. I could see dollar signs in his eyes. Then he stopped, his head titled, and he smiled. His voice, thick with Minnesota accent said, “Suddenly I’m aware of every atom in my body.”


He doubled down, louder and more committed. “I’m aware of EVERY atom in my body!” He looked with expectation. I still had no response. “Don’t you remember saying that?”

“Excuse me?”

At this time in my life I was poor because I was trying to establish myself as an improviser. A comedian. I was performing for $5 a show in the basement of a Mexican restaurant with talented people who are still my friends. I was living by instinct. Each day was an act of faith. I lived for signs that I was heading in the right direction.

Back to the mechanic.

“Don’t you remember saying that?”

I shook my head no.

“My wife and I saw your show last weekend. You said that during that thing about atoms. Cracked us up. We been saying it to each other ever since. You’re really funny.” Then he shook my hand, saying it was an honor to meet someone from the show.

He fixed my car for free.

There are things we are called upon to do, to be, to become. The odds are often not in our favor. We’re on the brink of giving up for practical concerns. We don’t have the means continue. Yet somehow fate intervenes. The universe provides. We’re renewed.

None of us know what the moments we’re part of become. I affected the mechanic’s life in such a small way. He and his wife laughed. They kept the laughter going. A broken headlight brought us back together.

I have no idea what became of that sweet man. I wish I could thank him. Perhaps pay him in 2023 dollars for that repair 36 years ago. Get he and his wife tickets to my next show at 54 Below. Make them laugh again, to thank them with every atom in my body.


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