Giving thanks for providence, broken dipsticks

Veronica Novotny

Assistant Editor

No, it’s not Thanksgiving. But it’s important to give thanks year-round, so allow me to tell you a story about my week.

It was pouring rain last Thursday when I got into my minivan to drive home for the long weekend. I was not at all looking forward to spending five hours in the rain, and the pelting raindrops were already grating on my nerves.

Luckily, I ended up not having to drive far. In fact, I only made it as far as the airport exit off 22 when my car started violently vibrating and I had to pull over.

I hadn’t the first clue of what to do when a car starts vibrating, but my sister has a good head on her shoulders and immediately called our parents, who said to call AAA. Unfortunately, AAA could barely find my obscure location on the map before offering me the first three miles of towing free. What a deal!

How long would it be until a tow truck could even show up? I didn’t want to wait in a cold car for hours, listening to the rain thump on the windshield when all I wanted was to be driving home. I definitely didn’t want to pay the hefty fee to tow the van back to campus.

I decided to take matters into my own (highly incapable) hands and check out the hood. Because I don’t know the first thing about hoods or car problems, I called my mom back, and she immediately asked if I changed my oil at the beginning of the semester like I was supposed to.

The oil hadn’t been changed since March 2020, and I’d driven 5000 miles since getting the car in August.

And now I felt like an idiot.

At this point, I was standing outside in the rain, shivering over the hood of my car, wondering what the heck a dipstick looks like (pro tip: it’s usually a bright color, has a drawing of Aladdin’s magic lamp — I mean, an oil can — on it and can tell you if you have any oil left in your engine).

The internet quality was pretty bad, so I resorted to sending pictures over the depressingly bad cell service. The singular napkin I had in my car — the napkin you’re supposed to use to clean off the dipstick if and when you find it — was getting soaked in the rain.

I finally located the dipstick, but it would not budge; it didn’t look like it was supposed to be pulled at all. So my sister gave it a try and the handle flat-out broke off in her hand, leaving us with an inaccessible dipstick and an engine that probably had no oil left.

So now we were standing in the rain with a vibrating vehicle that badly needed oil but didn’t even have a dipstick. We were practically in the middle of nowhere, but Google said there was a mechanic one mile away. When I called, they told me they could check it out that night and do the required work tomorrow.

I cautiously started the ignition and pulled back into the street — and immediately took a wrong turn. Yay.

So I just made an illegal U-turn and another couple wrong turns and was at the mechanic’s in no time!

When the mechanic checked out my car, he said a bad spark plug was sparking (imagine that, a spark plug sparking). They were getting ready to close up for the night, so they couldn’t get to my car until tomorrow and couldn’t guarantee it would be done first thing in the morning.

The friendly mechanics let my sister and me get our luggage out of the van and camp out in their lobby until my household sister arrived to take us back to campus (thanks, Bridget, for always being ready to give).

I checked Skyscanner in a last, desperate hope that we could make it home that night, but the last flight to Baltimore was leaving at 4:20 and it was already 3:58. Back to campus it was, to try to get some sleep before our newly-booked 6 a.m. flight home.

The next morning, we were up before 4 a.m. to drive to the airport, eating the Lord’s chicken at 5:15 and home in time to go to our home parish’s 8:15 daily Mass for the solemnity of St. Joseph.

What should have been a routine oil change in January and a quick trip home for the weekend in March turned into a $500 auto repair bill, and pretty much all of our airline points were used to get us home.

But funnily enough, I still encountered the Lord as everything went wrong. I didn’t have to drive home in the rain. I got to join my household for our service project Thursday night, when half of household had already left for the weekend.

I had to rely on good friends to help me when I was both stranded and upset, and I practiced a lot of humility by having to expose my mistakes to pretty much everyone I knew when I walked back into Tommy two hours after “leaving for the weekend.”

St. Joseph provided me with a way home, even after I abominably messed up my first car by missing its first oil change, and showed me faithfulness by my family’s willingness to do whatever necessary to get us home.

It’s funny — we hear that God provides for us and brings good out of bad situations, but do we really believe it? I have a hard time believing that he “writes straight with crooked lines.” But when I was rescued from standing in the rain with a broken dipstick and no oil and welcomed home by open arms anyway, I had to start believing that he is a good father.

So I’m not saying that I made a lot of mistakes that led to my car breaking down so I could experience the providence of God, but I’m not not saying that either.