Murphy’s (Jewish) Law


August was a month of non-stop can-go-wrongs-did-go-wrongs. And while none of did-go-wrongs were life-threatening sorts of problems, I spent most of the month on hold, as I got passed from one useless customer service rep to another.

The pinnacle of my aggravation, however, was not reached until the night I accidentally towed our car to the wrong location and was stranded for hours, after the car – whose extended service warranty had been canceled without our knowledge – had broken down on the highway the day before.

It all began with some seemingly harmless "eh eh eh" sounds a few weeks earlier. Our 2003 Nissan Altima (which was so generously given to us by my parents in 2004) never asked for more than the occasional oil change, which, I'll admit, was done seldomly rather than occasionally. And other than its proclivity for getting scratched and dented on the street by bad Samaritans who did their deed and drove away, our car left us with very little to complain about. But the noises turned into periodic stallings, so I called up Nissan to find out what our extended service warranty covered. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving us that too!)

"Branded," the lady told me on the phone. "Your car is branded and your warranty has been suspended." Of course she could not provide me with any useful information beyond that. I've found that many of the customer service reps out there are not much more than hired script readers, and when a customer's question deviates from their script, things start to get messy. "Supervisor," I entreated. "Please just connect me with a supervisor." But at Nissan, you don't get to speak to a supervisor until 48 hours after you request one. My supervisor didn't call back for over a week.

The situation deteriorated in the meantime. We had our battery replaced at a local mechanic, but apparently our crank shaft (whatever that is) was also sick and was on it's way out at "some point". That point was three days later as my husband was driving home from the first day (and seven hours worth of testing) of the New York Bar exam.

We needed a tow. Roadside assistance was covered under our warranty, but our vehicle was "branded", so Nissan wouldn't talk to us. A local tow truck and $170 later, the car was on the street in front of our building, but with alternate side parking in effect, we could only leave it there for a day before we'd get a ticket.

(Around this point we discovered that when my parents had transferred the title over to me four years earlier, the DMV had erroneously entered the mileage on the new title as "not the actual mileage", thus "branding" the car. That dumb title was incorrectly marked over four years earlier, but I didn't discover the problem until the exact time when we needed it to be clean.)

I called a local Nissan dealership the next day and they agreed to look at the car. When I asked if they recommended any towing companies in particular, they gave me a name, but the price was high, and with our bills piling up (and my not knowing if Nissan would ever reimburse us for our expenses), I started calling around for a better deal. I found a guy who would tow the car for 20 dollars less and had him come later that evening. I rode along in his hot, bumpy tow truck (I was five months pregnant at the time), and after slogging through rush hour traffic as slow as could be expected, we arrived at our destination. Only problem was when we got to the dealership, the salesmen looked at me like I was crazy.

"Why," they wanted to know, "would you bring a broken car to the sales location, when the repairs location was on the other side of town?" "Well," I responded, "because this location was the only address on your website and no one told me to go anywhere else." By the time I ran out to tell the tow truck guy we were at the wrong place, he had already taken the car off his truck and 70 bucks from my wallet. I was now stranded until the next tow truck came.

As I sat there for those few hours, hungry, and tired, and pregnant, receiving calls from my crying daughter who wanted her mommy to come home, I thought to myself, "where's the hashgacha pratit" (the Divine providence) that I had experienced and blogged about only a week before? Where was that Guiding Hand helping all the pieces fall into the right place?

As I moped around feeling sorry for myself, feeding on a dinner of pretzels and chips (purchased at the convenient store next door), it occurred to me that everything going as wrong as could be was a Guiding Hand as well. Sure, it's a lot more pleasant when the pieces of your life fall into a harmonious place, but when piece after piece after piece fall out of place (and our pieces had apparently started falling out of place four years earlier), I realized that it was no accident either.

Now I still don't know why August had to be the month of endless aggravation and useless customer service reps, but I do know one thing. All those annoying, frustrating events got my attention. Far too often in life we coast along, not thinking about the Bigger picture. And although it's much nicer to experience transcendence when one's life feels aligned, sometimes, for whatever reason, we need to be stopped with the bad stuff.

With the New Year upon us, may we all experience many moments of hashgacha pratit in the coming months. (But God, if it's all the same to You, we'd prefer the feel-good kind.)




  1. Hi Allison,

    Great post! I’m curious, though. When you realized that this negative moment was hashgacha pratit, were your frustrations abated?

  2. Thanks, Alex! Yes – seeing that the events were part of a bigger picture added meaning to them. Suffering for nothing is pretty awful, but suffering when growth comes from it is still growth.

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