Brain Training and Reframing


Hand brake.

Hand brake.

Hand brake.

What? Talking to myself? No, no. I’m doing brain training. That’s right, brain training –  you know, to increase my brain’s memory and power?


I’ll tell you why. There I was, pushing the shopping cart trolley through the aisles, when I became vaguely aware of a repeated announcement over the PA system Tannoy.

Would the owner of a blah blah blah. . .

Would the owner of a blah blah blah. . .

It was only after the third or fourth repetition that Would the owner of a blah blah blah . . . metamorphosed into Would the owner of a blue Volkswagen Gulf, registration number RV5 . . .

Shit! That’s me.

*Ditch trolley, run to customer service desk.*


*pause to catch breath*

You were paging me. My car? Is everything okay?

He looked at me with a mixture of pity and suppressed laughter.

You forgot to put your hand brake on, your car rolled into another one.

I ran to the crime scene. Yup, guilty as charged.

But let’s call off Scotland Yard, people, this was a misdemeanour, an infraction if you will. From its parked position, my car had gently rolled 8 to 10 feet across an almost flat surface (damn you, slight incline!) and gently kissed the bumper of another car. The “victim” was standing to one side, talking on her phone. I went over and introduced myself:

Hi, I’m Downith and I’m an idiot.

Turns out she was an even bigger one. The scratch on her bumper was about the size of a hangnail and the car I’d clipped was 11 years old.  Had I been the driver, I like to think I feel certain I would have shrugged the whole thing off. Instead we exchanged contact information. I saw no need to involve my insurance company and suggested we settle it privately. Now this is where I could rant about the emails she bombarded me with, telling me how stressed she was about the incident and how it was “a dark cloud” hanging over her. I could rant about all that, and about her subtle attempts at extortion, but I make it a rule never to kiss and tell.

Which leads me to reframing, a mental exercise in which (correct me if I’m wrong, Bobbi) you step back from an experience and  examine it from a fresh angle, in an effort to better process it. So, for example, I didn’t accidentally publish a draft post last month, I met a deadline ahead of time. See how it works? Easy peasy.

Let’s try another one, shall we?

I didn’t forget to put on the hand brake, I . . . I . . .

Hand Brake.

Hand Brake.

Hand Brake.

(Image courtesy of cambodia4kidsorg)

24 thoughts on “Brain Training and Reframing

  1. Ah, reframing, one of my favourites. You didn’t forget the hand brake, you were testing its reliability so as to be able to to really trust it when parked on a dangerous incline. The parking lot was a safe bet as what harm could result? Now you know two things: one, the handbrake really does prevent the car from rolling and B, however idiotic you think you may be there’s always someone out there who’s a total fecking maniac. This woman is a gift, a reminder that there are all kinds of people out there waaaay more stupid than you. Oh this was your lucky day all right.

    The fact that you didn’t end up punching this woman in the face shows how serene and enlightened you are. If this hadn’t happened how would you ever have really known that you are indeed the Zen Master. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels, I’m positive that there will be many more golden opportunities like this one. Even the Dalai Lama said, “If you think you’ve achieved enlightenment go home and spend a weekend with your parents.”

  2. Holy cow. If having her eleven-year old car sustain a miniscule scratch is a “dark cloud,” then the rest of her life must be peaches and cream. Victim, indeed.

    I’m glad you and your car (and your perspective) are undamaged!

    • Serenity now…

      As I said to The Hub, thank goodness she wasn’t IN the car at the time, or we’d be facing a whiplash claim. I ended up sending the “dark cloud” straight to the insurance company.

      • It gives me such a good feeling to let someone else off the hook for a minor scratch! That poor woman will never know that feeling. I suspect the rest of her life is equally traumatizing … for her and everyone she lives with!

  3. Reframing, brilliant.

    The baseball bat to her bumper was to help her reframe her perception of what a dark cloud truly looks like. The headlight? Oh, that was just anger management.

    Wait? I suppose you are to reframe your own thoughts and not hers. I’m not very good at this game.

  4. Aw, man! I can just see you in that moment when the realization hit you that it was you being called over the loud speaker. That’s the fork in the road. When you consciously decide how you are going to react. And it sounds like you totally took the high road. I’m with Bobbi. This only illustrates your higher level of being. And because you handled yourself with such outward calm, you were then able to see the total hysteria in this woman. Yes, it really must suck to be her.

  5. Now you have to avoid the hand-brake-off’s dark twin, driving half way along the M27 with your handbrake ON wondering where that smell of smoke is coming from. I speak from experience…

  6. I had so much to say until I read MSB’s “yes, it really must suck to be her.” Well said. What is it with these dark cloud people? Steer clear of her!

    • Couldn’t have said it better.

      Speaking for myself, having spent most of my life behind the wheel of an ancient car, part of the joy of that is not giving a flying foot if you find dings, dangs, dongs, whatever.

      Funny how we step into situations and assume people are going to react a certain way (ie, SANELY and REASONABLY) only to be truly flummoxed to find they are not only over the top, but not kidding. I would have thought the exact same thing approaching her–no big deal, good for a laugh, have a nice day, funny story for the dinner table.

      Emails?? “Dark clouds”? As my father would say, if this is the darkest cloud on her horizon right now, she’s one lucky kid.

  7. Hahaha. This reminds me of when I bought a used clunker car when I was about 18 years old. I was so excited. My mom took me to pick it up, and then I promptly drove it all the way home….with the emergency brake on. (Or hand brake, if you will.) Somehow, it didn’t damage anything, but I was horrified and humiliated.

    Also, if this parking lot incident created a “dark cloud” over this woman’s life, I’d love to move into the rainbow-kitten-firefly land that is surely her regular daily life.

  8. Someone did that to my mom last year. She claimed to have been parked next to us when someone gave her a door ding. My mom got completely worked up, fretted over this non-incident for weeks. Seriously!

    The other day on my way home, someone edged forward at the intersection and bumped me from behind. I found the one-finger salute was enough to rectify the situation, so I offered one and kept going.

  9. Personally, I will let just about anything go in order to avoid involving the insurance companies and/or repair shops. I acquired a noticeable scrape on my car, courtesy of my mechanic, actually. He said he would pay to get it fixed, but I couldn’t be bothered to go through the hassle. It didn’t affect the way the car (a relatively new minivan, by the way) ran, so I just went about my days. About a year later, an 18-wheeler dragged its huge metal bumper along the side of my van (which was parked). Now, that had to be dealt with. It had actually torn my back bumper off so it was hanging down. I took it to get fixed then. This happened to the same side as the minor scrape from my mechanic. Both got fixed at once. Score!

    The woman you’re dealing with sounds like a real twat, pardon my American.

  10. When I was a kid I ran into someone at a stop light because I was messing with the radio. I did mark his bumper with a ding, but he was nice and said not to worry about it. When I was an adult driving a new, German-engineered-I-can’t-believe-how-obnoxious-this-sounds car, someone backed into me with a 12 year old clunker and dinged my bumper. I was nice and told her not to worry about it. (Poor woman was ready to pee her pants.) But when a brat of a woman came barreling into me at a stop light, crashed my car and wrecked my body and then tried to deny it afterwards I decided to always take pictures and call the police to protect myself. They don’t want to get involved on private property like parking lots, but I figure it dissuades people from lying or trying to file bs lawsuits because of the black cloud hanging over their life as a result. Luckily, Massachusetts holds honorary title of accident capital of the US.

    Hang in there, Downith! Breathe in, 2, 3…. Out, 2, 3….

  11. The other day, my husband was almost home from work when someone bumped him hard from behind. It was dark, so it was hard to see if there was any/much damage. First, the other driver offered to give him $50 and call it a day. Then he said it was his girlfriend’s car, then that he didn’t have a drivers license, then no insurance and no home address — but he offered a phone number! (ha) When my husband started to call the police, he said, “Go ahead, I’ll be gone when they get here.”

    Ah the joys.

  12. Let me introduce to my husband, the human ding. I’m not kidding. just owning a car with him is invitation for every stupid bit of non-life-threatening car jackassery ever committed. The man has hit a bicyclist (didn’t hurt her), run over racoons he thought would duck down to avoid injury, spun himself off the road and pinned himself in next to a barbwire fence that left scratches down not one, but both sides of the car, crashed into a guy who other nice drivers let into traffic, but then decided to cross three lanes of traffic right into MathMan’s path, and on and on and on. I’m relieved that Nate is actually driving them to school now because they’re clearly safer with the 15 year old behind the wheel.

    Dark Cloud Hanging needs to get a grip and fast.

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