You ever do cross-country? I’m not talking about that jogging sport in high school. I still don’t know the difference between cross country and track and field, and I was on the team. I’m talking about driving across the country.
Well, I’ve done that many times, and I am at that age where the last time was the last time I ever will.
What happened, Mike? you may ask with great concern and enormous interest.
I got old is what happened. I didn’t sleep. I’d been driving from Chicago on that no sleep and I’d made it to western Kansas after a 2:00 a.m. start. Illinois was one big construction zone. It was now late afternoon and the temp was a steady 98 degrees when the Check Engine light went on in my old Silverado. And it was 19 years old and I’d been riding it at a steady state 80 MPH since somewhere west of St. Louis. My sweaty back clung to the seat despite all the AC the engine could muster. I gulped truck stop coffee and water in turns, and peed at rest stops at other turns.
I’d been reading one of those phonebook-sized New Thought compendiums which shall remain unnamed at this point. OK, if you must know, it was The Science of Mind, an old tome by Ernest Holmes. I’d also been listening to some old tapes that had select lessons from A Course in Miracles, also a book you could use for bench presses. Anyway, you might think that I read thick books because I’m a smarty pants, but the truth is that I’m a slow learner and I need books that thick just to get the message through my even thicker skull. A Course in Miracles was on tape anyway, so the thickness didn’t matter. And I only listened to it because my truck’s CD player wouldn’t spit out the Chillout CD it’d swallowed a few years back. Good thing I liked Moby.
Where the messengers agree, there the truth resides, to paraphrase the Baha’is. And both earnest Ernest and A Course in Miracles agreed: when I asked for help, it was important not to allow any fear or doubt into the equation. I was willing to try any blasphemy, even prayer.
Old Earl (and he was old, coming from the 1930’s as he did and being dead) recommended waiting for direction, inward direction, an old Quaker practice. So as I drove through western Kansas, I did not let in any doubt that my 114,000-mile engine would overheat and leave me roadside, awaiting assistance in 98-degree heat. Western Kansas is a state within a State that I love to drive through. Known as the Great Plains, it is a de-peopled flat thousands of square miles in extent, with nary a town of any size. In fact, from Topeka in East Central KS all the way to Denver, there isn’t a city.
I consulted my owner’s manual, which said that the Check Engine light could mean any number of things and that I could or couldn’t have a problem that required AAA. I called my mechanic all the way over in Cortez, CO. He told me to stop at an auto parts store and get a free diagnosis. I stopped in Hays, the booming metroplex where a horrible construction jam made it difficult to move forward. I found an O’Reilly Auto Parts store, where I always expected anyone who worked to be dressed as a Leprechaun for some reason. The Non-Hibernian cashier dutifully came out with his plug-in diagnostic machine and diagnosed me with a clogged Miss Airflow Sensor.
“A Miss Airflow Sensor?” I shouted over the traffic. That didn’t make any sense.
“Mass. Mass Airflow Sensor!” he yelled back.
I called Art, my mechanic, and he suggested that the O’Reilly guy and me take out the air filter and look at it in case a rat had fabricated a nest inside. I had no idea what a bad air filter looked like, much less where it was. The O’Reilly dude looked at me with a tiresome eye and unscrewed the air filter cap and it wasn’t filled with acorns and rat hair.
Art said I needed an air flow sensor cleaner. Whew! I had a solution. Art said that, while chances were better than even that I’d make it home through the mountains and desert OK, it was also possible the malfunctioning air flow sensor would infect the remainder of my truck’s electrical system and I’d find myself standing in the heat on the shoulder of I-70, waiting for a tow from 50 miles away.
The O’Reilly’s didn’t have the mass air flow sensor cleaner. So I flipped the guy a 20 for his trouble, which he didn’t expect and took with a smile, erasing all the disillusionment from his eyes that comes from incompetent motorists constantly dropping by for diagnostics on their way to Denver or Kansas City. I was off to the next conurbation big enough to sustain an auto parts franchise, which happened to be Colby, over 100 miles away.
In the meantime, I called my mom and my sister, two people who prayed for a lot of other people. And I asked them to add my old Chevy and its Miss Airflow Sensor to their list. And they did. I also called a friend of mine who happened to be from Kansas, and he alone knew of the terrain. He told me to come up with a plan and take it one town at a time. Next stop: Colby. Hopefully, they had an auto parts chain.
My plan was to ask for help (which I’d done), not worry (which I was refusing to let into my mind) and await instructions (which I was doing, relying on a bunch of people to tell me what to do).
I kept checking my Check Engine light, and both my owner’s manual and my mechanic told me that I was in trouble if the light started flashing. I made it to Colby and immediately ran into another O’Reilly’s. There were three guys and they sold me my mass airflow sensor cleaner, which turned out to be in a spray can, for ten whole dollars. I asked if they could go out and spray out my Miss, and they said they couldn’t, for liability reasons. They showed me a YouTube video of how to do it, but it just frightened me. Then they said they’d call Ben, a mechanic who worked next door at a garage. They wished me well and I proceeded to the garage at the oil change place next door, and Ben walked out and shook my hand before I even made it inside.
He dropped what he was doing and in five minutes flat it was done. The Check Engine light was off. Miss Airflow Sensor was appeased. And the guy wouldn’t take a cent. I slipped $60 in his hand when I shook it and was on my way.
This experience reminded me of the power of cooperative prayer. I had two people praying for me. I had to enroll other people. All told, I had nine people working on my behalf in one way or another, directly or through the magic of cellular technology. It’s important to ask for help.
I had to squeeze all fear and doubt from my thoughts. And I needed to await instruction. Everything happened for me. I needed to let things happen, not make things happen. Those were the three ingredients: ask people for help; pray without doubt; follow the directions (do whatever appears to be the next right thing right in front of me).
This Universe seems to take messes and turn them into successes (hey, I rhyme). Of course, you could argue that it would’ve been better if none of this ever happened. But then, what would I have learned? The lesson was invaluable. It cost me $10 and maybe an hour of my time. My part was just to ask for help and drive.
And now I know what a mass airflow sensor is.
© 2022 by Michael C. Just
You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+dirt+journey+of+a+mystic+cowboy&crid=1S40Q4BXSUWJ6&sprefix=the+dirt%3A+journey+of+a+m%2Caps%2C180&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_23
Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through this website or through Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002
Four of his short stories have recently been published online:
Lies, Ltd. has been published by The Mystery Tribune @ Lies, Ltd.: Literary Short Fiction by Michael C. Just (mysterytribune.com)
The Obligate Carnivore has been published by the Scarlet Leaf Review @ Category: MICHAEL JUST – SCARLET LEAF REVIEW
I See You, Too has been published by the 96th of October @ I See You, Too – 96th of October
Offload, a short story about a man who can heal any disease, is now live and can be read at The Worlds Within at Offload – The Worlds Within