The 500-Dollar Switch

My 2003 Grand Marquis has recently acquired the habit of turning its headlights off while I’m driving. Not good.

The remedy, I’m told, is to get a new “multifunction switch” — the module that controls the high beams, the low beams, the turning signals, the windshield washer and the windshield wipers. Probably the nose-wiper, too, if I could figure out how to use it. There is no aftermarket supplier, and the dealer wants over $500 for a new one.

What does this have to do with anything? I’ll tell you in a moment.

I have always had a fetish about the switches in cars. “If a 20-dollar switch breaks,” I’d say (I had no idea how much they really cost) … “If a 20-dollar switch breaks, your 20-thousand-dollar car is out of commission.”

I once bought a used Mercury Topaz that had higher mileage than others of the same price just because its turning signal felt more solid. When that great car finally died at age 168,000 its crankcase was incontinent but it had the turning signal of a teenager.

How ironic that on my current car that exact switch has failed. To replace it will cost approximately one tenth the value of the entire machine. My mechanic suggested that I scavenge eBay for something of less-than-pristine provenance — something he himself would not guarantee for 90 seconds, let alone 90 days, but whose cost is better aligned with the value of my rapidly aging automobile.

I still haven’t said what this has to do with anything, have I?

Only this: that I was right all along about switches. If they stop working, you may find yourself driving around in the dark.

It makes me wonder: How are my switches? Do the lights in my mind arbitrarily turn off once in a while? Is my brain still supple and responsive, or have I become unwilling to listen?

If my driver, whose name is Reality, were to say it’s time to shine those headlights, would they come on, or would I come up with reasons why the lights should stay off even though it’s dark out?

In this blog, I hope to share the ways Reality has nudged me and how I am learning to respond. Please subscribe if you’d like to hear the ongoing saga.

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