With thousands of stories in the AJ archive, we’re occasionally reminded of an oldie but goodie, put our feet up on the desk, open the computer and chuckle and nod our way through a classic, like this one from Brendan Leonard from way back when. 2014. Enjoy. – Ed.

Rob at Green Garage in Denver understands the art of telling someone how expensive their car repair will be: You can’t deliver the news with the same gravitas as you would telling someone they have a terminal illness.

“You ready, man?” he always asks me when I take my van in for an oil change. And I brace myself for the impact on my wallet, which could be anywhere from $250 to $1,500. We go over it and I shrug and say, okay, can you do it today, when can I pick it up.

We sometimes have such an adversarial relationship with vehicles: we beat the crap out of them, and we feel hurt when parts of them break, even get angry. We accuse manufacturers of building “lemons” or we take it out on repair shops that we think are trying to rob us blind. I try to take things in stride and not get too excited about car repairs. I drive a van with 180,000 miles on it and I put 25,000 plus miles on it every year I live in it and its pedigree… well, it’s not a BMW. When I take it in for a checkup, I mentally prepare for what I call my “surprise car payment,” which is sometimes just an oil change, but sometimes is four figures.

Last fall I got the bad news that a lot of repairs had to be done, costing about what two return flights to Switzerland would cost. It was a particularly big bill, in a year with lots of big car repair bills. I did something I never try to do: I started feeling sorry for myself.

My friend Craig DeMartino has a saying he likes: Life is 10 percent events and 90 percent your reaction. This is actually a paraphrase of a longer quote from a book by Charles Swindoll, but I like to think it’s coming from Craig because he’s missing his lower leg, has a fused spine, is in chronic pain and still manage to climb harder than most people with all their limbs.

We sometimes think we have a lot of bad news, but what we often have are small problems plus a huge amount of first world rights. Usually no one dies. Most of us don’t have to walk two miles every morning to get water from a river. Most of us are not at great risk of a suicide bomber stepping onto the bus we take to work each morning. Twitter went down for an hour. The barista obviously didn’t get it when we said “extra hot extra foam.” Someone pulled out in front of us on the way to work and we had to decelerate to 8 miles per hour for almost three seconds. And then we get angry. Or justified.

Okay, so it’s a big car repair bill, or a rejection letter, or a bad this, or a bad that. But hey, my checking account still has enough money for a burrito and an ice cream, so it’s not too bad, right? And there’s a dog with a wagging tail, and a construction worker telling another construction worker a joke, and they both laugh. And someone out there is having a good day that is far worse than my bad day.

Top photo: Aubrey Odom-Mabey/Unsplash

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