Sometimes I forget that it’s largely up to me whether I have a good day or not. This I learned from my buddy Jake, who could be by my side all day and have a completely different experience. What I saw as a setback he might see as either a learning experience or an opportunity. We would typically have entirely different stories for how we experienced the same set of circumstances.

As his interpretation of reality got more bizarre, my friends and I concluded that, unfortunately, Jake lived in a parallel universe of his own making, but we did manage to take away some good lessons that the way reality’s experienced can be shaped with a little purposeful willpower.

This all came in handy the other day when I couldn’t complete my errands because Fate pressed up hard against me, and this was not a woman cornering me in a bar. This was simply the world making life miserable. Fortunately, I recalled that I could either get upset or I could bend reality to my advantage.

In town, right in the middle of my errands, I went out to my pickup truck, started it and pulled on the shift lever to discover that it was no longer connected to the transmission.

Shutting off the ignition, I tried again, hoping for a miracle. No miracle was forthcoming. Now the engine would not start because the truck was no longer in park but was stuck in reverse. The situation was deteriorating. I slid myself under the truck, trying not to have the street traffic tickle my toes or break my legs. I’ve been under vehicles many times, but that was before I stopped doing all the work on my own transportation. Nothing looked familiar. The cars of my youth had cables and rods that linked the transmission to the driver’s controls. This was all monolithic and bulletproof; there were no errant cables dangling about that I might be able to reattach with a coat hanger.

I slowly realized I was thinking like a 20-year-old who still works on his car. I needed to think like a normal adult: I called a tow truck to come get the vehicle and take it to my mechanic.

Here is where I had to stop thinking, “My day is ruined; I can’t afford whatever this is going to cost me and my life is falling apart.” With a little practice, you turn that around to “Oh boy: I get to see how tow trucks work up close” and “This will make a good story” and “At least I got one out of six tasks on my list accomplished; I didn’t want to go to the dentist anyway.”

It helps adding thoughts like, “At least it’s not snowing”; “I’m not locked out of the truck”; “My cell phone is charged”; “I have my emergency credit card” and the classic, “I’m not bleeding.”

Of course, thoughts tend to go back to “How much is this going to cost me?” It’s not like I have never been towed before. I believe it was in the 1980s and the service cost me $30. While waiting for the tow I strike up a conversation with the postman who is actually a comedian but knows the post office pays better. He suggests that my car insurance company will pay for the tow. Sure enough, I called my insurance company on my charged cell phone and they confirmed that I will be reimbursed if I send them the towing receipt. Things could be worse.

Just before the tow truck arrives, the parking spots in front and behind me are vacated. A fortuitus coincidence if not a minor miracle. The tow truck driver is not mean or even condescending. How lucky can one man get? He loads up my truck and we ride all the way to my mechanic chatting without ever bringing up politics.

What a day. I got nothing accomplished, I discovered I know nothing anymore about how to fix my own vehicle, my truck is broken down and in the shop, I will have bills to pay.

On the other hand, no dog bites, no embarrassing personal odor, no shots were fired. Put one foot in that other universe and life is good.

By the way, a tow costs about $100 these days, but check with your car insurance company; they might cover the costs and brighten your day.