Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: Donut-Related Wisdom.

Things tend to go wrong. This is a series of blog posts about the things I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

My sophomore year of college, I loaded up the Ford Explorer and headed to St. Louis to go watch a football game. I had a giant cooler filled with ice, beer and semi-refrigerated meats. I was wearing a yellow, pinstriped blazer. I left around rush hour.

And 10 minutes into the drive, I heard a noise under the hood that sounded distinctly like a small reserve of Roman candles going off all at once.

I pulled over in Kingdom City, this little town east of Columbia, Mo., that’s most famous for trying to secede from the Union back when that was still in fashion. They’ve got a few garages there, and I pulled into one where they serviced 18-wheelers. I kept the car running while the mechanics took a look under the hood. They didn’t look long before delivering a verdict:

My engine was about to explode.

So I won’t be driving this thing to St. Louis, I asked?

Not if you want to live, they said.

And suddenly, I found myself very much stranded in Kingdom City, Mo., population 128.

But then I started to think about contingency plans. Could I get a ride in the morning? Did I know anyone else driving through to St. Louis that night? Should I just cancel the whole trip?

And then I remembered: There’s this van company that shuttles travelers from Columbia, Mo., to the St. Louis airport. They make a few trips a day. Sometimes, they make a stop in Kingdom City at the local McDonald’s.

I didn’t have a smartphone, but I did happen to have the shuttle company’s number stored on my phone. I called and asked when the next shuttle might be coming through Kingdom City.

It was coming in seven minutes, they said. I asked if I could pay with credit card over the phone. They told me: Forget about the credit card. Start running towards the van.

So I started running, the yellow jacket on one arm, the cooler of beer and meats and ice wheeling behind me. The lid was duct taped shut.

I beat the shuttle to the McDonald’s parking lot by a minute or two, but I was still sucking air when they pulled up. I asked the driver if I could pay by credit card. He said no. Cash only.

The exact cost of the trip is lost to memory, but I do remember that it wasn’t an even number. I think it was $42.

I opened my wallet. I had exactly $42 inside.

So that’s how I got to St. Louis that weekend.

Was I lucky? Absolutely. Everything was going wrong. My car was dying. I was screwed. But there just happened to be a garage that could help me when I needed help. There just happened to be a St. Louis-bound shuttle coming through town when I needed it. I just happened to have the to-the-decimal-point amount of cash I needed to pay for the shuttle.

But there’s more to this story than that. I’m thinking now about this breakfast place I love. They’ve got these words inscribed on the top of their menu, and I’m rather fond of them:

Keep your eye on the donut, and not on the hole.

I love that. When things go wrong, we lose focus on what’s important. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have.

I didn’t have a working car at that moment, but I did have all the tools to get me to St. Louis that weekend. That was the goal: Get to St. Louis.

I kept my eye on the donut, even as everything was going wrong. I made it to St. Louis that night.