My name is Elizabeth Joy Bethea but I’ve gone by Joy since I was three-days-old, after my aunt sent a note from Georgia to my parents in Oklahoma with the single sentence, “Name that child.”
When I was home visiting last summer, my mother pointed out that I could have gone by my first name. I pointed out that my first and last name are 75 percent the same. Saying Elizabeth Bethea makes my mouth feel like it’s jumping hurdles.
My brothers call me Jo.
Since this is kind of like our first date, I figure you don’t have to know the entire story about what I do at a nuclear facility or why I dropped out of grad school or what I aspire to do with the next 60 years of my life. I’m all about taking it slow.
But you should know, the air conditioning in my car went out last week. I consider this a significant life event.
Last fall, I left the Blue Ridge mountains for a work contract outside of Jackson, Mississippi, where I enjoyed a winter in T-shirts, light sweaters, and beanies. When my boss offered a contract extension in May, I accepted it aloud while internally striking a frantic deal with God. I could survive a stifling southern summer as long as the air condition in my car and in my room stayed very, very, very cold.
That’s how I decided to stay in Mississippi for now, wrapped in my false sense of certainty that I could avoid sweating off my make up through the perpetual steam bath that is summer here.
The main purpose behind that decision to stay was my itch to complete a bike race that I left unfinished five years ago. The other reason was that three job prospects, which I was confidently banking on, all fell through within 36 hours of each other the week before. (I’d like to say that I’m staying purely to recover honor, but bills are a real thing, too.)
When my car’s navigation screen flashed a “Check the AC” banner in place of “Song currently playing…”, I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick fix. And this time, my gut instinct was far more reliable than my previous confidence about the job prospects and AC-for-the-whole-summer deal.
After sending my car to various car doctors and collecting diagnostics and quotes, I found myself in a quandary. From the moment I saw the flashing message, fixing that air condition system was my highest, most urgent priority. But the lowest quote was the same cost as the trip around the Midwest that two of my sisters and I dreamed up, and immediately put in for vacation, a few weeks before. (Okay, a really rough estimate, we haven’t actually planned out the trip yet, but’s still two weeks out.)
Faced with the possible choice of an air conditioned car or a camping trip in Yellow Stone combined with three months of turning my daily commute into a two-hour sauna experience, I realized that air condition might not be as urgent as I first thought.
After a few miserable days, I decided to keep my trip plans. I don’t know about the air conditioning, yet. For now, I’m becoming savvy on all the possible variations of wind patterns that can be made between the sunroof and front and back windows. I carry a little bundle of t-shirts and shorts—my driving clothes as I call them.
Well, we are at 577 words, which means that I’ve potentially rambled 277 words past your attention span. I’ll keep working at this blog thing, and I hope you will tell me stuff back (two-way communication, for you Comms majors) so I can get better at it in the process.
Note: And, if you’re averse to stinky, sweaty people, I recommend that you maintain a 15 foot boundary when you see me. I can respect that.