Lucy, I’m Home
Early in their marriage, Pausch walks to the university on a day that eventually becomes famous in their household as “The Day Jai Managed to Achieve the One-Driver, Two-Car Collision.” Their minivan is in the garage and the Volkswagen convertible is in the driveway. Jai drives out of the garage—and hits her husband’s car. What follows is just like an episode of I Love Lucy as Jai worries all day about how to explain the accident to her husband when he gets home.
To soften the blow, Jai creates what she believes to be the perfect environment in which to deliver her bad news. Both cars are hidden in the garage when Pausch arrives, and Jai sweetly asks all about his day. She has prepared his favorite meal and is solicitous to him in every way before she finally broaches the subject. After she tells him the news, Pausch simply asks how it happened and what kind of damage was done. Jai explains that the convertible incurred the most damage but both vehicles are running.
When she asks if he wants to see the cars, Pausch unconcernedly tells her it can wait until after they finish their dinner. Jai is surprised at his lack of reaction; she does not yet know that this response shows part of his upbringing. After dinner they look at the cars. When her husband just shrugs, Jai feels an entire day’s anxiety fade away. She promises to get estimates for the repairs in the morning, but he tells her it is not necessary.
Pausch’s family taught him that a vehicle is useful to get from one place to another—a device of utility rather than a symbol of social status. Cosmetic damage does not affect either automobile’s ability to do what it is supposed to do. Jai is shocked at the idea of driving around in dented cars, but Pausch tells her she cannot have just some of him. She appreciates that he did not get upset that two of their possessions got broken; this is connected to his belief that if things still do what they are supposed to do, they do not need to be repaired. The cars still work, so they will still drive them.
Pausch knows this makes him sound quirky, but he notes that if a wheelbarrow or a trashcan were dented, no one would get them repaired. That is because people do not look at these items as symbols of status or indicators of identity. The couples’ dented vehicles make a statement for their family that not everything needs to be fixed.