A few months ago, as Justin was putting some kind of fluid into the car, I told him, “I’d like you to teach me how and where to add all that stuff, and how to change the oil, and maybe how to change a tire.”
He gave me a weird look. “Why?”
“Oh, just in case.”
That wasn’t quite enough. “Just in case what, though?”
“Oh, you know, in case something happens like I get a flat in the middle of nowhere.”
“But if you’re going anywhere without me, it’s to the Greggs, or to church or the library or the doctor’s. You could always call me or even Mitch or someone who lives in town.”
“Okay, so maybe I want to learn to change a flat in case you die and I end up having to know stuff like this so I can save money and not take the car to the auto shop for every little thing that goes wrong.”
Justin considered, then nodded. “Okay, fair enough. I’ll teach you sometime.”
It still hasn’t happened, but it will. Probably next summer, when the baby’s born and our new place’s garage won’t be frigid.
The nice thing is that this “just in case” thing is a character trait that Justin and I share. We do go about in it in our own unique ways for sure, though. Whereas I gather and store the sometimes most random bits of information for “just in case”, Justin meticulously plans out each and every action, sometimes plotting for different actions depending on various ways other people/the environment/the weather/etc-etc-etc would tweak that action.
In a way, since he started watching The Walking Dead, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t heard anything about planning for the Zombie Apocalypse. But I bet plans are already being formulated in a corner of his brain somewhere.
Here’s a juxtaposition of our two methods:
Me: *after random reading and browsing has taught what ‘mind your Ps and Qs originally meant*: “Hey, Just, you know what ‘mind your Ps and Qs’ originally meant?”
“Mind your pints and quarts. Barkeepers used to tell their customers that when they got rowdy.”
“And why do you know that?”
“Oh, I don’t know—just in case I use it in a story or something sometime.”
Justin *after being pulled over for speeding in Illinois* “That went exactly as I planned.”
(Mind, this is in the middle of the night on one of our trips down to Missouri, and I woke up to the sound of police sirens, so I was not much of a happy camper.)
“Really? You planned to get pulled over? Awesome, babe.”
“No, I meant that I had it planned out in my head how to react if I got pulled over. I knew I wanted to pull as far over on the side of the road as I could, so the police officer doesn’t feel like his back is too close to the highway. I turned on my lights so he could see—which should make him more comfortable—and I made sure my hands were in plain sight…”
“Wait, you’re saying that you had this whole scenario planned out way in advance, just on the off chance that you’d ever get pulled over on the highway?”
I believe I muttered something akin to, “You need to read or do something with your brain more often” before rolling over and trying to get back to sleep.
A few hours later, I woke back up. Justin didn’t say much other than ask how I slept (“Miserably.”) and if I wanted breakfast (“No.” As you may have guessed, I’m not the best drive-overnight traveling companion). After a while of silence, I realized that I could almost see the wheels in his brain turning. So I asked, “Are you still thinking about getting pulled over?”
“Why? It happened. It’s over with. You executed your plan perfectly.”
“Well, I can still make some tweaks to it. Next time, it’ll be even better.”
“There better not be a next time.” (And I can say that…I am now the only adult I know who has yet to be pulled over or get in an accident.)
His learning style is much more complicated than mine in a way—though mine does usually involve more things like research and reading. Each of them has their pitfalls—Justin’s “just in case” style takes a lot longer to formulate, as he thinks through every single step, whereas mine is based more on a gut instinct that turns out to be right–I can’t explain how I know, but it works. However, he gathers information about everything, whereas I only bother to gather information if it’s a subject that interests me (ie, I couldn’t have cared less about learning or retaining the knowledge of how to drive a stick-shift car…until this summer, when I was informed that I would not be allowed to try a dirt bike until I had a rudimentary understanding of a stick-shift car.)
So, there you go. A few examples of our “just in case” learning styles and some stories go along with it.
And why am I even mildly interesting in analyzing this?
Someday, I want to use Justin’s “just in case”-style for a character. I love finding character traits from real people and putting them to use in my characters–it makes them seem so much more real. I like talking about it because to me, it’s fun to watch people’s reactions and analyse them and figure out what makes them tick. Maybe analyzing it will help another writer too.
And hopefully, it provided you with a few chuckles. That’s always a plus.