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I once had a boyfriend far more in touch with the etiquette of the world than I. The recognition of even this small truth took, for me, a mighty dose of your standard humility on a quite regular basis. I like to think I know how things are supposed to go, how culture should read between the lines and such. I do okay on my best independent day. He, though, knew far better. I didn’t often admit how I liked it that way.

Any faithful user of the “Triple A” roadside insurance program would surely—like me—make frequent use of their ability to, by way of a simple phone call, set up a standard rescue by the heroic tow-truck-driving man. Who doesn’t love to be the damsel in distress, after all? Well, I grew tired of the concept after locking my keys in the car for probably the fourth time in six months, in three different states, none of them my own. Walking around in a store with nothing to buy, able to see my keys through the window, gets old. Waiting in the driver’s seat on the side of the road with a flat tire becomes a bore after the third bum tire.

I love my Triple A, but I’m feeling of late that I’d be alright with a plan of decreased frequency. Take the Triple A man off my speed dial. And aside from the headache, here’s why.

From said socially savvy boyfriend, I learned something crucial about borderline service industries like Triple A. Apparently—I should be tipping them for their rescue of said damsel in distress, yours truly. It never occurred to me. Maybe this naivety was the cause of my worst customers when I waited tables. Poor folk just needed some dating advice, is all.

So for the retrieval of my keys, ten dollars to the nice man in coveralls. Keys, again, ten precious dollars. Keys, keys, keys, breakdown, flat tire, keys. Ten, twenty, thirty… So on and so forth. By now, my set of keys is museum-bound, worth more than my life.

There was one lock-out, a grocery store on the East side of Michigan, when I should’ve given the rescuer my phone number instead of my money, but I was all worried about how that might non-verbally communicate someone I wasn’t. So, I didn’t. Instead, the value of my car keys rose yet again.

Make no mistake, I’m in the social loop; I’m reading between the cultural lines; I’m even tipping extra to the tow-truck man who waited in Orland for me and freed my keys the week before Christmas. But, I’ve now exceeded my roadside budget in tips. I cannot afford to keep making silly mistakes which trap me outside and my keys inside the car. I will henceforth tape my car keys to my person. It’s the only way to save money.

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