Jump Start

We just got home from a very nice 5 day visit with Steve and John in West Virginia. We flew from our local airport to Pittsburgh, rented a car, and drove about 1 1/2 hours to their place. I’ve rented a lot of cars, so know most of the drill when it comes to the questions they will ask.

“Do you want additional insurance?”


“Would you like us to fill the car up with gas for you, it is only $40?”

“No thanks, I’ll bring it back full.”

“Would you like to rent a GPS?”

“No, we brought our own.”

As the clerk went down her list, I had the feeling she wished I’d be answering differently. I think they earn bonus money when they sign you up for these unnecessary options. By the end of our interaction, she was not at all friendly or helpful. Sometimes that is the way it goes.

Our drive down was uneventful, and we had a very nice visit. What had seemed like a pretty long holiday when we planned the trip ended very quickly. Our flight home from Pittsburgh was to leave a little after 7:00 am, so we set our alarm for 3:00, got up and going with well practiced efficiency. (Hint: if you’d like to consult with an expert in packing up and getting ready for a trip, contact Alice.)

We left extra time because of our background travelling the roads in the unpredictable UP of Michigan weather. Although it was pitch dark this time of the morning, the roads were clear and dry and we made good time. At about 5:00 am, about 10 miles from the airport, we spotted what looked like an open gas station, so we pulled off to gas up. I made a mistake coming off the interstate, and wound up driving away from the gas station. Our GPS, as they will do, was yelling helpful suggestions about how I could get back on the interstate. I was trying to find a place to turn around, and none were presenting themselves. In the middle of all that, it started to rain, and it took me a minute to find the wipers on this rental car. I was getting rattled.

We did turn around and get the GPS turned off. We found an open gas station in a pretty seedy setting. As I pulled in, a fellow at the pump next to mine looked up and stared at me. Thanks to the little arrow next to the gas indicator on the instrument panel, I realized I was on the wrong side, so swung around and parked at the pump. As I was filling up, the fellow next to me walked over and very politely asked if I could give him a jump.

If you are like me, you like to get to the airport plenty early, get rid of the checked baggage, go through security, and find the correct gate. Once that has been done, little can conspire to keep you from your destination. The last thing I wanted was to get sidetracked in a stressful time. I told the guy this was a rental and I wasn’t even sure how to open the hood (true.) He seemed close to panic but was very polite and quiet. He explained, almost in a whisper, that the people in the cashier station said they could not help him. I walked up to the cashier to get my receipt for the gas, and determined that the people in the booth were probably not capable of jumping a car. By the time I got back to our car, I’d made up my mind.

“Let me just open my hood to see what side the battery is on,” I told him. Once I figured it out, I pulled the car around to face my new friend’s car. He had a cheap set of jumper cables. He hooked up his end and I hooked up mine. He tried to start his car. Nothing but sparks.

One quick word to the wise. When a car battery is completely discharged and you put a lot of current through it, it can explode unexpectedly. It doesn’t go off like a bomb, but pieces of plastic and drops of battery acid can fly around. It is preferable to stand aside as the driver is cranking his engine.

He tried several times but all we got was sparks and smoke. A sure sign this poor fellow had very dirty battery cables. The clock was ticking. My friend was sweating bullets. I walked up to the car and tried finding a better ground connection in the engine compartment. No good. I tried pinching the jumper cable clamps with my hand and rotating them on the battery terminal to clean off the gunk and come up with a better connection. Nothing, nothing, then vroom! “Yay!” I said. My shy friend, whose car was now running, was grinning. “Thank-you,” he said over and over. “You are most welcome,” I told him as I removed his cables and closed the hood. We were on the road a few minutes later, none the worse for the wear.

We made it to the airport with time to spare, got checked in with only the normal amount of hassle, and found our gate. As we were relaxing, we looked at each other and felt like our troubles were over. And they nearly were. An ice storm in Chicago delayed our arrival home by 3 hours, but we met some very nice people as a result of the delay. I hope our new friend didn’t shut his car off the next time he filled up with gas.

2 Responses to “Jump Start”

  1. Chris Moore says:

    Sounds like a good plan (flying in to Pittsburgh). We’re hoping to get to go soon. I’m glad Alice is feeling better and getting stronger. Chris

  2. marj krumm says:

    I’ve never known you, nor Alice, to ignore a cry for help.

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