It’s our “go-to” as Midwesterners, when we want to start a conversation standing in line, or at a gathering where we sorta know some people and sorta don’t, we hit our go-to: “how about this weather?” In the winter it’s how cold it is, how cold it might get, and back in the day it used to snow two and three feet at a time. You know, because we had to walk through it to get to school uphill both ways. Then the summer, aaaaah, the summer. How hot IS IT anyway??? It’s in the mid-90’s but you know in Arizona it got up to 114 yesterday. Oh well yes, but that’s a DRY heat.
Do you recognize the conversation? I was about to say it is a way to break the ice, but given the last few days . . . I unexpectedly met two very nice young men last evening, so I found myself being a true Midwesterner each time with weather openers. I was on the road quite a lot last week, and a wonderful friend suggested, given the price of diesel, that I might drive her car racing around the 4 state area. Omaha, Nebraska for Annual Conference a couple of days, quick turnaround back to Olathe and then thru Missouri to Bentonville, Arkansas to officiate a wedding over the weekend, then back to Olathe. Her logic was that since her car is never really out on the open road, it might need the cobwebs blown out of the system. Ummmm, you need cobwebs blown out of a car that can go pretty fast??? I’m your driver, I mean, carefully and responsibly, of course..
So my truck sat in her driveway for five days. Well, it was only supposed to sit in her driveway for five days. As it turned out, she’s probably lucky her homes association didn’t fine her for a ratty old truck sitting there for so long, maybe even being put up on blocks at some point. Yes, I am given to exaggeration. I came over Sunday night to switch cars back and haggle around about wanting to compensate for getting to drive a waaaaay nicer car than I probably will ever have. Moved all the stuff, I travel with a lot of stuff necessary to me stuffed in crooks and crannies in whatever vehicle I have. Bandaids, Neosporin, stain-sticks, headache medicine, allergy medicine, CD’s (don’t judge me I still buy and listen to them), scissors, Kleenex – you know, all the stuff normal people carry perhaps in a purse, but I don’t have one of those. Anyway, I got ALL the things and continued to haggle around about compensation, compromised that I’m good for a nice dinner at some point. Put the key in the ignition – yes my truck is old enough there is no FOB, there’s a key and an ignition, and that night, nothing.
Nothing. I know you’ve heard that sound before if you’ve driven very long. The loudest silence that echoes into the pit of your stomach, rises up your neck, and makes you reach for the extra-strength head pills. Dead. Dead, dead, dead battery. Seriously? It was fine, absolutely fine, no hesitation, no choking, no “I’m-almost-dead-so-don’t-push-it-much-longer”, dead battery. I have come to love having a truck, I have come to love having a diesel truck. No one ever told me, nor did I ask, nor had I ever had any reason to look, I now know there isn’t only ONE battery in a truck like I have, there are TWO. Should I have looked? Yes. Did I, you know, look before I went to the store where you can purchase all the batteries for all the vehicles, because by golly I’m capable and I’m simply going to change out the battery myself. No. No I didn’t.
So certain, so strong, so good at watching youtube videos to show how to do stuff that’s out of my wheelhouse. snort Young man sold me a battery that I had looked up on-line that would fit my truck. All good. My truck has continued to sit in the driveway of the patient friend two more days because my schedule. I finally called yesterday to relieve her that I would be by last evening to change out the battery in my truck and give her car back and save her from neighbor consternation at dead trucks parked in her driveway. She asked quite gently if maybe I shouldn’t call Triple A to do the battery changing. I kindly but firmly shared that I would watch a youtube video, had my toolbox, and that I really didn’t have time to wait for Triple A.
Arrived at her house at 6, confident and capable – still plenty of light left to get this done. It was hot, but she has a big tree in her front yard, so no worries. Pop the hood of the truck, get out my trusty phone for youtube video, start watching and all is well until it begins to repeat itself which I thought was quite odd. I turn up the volume just as the nice youtube video guy says that they recommend changing out BOTH batteries at the same time. BOTH? The video was not repeating, it was simply showing the 2nd battery changing. Because my friend was standing there, the words in my head did not come flying out my mouth, not even one, not even whispered. I’ve matured so much over the years.
Got out my Triple A card and called. 90 minutes. She cooked me a pizza, I can’t even. Nice young man arrived. “Sure is hot” he says, “you don’t even know,” I say. He smiles. Gets out one charger deal for one battery, another charger deal for the other battery. Nothing. “Wow,” young man says, “these trucks take a lot of power, good thing you called.” “Mmm-hmmm,” I say. Friend snickers in the background. He gets out another charger and now has two red clamps on each of the battery positive nodes, and two black clamps on each of the negative nodes, and then pulls another cable hooked somehow to his truck and puts it on as well. I figured it would either start or we’d all blow up. It started.
He didn’t have two batteries big enough for my truck in his inventory, because well, it was now 7:30 and he’d been at it all day. “The heat just saps these batteries if they were already weak and vehicles sit for too long,” he says. “Me too,” I say. He stares at me a little. He thinks I still have time to go back to the place where I bought the one battery to get another battery and they will put them both in for me. He strongly recommended I not try to do it myself, even with youtube and my own tools.
Met another nice verrrrry young man at the battery store. Now 8:15, dusk settling, I’m not so much. “Sure is hot,” he says. “You don’t even know,” I say. His eyes widen a bit. He and his manager as it ends up, get new batter-ies in by 9:15. They receive a grateful smile and nice tip from a no longer confident, I might think youtube videos are stupid, and while I think I might still like my truck – you might want to check with me in a few days to a week – truck owner.
I drove rather slowly home, now in the dark but still not cool, I know, right? Some of the words I curbed earlier may have made their way into the outer air inside the truck. Then I stopped. First-world problem, nanette. No injuries. No truck sitting on the side of an interstate halfway between Nebraska and Arkansas. Two verrrry nice young men, respectful and good at their jobs, tolerant of a truck owner who essentially knows nothing about the truck she drives. A nice friend who not once complained about my extra use of her car or ever asked how fast I might have driven it. And, for good measure, right there? On my way home? A Dairy Queen.
Minutes of grace come in many forms, generosity from friends and strangers alike, and sometimes slowing down and learning to receive help may be the best gift of all.