“Some men are Baptists, others Catholics, my father was an Oldsmobile man.”
- A Christmas Story
I was driving home last Friday afternoon when all of a sudden my digital dashboard lit up like a Mississippi slot machine. I wasn’t far from home, and the engine was still running and not overheating, so I kept going. I pulled into my driveway, turned off the car off, and immediately tried starting it again. All I got in response was a clicking sound and some heavy static on the radio. “Not again,” and “I hate cars,” were a few of the thoughts running through my head.
I hoped it was the battery and decided to put in a new one. On Saturday morning I headed out to Walmart to make my purchase. I knew this was a job I could do myself because I had done it a couple of months earlier on KM’s Honda, however one of the differences in her car and mine (which I bought from my brother-in-law, who bought it from his mother-in-law) was that there is a big black metal plate covering half of my battery. So I convinced myself that a shiny new ratchet set was also needed.
I had removed the plate and was about to tackle the battery when my phone rang. It was my 90-year old Aunt Louise. “What are you doing?” came the question. When I told her, the response was probably the same as if I’d said both my legs were broken -- “Oh bless your heart.”
“It’s OK Aunt Lou,” I said. But I knew she was remembering 45 years ago when I was changing the oil in my car on our driveway and decided to move it into the shade, but forgot to put the plug back in the oil pan first. When I was finished that day it looked like the Exxon Valdez had taken a shortcut through our yard. Bless my father’s heart.
I said goodbye to Aunt Lou and got back to it. But it didn’t take long for me to realize I was out of my league. As beautiful as my new ratchet set looked out there shining in the summer sun, I just couldn’t get it to work.
The next option was to try and jump it and head back out to Walmart, which I did. KM followed me. When I got there, a guy named Chris came over to help. I told him the battery I bought from them less than an hour before was in the trunk and I needed them to install it. I picked up on his concerned look and offered to show him a receipt, but he waved it off and said they’d take care of it and we headed home to wait for his call.
A few hours later KM took me back to Walmart for the third time that day and I went in to pay. Chris punched a few numbers in his computer and handed me a receipt that said ‘balance due – $0.00.” I pointed this out to him, but he just smiled and said, “Oh we don’t charge to install our own batteries.” I thanked him and walked outside to my car, thinking that maybe Aunt Lou had been right to be worried.
When I arrived home I checked in the trunk to see if they had remembered to put on the plate that went over the battery. And sure enough, there it sat in the trunk. Next to it, and even more distressing, was the brand-new battery I had bought earlier that day. I quickly opened the hood, fully expecting to see my old battery. But there was a bright new yellow one that matched the one in my trunk.
Back to Walmart.
Jay Edwards is a freelance columnist who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.