This last month I learned a few new things about cars:
- Jump starting a car battery is dark and semi-dangerous magic nearly anyone can do.
- Wrestling out and replacing certain car batteries is a little bit like squishing a bloated elephant into a shoebox.
- YouTube can teach you how to do both and come out mostly alive on the other end of it.
It all started around the time finals were happening for most college students in my neck of the woods with my own college student up to her earballs in textbooks, tests, and giant tubs of Ben & Jerry’s. Nothing alleviates an overheated thermogenic thought process like two pints of Hazed and Confused on a daily basis.
I received a text from said college student’s boyfriend:
When’s the last time you started Chloe’s car?
I scratched my head. Six weeks ago? Eight? It didn’t really matter because that thing was dead. Like unrevivably dead. It would be like digging up Beethoven or Mahler or Schubert and fist pounding on their chests screaming, “NONE OF YOU HAVE FINISHED YOUR SYMPHONY NO. 10!”
Yeah, that kinda dead.
I texted back an emoji shrug.
I could hear Ben’s eyes roll to the back of his head, and I don’t blame them for doing so.
He finished off: I’m coming over with a new battery. It would be nice for her to have a working car when she gets home from school.
I agreed. I also thought that it didn’t really matter if all the car parts were functioning if one did not have money enough to fill it with “go juice.” It kind of puts you in a position where you’re All Hat No Cattle.
But they’re college kids. They’ll figure it out.
I was working at my desk when Ben popped in. “I’m here. I’ve got the battery. I’ll be in the garage.”
“Need help?” I asked.
“Nah. Easy peasy.”
Super. I could keep writing. And I did.
For about sixty seconds.
“Do you have any gloves?”
Got Ben gloves. Went back to writing.
For about sixty seconds.
Work … sixty seconds.
“How bout a magnet?”
Search for magnet: Old toy boxes. Drawers. Next to credit cards, computer hard drives, people resting in my living room with pacemakers.
Ben shrugged. “Never mind. I’m sure that piece will fall out of the engine block eventually.”
I looked at Ben with eyebrows that reached to my hairline.
Back to work. I counted to sixty twice.
“How small are your hands?”
Oh dear lord. I pushed back from my desk. “Let me find some shoes.”
I entered the garage and saw Chloe’s little VW bug with its hood popped. A miniature PAC-MAN of motorcars. Ben, whose height most telephone poles will nod with deference to, was almost in a downward facing dog yoga pose, hovering over the engine block.
There was a lot of grunting going on, but it might have been coming from the bug, as whatever Ben was trying to tug out of it seemed super important for that little roadster to cling to.
Apparently, it sensed the ongoing, effortful labor of disassembly and finally decided to put up a fight. It’s a little bit like going to the dentist for one defunct tooth to be removed and when you finally have a moment of anesthetic clarity, hear, “Oh, good lordy there’s another one. Well, she really doesn’t need that guy for chewing anyway.”
Yes, I think in a blind panic, but what about for maintaining social norms like speaking without sounding like I’m an eight-year-old whose face just met a tree trunk after a bike crash?
“What can I do?” I asked.
Ben explained to me that we just needed to slide the battery into place and then voilà, back to work I go and he’s outta here. Easy peasy.
Except he was finding it just a teensy bit tricky to slide this particular battery into place.
He gestured at the ground which held oddly shaped bits of plastic, metal, screws, caps, and hoses. It looked like the car had thrown up onto the garage floor. “A lot of stuff had to come out in order to remove the battery.”
“I assume all that stuff is essential?”
Ben shrugged. “Yeah, it all has to go back.”
I looked at the disassembled engine parts. I really really hoped he remembered where all the bits and pieces originally lived because none of them were color-coated, or Post-it note labeled, and there were no IKEA directions to be found anywhere.
If it were me, I would have labeled everything with Garanimal tags—like the clothing line my mother used to buy for us when we were little kids. Each piece of clothing had some anthropomorphic animal code attached to it so you could find something that matched to make a set. Make sure the alligator shirt is not paired with giraffe shorts and then feel confident sending that child on off to school.
Yeah, there were a lot of things on the ground that looked like they needed to be remarried to their original partners.
“You’ve done this before, right?”
Ben flashed me a smile and held up his smartphone. “YouTube.”
Oh, good heavens.
For the next three hours we battled with that little bug, trying to slide, shove, inch, hitch, and bang that new damn battery into place. It was like trying to get a cat to swallow a pill. That battery refused to go down.
We, as instructed by the warning words of the World Wide Web, did not tip the battery. Which would have made things so much easier. At one point I suggested to Ben that if we couldn’t tip the battery, maybe we should tip the bug. Seriously. It would have been so much easier.
He did not agree.
At long last, we did manage to get that SOB back into place. In fact, we managed to do it twice, because after the first time—once we’d reconnected all hoses, screws, and pulleys—we discovered a small piece we’d left out on the garage floor. Something akin to an OR nurse tapping an open-heart surgeon on the shoulder just as he’s tying off the last stitch of flesh together and pointing to the pan that still held an essential organ.
But we did it.
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