Some of you have already heard this story. I don’t know if this version is better or worse than how you originally heard it.
Over a year ago I read something somewhere about how it’s a good idea to turn off your car if you’re going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds. This would improve gas mileage and reduce exhaust output. It sounded great, I bought into it, but I didn’t get into the habit of doing it until last spring. Instead of idling at stoplights, wasting gas and spreading pollution, I turned off my car, enjoyed the silence, and, let me tell you, I was a better person than each and every individual around me. Look at those ignorant jerks in the car next to me. I mean, just look at them.
I was so good at this, so eager. I’d see a light turning yellow and switch off the car before I even hit the brakes. I spent the entire summer getting better mileage than every other sucker on the planet. Total rockstar.
So one day after work I get off I-15 at 7200 South to run some last-minute errands. What kind of errands, you ask? Well get this: it’s my wife Rebecca’s birthday. Everything’s going according to plan because I’m so awesome, driving my car to just one or two more stops, and I’m going to get home right on time, and you better believe I’m saving the environment and the world and a bucketload of gas money.
I pull up to the intersection on State and Fort Union. Looks like I’m going to have to wait for the left turn light. Well, shucks. Better turn off the ol’ auto-mo-bile. Yeah, that’s me. Hi, how ya doing. What’s that? No exhaust coming out the back? That’s ’cause I turned off the car. Terrific, right? I know. You can thank me later. Looks like the green arrow’s coming on, gotta split. Catch you later.
I turn the key. The car doesn’t start. Huh. I’ll just push the clutch in harder and try again, that’ll do it . . . Huh. Maybe if I turn it again and again and again you know how when your car doesn’t start you can still at least hear a buzzing sound? The sound of the little juice that’s left, telling you “I’m sorry, I can’t help you, I’m sorry.” Well, I hear nothing. Abosolutely NOTHING. The battery has died. All 9 lives.
I’m up a certain creek without certain implements. I’m a weight-loss patient in the 70’s who develops an amphetimine addiction. I’m a middle-aged man doing the Macarena. On a dance floor. Alone. In 1999.
You might think an embarrassing, rib-tickling anecdote might also include some demonstration of redeeming competence on the part of the main character, especially if the teller of said anecdote is the main character. Well, I regret to inform that this is not the case. It’s just a dumb embarrassing story.
I’d like to think that I’d be in and out of this mess in seconds flat. An eagle scout shot up on adrenaline. Here’s what happened instead: I wandered in and out of my car through 2 or 3 light cycles until the guy behind me got out of his own car and helped me push mine through the intersection to the Walgreen’s across the street. I remember at one point some guy drove by and yelled something about not knowing how to push a car. Yep. I have made a terrible mistake. I have caused irreparable damage to the community. I am the lowest life form on Earth. And I’m late for Rebecca’s birthday.
So the moral of the story is: Keep the car running. That’s all I wanted to say. The rest of this post is alright too, I guess.
The same guy who helped push also gave me a ride to the auto parts store a mile up the street, and then back again. I bought a battery, and the guy at the store let me borrow some tools.
Note to self: always have tools in the trunk for situations like this.
Note to self: at least pretend you know what you’re doing in public.
Note to self: forget the environment, forget high gas prices. Keep. The Car. Run. Ning.
The guy who helped me push my car and drive me to/from the auto store was a lifesaver. Unbelievable kindness. Thank you. I should have gotten his address, sent him a gift basket.
As I was putting the new battery on, a car pulled into the parking lot, driven by a man with a young boy. The boy got out and came up to me. Maybe 9 years old. He asked me how to get to the mall. I tried to give him directions. I detected an accent in his voice. I asked if he speaks Spanish. He doesn’t. Maybe they’re French, or Portuguese.
I don’t remember if it was his idea or my idea (probably his), but we decided that when I finished putting the battery in, they could follow me to the mall. I figured the universe did me a favor with that guy who helped me half an hour ago, so it only makes sense for me to do something back.
He told his dad, who doesn’t speak English, and they both came over and sat on the curb to wait. The boy offered me a piece of gum, too. Bubblicious, I think. Cool.
The battery worked, so we set off up State Street. Remind me to post a separate blog entry about driving “up” and “down” streets, I know someone who would just love that.
We parked near Nordstrom. I got out to say goodbye or whatever. The boy asked where a good place to buy shoes is. I decided to walk them into the mall and show them the directory. After everything that happened, I was more than happy to do it. I recommended a couple of shoe stores where they’d probably have some luck, and then we went our separate ways. The dad smiled at me. It was cool. If I had stuck around, it would have made for a great trying-on-shoes-montage sequence, set to upbeat music and everything, but I didn’t think of that in time.