Fate Guffawed

Both our truck and our lawn mower are in the shop. Can’t say that I’m too distressed about the latter, but the former is an inconvenience. I was driving the truck to the store the other evening, and noticed that the battery light was on. I pulled into the parking lot, shut off the engine, and immediately tried to restart. Zero, nada, not a peep. So I walked home (a short walk, my little hometown being what it is), and waited for my wife Leigh to get back from a meeting. Then we drove down to the store in our Mazda with our jumper cables, and I jumped the truck off while Leigh did the grocery shopping. Before I could pull out of the parking lot, the truck died again, all on its own. Leigh’s done shopping by now, so she pulls the car over by the truck’s carcass, and we jump it off again. This time I get about halfway home before the thing dies yet again. It’s 9 in the evening now, so Leigh and I decide to deal with it the next day.

Come morning, we go out again, jumper cables in hand, but now Leigh notices that the truck is OUT OF GAS. At the very best, it’s running on fumes. Hmm, maybe THAT’S why it died, eh? So we jump it off again, and, fingers crossed, set out for the gas station. Leigh’s behind me in the car. We make it about half way there, and the truck dies again, right in front of the university where Leigh works. Now the battery’s dead, and it’s completely out of gas. So I’m there in the cab, mouthing “Give me a push, goddammit” into the rear view mirror and gesticulating wildly, while the morning rush hour traffic (such as it is) flows around us, like a stampede of cattle. Leigh gets the message, and starts rear-ending me with the Mazda. In this manner, we reach the gas station. I put in 5 gallons (about $15 worth these days), and we jump the truck off again.

At this point, we might ask ourselves a question: Is there any more telling indicator of complete automotive incompetence than having too be pushed to the gas station, and then having to get jumped-off after filling up? As it turns out, the answer is yes. Read on.

As I said, we jumped the truck off after filling up. But before I can move 5 feet, the truck dies again. So, we proceed to jump it off again. By this time, I’ve jump-started the truck 4 times in the space of 12 hours, so I figure I know how to do it. I hook up the cables, tell Leigh to give the Mazda some gas, and then turn the ignition key on the truck. Zip, zero, nada, not a peep. Funny. And what’s that smell? I look up, and the jumper cables are smoking, and the plastic insulation is melting off of them in gooey heaps, dripping down the sides of the car and truck. I’ve reverse wired the jump cables. Oops.

Now let me re-pose the question I asked earlier: Is there any more telling indicator of complete and total automotive incompetence than having to be pushed to the gas station, then having to get jumped-off after filling up, and then melting the jumper cables – and possibly the electrical systems of both cars – because you reverse wired them? The answer, as far as I can tell, is no.

In the spirit of “looking on the bright side”, I will report that fate smiled on us in a small way that day: the electrical systems of both cars weren’t fried – only the truck’s. The garage tells me it needs a new alternator and a new battery. The price tag: about $500 (not including a new set of jumper cables). In every other respect, fate was laughing – make that guffawing – AT me, not with me. I mean, it’s got to be fate, right? I certainly couldn’t have done anything about it.

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