How to drive 13 miles in three hours for just $200

By BEN R. WILLIAMS

I recently decided to take my grandma’s car to the car wash.

This was my first mistake.

I got into the car – a Cadillac SUV – and pushed the start button. Nothing happened.

“No worries,” I thought to myself. The car had been sitting awhile so it probably just needed a jump. I hooked up my jumper cables, cranked my car, and pushed the start button on the Cadillac, whereupon it immediately roared to life. I let it run a little while to charge the battery, and before long I was trucking down the road.

I noticed that the car was running a little low on gas, so I pulled into a gas station, stopped at the pump, and killed the engine. As soon as I got out of the car, I realized the gas cap was on the other side, so I hopped back in the car and pushed the start button.

Nothing happened.

I sat in the car for a moment so I could curse my multiple layers of idiocy, and then I noticed there was an auto shop across the street. We’ll call it “Jim-Jam’s Auto.”

I walked across the street and told Jim-Jam my situation. He kindly grabbed his portable battery jumper and followed me back to the Cadillac.

Unfortunately, the jumper didn’t work. Jim-Jam explained to me that his battery jumper was short on charge, and since he didn’t have a battery jumper jumper, he would have to take it back across the street and charge it. That was obviously going to take awhile.

Jim-Jam didn’t have any car batteries for sale, so I asked him if he knew anyone who could tow me to the auto parts store a few miles down the road so I could get a new battery.

“I know just the guy,” Jim-Jam said, and he called him right on the spot. After a brief phone conversation, Jim-Jam told me the tow truck would arrive shortly. I thanked him for his help and walked back to the gas station.

I’m not sure where the tow truck was coming from, but I assume it was called out to tow the Voyager 1 space probe back from the outskirts of our solar system, because after an hour of waiting there was still no sign of the truck. I began walking toward the auto shop again and Jim-Jam was on the phone before I had finished crossing the street.

“They got hung up at the scrap yard, but they’re on their way,” Jim-Jam said. I thanked him for his help and walked back to the dead Cadillac.

Thirty minutes later, the tow truck arrived, the phrase “24-HOUR TOWING” stenciled on its front fender. I was tempted to ask if that referred to their response time, but that would have been rude, and also the two tow truck guys looked like they could mop the floor with me.

As they began to hook the Cadillac to the tow truck, I asked how much I owed them.

“Normally it’s $60,” the driver said, “but for a friend of Jim-Jam, it’s only $40.”

I was happy to be a friend of Jim-Jam, and I asked the driver if he could take a debit card.

“Cash only,” he said.

I went inside the gas station, found the ATM, and withdrew $40 (plus a $3 service fee). When I returned outside, the tow truck guys were frowning at the Cadillac, which was not in any way connected to the tow truck.

“These Cadillacs have all kinds of fancy safety features,” the tow truck driver said. “We can’t pop it into neutral if the car isn’t running. Why didn’t Jim-Jam try to jump it for you?”

I explained my situation as thoroughly as I could without the use of a flow chart while the other tow truck guy went across the street to the auto shop. He returned with Jim-Jam’s portable battery jumper.

By this point, so much time had passed that the battery jumper was completely charged. We hooked it up, pressed the Cadillac’s start button, and the engine roared to life.

I thanked the tow truck guys for their help and asked what I owed them for coming out.

“Just a few bucks for gas,” the driver said.

I opened my wallet, revealing the two crisp $20 bills from the ATM and literally nothing else. I handed the tow truck driver a $20 and drove to the auto parts shop.

I stepped inside and told the guy at the counter that I needed a new battery for the Cadillac. As I gave him the make and model, he asked what kind of battery I wanted. I told him I wanted something mid-range.

Of course, there was only one battery in stock, and it was the nicest car battery that has ever existed. Based on the price, this car battery was originally built to the specifications of a deranged billionaire, complete with platinum-plated lugs and a savory blend of battery acid and Henri IV Dudognon Heritage cognac. $180 later, I was finally back on the road and headed to the car wash.

I realize that everyone has days where every possible thing that could go wrong does go wrong. I just wish I didn’t have them almost exclusively.

 

 

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