The transplendent adventures of Bill living an ordinary life

Yesterday, after sitting through 1.5 days of physics talks, a thought occurred to me: Why not take a walk outside?

I had to go outside anyway. I had some garbage to throw away and some recyclables to put into the appropriate bins. I don’t go outside much these pandemic-ridden days. Why not take a half-hour walk? The weather is warm and sunny. Enjoy the day!

So I change from pajama bottoms to jeans, put on my mask and my hat, grab the garbage and recycling bags and some shopping bags to toss back into the car. I go out to place the various items into their respective containers, with the proud intention of taking a brief walk around the neighborhood.

As I get close to my car to toss the shopping bags inside, I press the “open” button on my car key.

Nothing happens. Normally the car beeps or I hear the sound of the door unlocking.

OK, maybe the battery has run out on the key. It’s happened before.

I dispose of the garbage and recyclables and return to the car. I unlock the car door, and casually press the “door unlock” button on the door’s armrest to unlock the other doors.

Nothing happens.

The key is not the problem. My car’s battery is dead.

The car was fine a couple of days ago, when I drove it to the doctor. I later discovered that I’d left a light on inside the car. It must have drained the battery.

No problem. I have one of those car-jumpstart gadgets. I keep it in the trunk of the car.

It’s then I remember that it’s probably been about two years since I last recharged it, what with my medical problems in 2019 and the pandemic in 2020. Uh oh…

Well, let’s deal with one problem at a time. I go to get the charger.

It’s in the trunk. Which doesn’t open when the battery is dead. There’s no external keyhole or unlocking mechanism.

Well, if worse comes to worst I could always have the car towed to my mechanic, though I wasn’t sure how to shift the gear from Park to Neutral when the gear-stick wouldn’t unlock without power.

Let’s see what we can do. I consult the car’s owners manual, which I keep in the glove compartment.

It takes a while. While the manual has an index, “rear door” or “trunk door” or “back door” aren’t in it. When I consult the section on doors, it gives lots of instructions about how to use the radio-equipped car key buttons, but nothing about what to do when the battery is dead.

Finally, I found the section of the manual that talks about how to open the rear door when there’s no power. The interior access panel to the manual switch is conveniently located under the rear trim right next to the door.

Which means I’d have to unload the trunk from the inside of the car by pulling the seats down and dragging out my usual collection of emergency auto supplies and party games.

Fortunately, after I finish pulling down the rear seats, I found I could reach inside the trunk to pull out the charger gadget. It’s a bit of a reach, but there are times when it’s nice to be 6’4″.

I take out the gadget. With trepidation, I push the “how much charge have you got left” button.

Two-thirds charged. Wow! Not bad after a couple of years in the trunk.

I hook up the gadget to my battery (fortunately I can pop the hood without power), get in the driver’s seat, put the key in the ignition, turn the key.

Nothing happens.

Had my battery been destroyed by the discharge? Maybe. I’ve seen that happen before, though not on this car.

I go back to the charger. I look at the power adapter carefully. Among the instructions written on it: “If the car doesn’t start, push the BOOST button until the light turns green.”

I push the BOOST button. Its light turns green. I rush to the driver’s seat, turn the key.. and the car starts! Yay!

Of course, I know I have to give the battery a chance to charge. So I sit in the car for a couple of minutes, revving the engine slightly. With the engine still running, I get out, disconnect the jumpstart gadget, and close the hood.

I get back into the car and keep my foot loosely on the accelerator pedal, just enough to keep the engine revving. I sit there for 15 minutes, hoping that the battery will charge.

Now it’s time for the real test: I turn off the ignition.

I turn it on again. The car starts! Double yay!

I know I should give the car battery more time to charge. So I drive on the New York State Thruway for about 15 more minutes to let the alternator work its magic.

By this time, it’s been about 90 minutes since I stepped out of my apartment for that short walk. I was getting hungry. So I thought I’d give the battery one last test: I went to a pizza place.

I got myself a couple of slices to take out. The problem: I was the only one there wearing a mask. Neither the employees or the customers bothered with them. I stood in the corner of the place and tried to avoid people as best I could. The other customers, observing that I wore a mask, showed no courtesy for my health concern at all. I had to move a couple of times to avoid people who seemed compelled to stand near me.

I won’t be going back there again, at least not until my doctor gives me the all-clear.

With the hot slices in hand, I got back into the car, turned the key into the ignition… and the car started normally. Triple yay! Minus one yay for the poor behavior of the folks at the pizza place.

I took the car jumpstart gadget inside with me. It’s charged up now, ready to be returned to my car. I’ll keep it in the front passenger seat for a while, until I’m certain that the battery is healthy.

The moral of this story: There’s more than one way to turn a good intention for exercise into a pizza run.

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