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March 2, 2016

Jump

What is technology good for?

Nothing.

Tesla has produced a car that can go over a hundred miles on battery power. Google is teaching vehicles have to drive themselves around. Automobiles as a whole have been around for a century now.

So it completely blows my mind when I walk outside, sit down in my car, turn the ignition, and… nothing. No click. No lights flicker. It’s dead. Lifeless.

Not this again. I look up to check the lights, but neither of them were left on. Then I check the doors. Yup. There’s the problem. One of the backdoors on the passenger side is ever-so-slightly ajar.

The seal is broken just enough for the light to stay on and for my car, in all its brilliance, to sit there and die. If I had gone somewhere the day before, maybe, just maybe, I’d have hopped in before the battery was brained and got the juices flowing in time. But I left the car alone with a slightly open door for over twenty-four hours, and it was too stupid to handle the situation.

I turned the key again, because you know, why not? But of course nothing happened. It was as dead as before. Probably deader.

My phone’s beside me. I think about calling AAA. It wouldn’t be the first time. I dial the number, and within an hour, someone will take care of it.

But no, I feel like less of a man every time I do that. My father taught me how to jump a car over ten years ago. He made it look simple. It wasn’t. The one time I managed to jump a car since then, my girlfriend was the one to figure it out.

This time, dialing that number would be worse. I knew, less than a few feet away, there was a jump starter sitting in my trunk. I wouldn’t have to deal with the trouble of finding someone with enough vehicle, hoping they would hop out with jumper cables in hand and take care of the entire situation for me. There would be no digging out old rusty cords from the back of my trunk, unsure if they’re at all safe to use, and fumble around with which ends to clamp where, and when.

So it was decided. I would do this. I popped the trunk, hopped out, and grabbed the jump starter. Then I walked to the front of the car, put the battery down, opened the door again to pop the hood, then found myself staring down at an engine I didn’t understand. But that was okay. I knew where the battery was, and that was all that mattered here.

Honestly, I didn’t know much more about the battery than that. I saw where the plus and minus symbols were. Plastic covers hid the parts I was supposed to put the clamps on. Or not put the clamps on. I knew only one went on, but I wasn’t confident which one.

So I sat back inside the car again and dug out the instruction manual. But somehow the instructions for the jump starter assumed that I already knew what to do with the thing. It said little to clarify where to put what. But it at least pointed out that it was the positive one that you clamp onto the battery. The other one goes onto something metal.

I looked back under the hood. There was plenty of metal, that’s for sure. The problem was that three quarters of it looked like something that could kill me easier than not if something went wrong. In my head, the entire contraption was a potential bomb that would blow the second I injected current anywhere.

I took the black clamp and stuck it to the most harmless looking part of the frame I could think of. Hopefully I was supposed to do that first. Then I attached the red one to the battery. After a nervous breath, I turned on the jump starter and waited for the whole thing to blow.

Nothing happened. There were no sparks. I heard nothing. Lights didn’t even come on. Was the thing working?

Well, I knew enough to know that the car wouldn’t magically come to life. I had to start it. So I sat back down in front of the steering wheel, pulled out my keys, and took another nervous breath. Inserting them into the ignition, again, could make the whole thing blow. That the entire vehicle hadn’t gone up in flames when I attached the clamps was merely a freak accident.

Ready to accept my fate, I inserted the key and turned. At first, nothing happened. I turned the key back, shaken. Then I tried again. This time the lights flickered in a way that looked out of place in anything but a horror movie. Again, I stopped, shaken.

The next few times, the lights continued to freak out. Then, suddenly, I heard the engine come to life.

The entire ordeal had taken under five minutes.

I unclamped the jump starter and stuck it back in the trunk, thankful I had taken the leap.

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“Jump” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.