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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • A Little Salt: Making a quality connection

  • Ever had a dead car battery? Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley can relate.
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  • I’m not a gambler.
    If I were, and were any good at it, my bank account would be far healthier than it is today.
    Still, there are times when I offer a projection and it actually comes true. My most recent accurate prognostication happened a couple of weeks ago.
    I remember it vividly, not just because I was right on target, but because it followed a spell of record-breaking cold.
    My prediction? That my family’s Buick Century, known as Sylvia in the Henley household, would not start following a stretch of frigid temperatures.
    My prediction was based on what I had experienced when I had gone out the day before the snow and cold were due to arrive and turned Sylvia around so the anticipated wind-blown snow wouldn’t be packed in around the driver’s side door. As I turned the ignition key, instead of firing right up as normal, Sylvia hesitated. I took its “Grrr…Rrrr…Rrrr,” protests, despite the fact it was in the mid 30s, as a negative sign. Also adding to my concerns regarding Sylvia’s weakening battery were reports from my wife, Nancy, and daughter, Anna, that Sylvia had also recently “growled” at them.
    I might have been able to head off the inevitable by relocating Sylvia to my basement garage during the polar air invasion. For a time it had been parked there at night when our family’s other vehicle was a van, which would not fit in the basement. However, when the van died and we bought a newer car that would fit in that parking area, it took Sylvia’s spot inside at night.
    The flipping of how Sylvia was parked not only protected the driver’s side door somewhat, it also positioned the car toward the alley which runs next to my house. I knew having Sylvia’s nose pointed south would make giving it a “jump” far easier if my prediction came true.
    A week ago today I received an e-mail mid-morning from Anna advising me that Sylvia’s battery was indeed dead and my services were needed at home.
    As has been frequently documented since I’ve been writing “A Little Salt,” my mechanical skills are limited. My lack of proficiency does not just include household chores, but a majority of automotive tasks.
    Most people would have just called a tow truck and let someone else start the car. But I wanted to try to perform the task and save some money. After all, I had successfully given a jump start before. Unfortunately, it had been years earlier.
    Knowing that I could do significant damage to one or both vehicles if I messed up, I read through the owner’s manual of both cars regarding the process of hooking one battery to another.
    Page 2 of 2 - After carefully hooking up the jumper cables in the proper sequence, I started the car with the good battery and waited. After a few minutes, and with no smoke or flames visible, I jumped in Sylvia and turned the key. “Click, click, click” was all that Sylvia would utter.
    Maybe I hadn’t waited long enough or given Sylvia enough “juice.” I jumped back in the other car and revved its engine while waiting.
    Still nothing.
    By now Nancy had retreated into the house, to both warm up and to start looking up the number of a towing service.
    Still, I was not ready to raise the white flag.
    “Maybe there’s a loose connection, or I need to make another connection.”
    With that in mind I moved the negative ground clamp from one bolt to another.
    Badda bing, badda boom! After just a minute or so I turned Sylvia’s key and the engine roared to life.
    Later that day, after a new battery had been purchased and installed, I began to think about the importance of good connections.
    Designer Charles Eames once noted the significance of quality connections. And while he was talking about “connections” between people, ideas and objects, I learned a quality connection is essential when jump staring a car.
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