Chapter 9 – Zen and the Art of Automobile Maintenance

As I left work today, I realized I needed to replenish some supplies before I returned home. I was in a hurry and it was very hot, so I stopped at at the convenience store.

For some reason there’s always a line of people buying lottery tickets at the convenience store, but it still beats fighting the late afternoon crowd of blue hairs at the grocery store. I waited my turn patiently, but with a stern look of disapproval that I’m sure will dissuade these people from returning in the future.

After paying the clerk, I returned to my car. It was at least 100 degrees outside and even hotter inside; sweat immediately dampened my shirt. I unfastened a top button as I inserted the key into the ignition, eagerly anticipating a cold blast of air from the vents. I turned the key.

Nothing. Nada. Not even a click.

I sat there for a minute, fiddling with the various controls. Of course I’ve started my car thousands of times before, but part of my brain clung to the hope that I had just done something wrong, violated some automotive ritual. If I could just get the sequence right, the automotive gods would smile on me and she’d fire right up. I turned the key again.

Silence. The sweat was starting to bead on my forehead, so I cracked the door open to let in some relatively cool air. The door chime rang once, then fell silent.

Yep, pretty sure that battery is done for. Dead, deceased, finito.

But that couldn’t be right. The battery was only three years old and hadn’t given any indication it was dying. No hard starts, no dimming lights. It must be something else.

I popped the hood open and stepped out of the car. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find, but it seemed like the manly thing to do.

Yep, that’s the battery all right, just where it’s supposed to be. Not much to be done. I wiggled the battery terminals just the same.

Of course that did nothing. Time to call in some reinforcements. I phoned my friend John, who immediately drove over. We attached some jumper cables and waited several minutes. There, that should do it.

Click. Click. Dead. Hmm… a little better, but not even close to turning over.

Time for a new battery! There’s an AutoZone not far away, but I didn’t have any of my tools with me to extract the old battery or install the new one. In hindsight that was rather foolish. I have an extensive set of tools at home, but they weren’t doing me any good there. I could have gone home to retrieve them, but that’s all the way downtown. It probably would have taken an hour in rush hour traffic, and I didn’t want to inconvenience my friend any further.

So I bought a new battery at AutoZone, along with an assortment of wrenches, and a pair of pliers, (just in case)–$200 worth of automotive goodness in total. Hopefully the automotive gods would be pleased with my sacrifice and grant me the power of internal combustion.

Every now and then the stars align. We installed the new battery and the car started right up. I shook John’s hand before driving off and made my way downtown, finally arriving home two hours later than I originally planned.

Well, it was just two lost hours. No big deal, right?

You don’t understand–I had plans! I was going to watch “Dead Poets Society” and write an inspirational blog about how I was going to start the third draft of my novel tomorrow. My routine was totally ruined! Why must life be so unfair? Argh!

Well, sometimes life has its own plans. I still ended up watching “Dead Poets Society” and writing this blog entry–just at the same time. It was a pretty good evening.

I do want to write something about starting my third draft tomorrow, but in the interest of time, I’ll condense my original entry thusly:

I took six weeks off from my novel so I could approach the next draft with a fresh set of eyes. Those six weeks end tomorrow. Like my car, my brain now has a new battery, and I can’t wait to get back to work.

P.S. Thanks, John!

P.P.S. Carpe Diem!


About thewoodlander

Kirk Watson is the author of The Grey Tales series of novels featuring squirrel-of-action John Grey. He resides in Austin, Texas.
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1 Response to Chapter 9 – Zen and the Art of Automobile Maintenance

  1. ” …It seemed like the manly thing to do.” Indeed. Look under the hood, wiggle stuff around… It’s what every man does, regardless of whether or not he knows the next step. In my opinion, it’s an endearing ingrained trait in men. I don’t know why I find it cute.
    On a side note, you know what happens when we make plans…
    Good luck with your next revision!

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