Car Problems Can Be A Good Thing

Last night, as we pulled out of our driveway to run an errand, Marathon Girl's car died. Just shut off an rolled to a stop, the tires bumping softly against the curb.

I hate car problems, mostly because I'm mechanically inept. I have no idea where to start. Fix a computer or clean up someone's writing I can do without a problem. Fix a car? I can pop the hood. That's about it.

I felt fortunate that the car died by our house. Marathon Girl was able to take the two kids inside while I ... well ... popped the hood.

Using my great powers of deduction, I figured it was an electrical problem seeing how no lights or anything worked. Then I started going through the things that could be wrong: battery, battery cables, alternator, a short in the wiring. I stopped there. I figured it wasn't the battery as we had just replaced it this summer. There was some serious corrosion on the positive battery terminal. Maybe it wasn't getting a connection. That was about all I could think of. It was anything other than a battery or connection problem, I had no clue what to do.

A neighbor helped me push the car into the driveway. (Our driveway is on a rather steep incline) It took the two of us a minute but we were able to push the car off the road. The neighbor who helped was just about mechanically illiterate as me and after looking under the hood for a second, reached the same conclusions as I. Before we disconnected they battery, we tried to jump start it. Nothing.

By this time it was dark. I began removing some of the corrosion around the battery cable so I could disconnect it. Then another neighbor who lives in the house directly behind us and noticed the hood on my car up, stopped by to help.

I should point out I'm a lousy neighbor. Marathon Girl and I have lived in our house a little over a year now and I still haven't talked to or introduced myself to this neighbor or his wife. I wave to him when we're outside doing yard work at the same time or wave as we're going to and from work but that's about it. I don't even know his name.

After a brief introduction, turns out the neighbor in the house behind us is a mechanic. He returned a minute later with all sorts of cool diagnostic tools. Within five minutes he checked the battery and the fuses and everything seemed to be in order. In another two minutes he had disconnected the battery, cleaned the connection, and reconnected the cables back to the battery.

"Start the car," he said.

The car started right up.

Then the three of us stood around talking, getting to know each other better and doing general guy talk. (Think alley talk in King of the Hill, only without the beer.) The neighbor behind us mentioned he was in need of some gravel. So happens that Marathon Girl and I have a lot of gravel in an unused dog run that we're hoping to get rid of.

As inconvenient as the car problem was, I'm glad it happened. I finally got to meet and make friends with one of our neighbors -- something I should have done last year.

Now I need to open up to the neighbors on the East. I just hope it won't take some kind of car or other problem in order to know them better.