My truck died. Dead. Unresponsive. Toe tag it and bag it. Walk home.
Now what I know about cars would fit in a knat's navel, so I've opened the hood and I'm ears deep. I'm looking for a big switch, probably red, that is clearly in the "off" position and needs to be moved to the "on" position. No dice.
Tracey's stepdad, Tom, knows a bit about cars and since he happened to call just then, asks what the deal is. Tracey describes the forlorn clicking heard when I turn the key. Fortunately she doesn't describe the swearing that is also heard, which is in direct correlation. Anyway, he decides it might possibly be the battery. "How old is the battery?" he asks.
"What do you mean, how old is the battery? We bought the truck 6 years ago.", says my young and lovely over the phone, with my distant swearing quite possibly spanning a new and lofty standard for profane expression.
"Well, new truck batteries are generally good for 4 years." Tom told her, kind enough to pretend he doesn't hear my blue diatribe. "You have been driving on borrowed time.". Maybe not an educated man, but sage none the less. "Replace the battery. Like 70 bucks at Sears."
This is good news because I figured we might possibly have to just purchase a new truck, dammit, since my erstwhile trusty transportation is now a sputtering, clicking, immobile parking space taker-upper which makes vile language pour forth from my hole like steam from Ol' Faithful. $70 bucks is a good deal.
Great then, I'll jump it and drive over the shop. Understand, I operate in an entirely technical field which, oh-by-the-way, college didn't prepare me for at all. If I were an engineer or a mathematician or a physicist I might be well suited for my current occupation. Instead, I fell into my current employ by being a good guy who has demonstrated integrity and what we refer to in the business as a "smooth operator". In short, I am head geek responsible for a room full of pocket-protector-wearing, tape-on-the-glasses, making-jokes-with-acronyms-in-them, mainframe-programming, slide-rule-using, Dilbert-looking, blackboard-writing engineer types who speak in a language more cryptic than Latin. In my hands are the reins to the most complex machines I've ever heard of. I am a relatively bright guy.
So I figure I can read the directions on the jumper cables and get my ailing auto to Sears.
Lets see, red to red, black to black and the block. Right. OK. Start up my bride's little Dodge Deathbox, get all three squirrels running. Start my truck. Both cars stop being noisy. Not good.
What I need is some way to rev up Tracey's car while I start the truck. Something to wedge under the gas pedal of her car to keep it revving.
I look over at Emily, my 4 year old. She is looking without judgement at me. Her clear brown eyes full of wonderment at the apparent ineptitude of her father. She must not have heard me swearing earlier, at least I hope not.
"Hey Crash!" I call her Crash because when she was learning to walk she fell down a lot. "Would you like to help?", a silly question because she always likes to help. In fact, when she helps me with any project I am assured of 2 things; one, it will always take at least twice as long as it would without her help, and two, I will treasure every minute of the time spent together. She nods her blond head earnestly. "Tell me what to do Dad."
She's there for me, my heart soars. With a quick and furtive look about to locate the child's mother, I toss her in the driver's seat of the Deathbox. "Want to learn to drive?" I ask. She already knows how to drive, of course. She has already piloted my truck around icy parking lots when no one was around, and in the driveway. With uncommon skill for a 4 year old, I might add. Also without the knowledge and consent of her mother. If ever brought in court I'm positive there is something like the 5th amendment for a father's prerogative. "Just hang on to the steering wheel here and let me slide the seat forward. Well, Crash, It won't slide any more forward, you'll have to kind of hang from the steering wheel like this and press this pedal on the..." The Dodge's engine races to the redline.
"Like this?" I barely hear her tiny voice over the angry, no, pissed off whine of the Deathbox. "Yeah!", I yell "Just like that!"
With another quick glance around with an eye toward maternal threat avoidance, I jump into my truck and turn the key. Nothing. "Keep going Emily!" I yell although I can't see her because remember, she is hanging on the steering wheel with her head on the driver's seat and her foot on the accelerator.
It is about here in the story where I get the vision. I often get them, as anyone who has children will tell you if they are tired enough. I picture myself with St Peter, at the Pearly Gates, trying to explain how Emily's mother killed me dead after my explanation of how the daughter ended up in the San Francisco Bay as sole occupant of her car, failed to impress. "St Pete", says I, "I don't understand it. The car just slipped in gear and took off backward into the Bay. The next thing I knew, WHAMMO.". St Peter was not impressed either.
Praying for a successful conclusion to this episode before my bride appears, I take one more try. The Deathbox's engine is screaming now, in anger at receiving this treatment from a child. The child, I'll inject here, is screaming from laughter and the sheer exhilaration of the noise she alone is producing.
My truck reluctantly spins into life. I quickly disconnect the cables, knowing that I've cheated Karma again. "Hey Crash," I whisper in my very-pleased-with-herself daughter's ear as I extract her from the driver's seat, "Terrific Job. Lets go to Sears."