Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Geographical Oddity

A Geographical Oddity

On this day I nearly was a man of cosntant sorrow

I felt like I was in a movie, one movie in particular came to mind, even a specific scene from “O Brother Where Art Thou”. I’ve seen this film I don’t know how many times and I found myself now in a situation that resembled a comic moment from that movie. Let me back things up to how I got there first.
It was a very hot and humid summer day a few years back, I’m going to say around 2007, or 2008. Sydney and I had left the house late in the morning and were headed to her sister’s home outside of Bloomfield, KY. We were going to a birthday party for one of my nephews although at this time I don’t remember which one.
Since these three nephews in particular are car crazy there was no debating on which car to drive, we took my Mustang. The kids always got a kick out of it, primarily because its loud and to them it’s fast (It’s fun to me not necessarily what I would describe as fast). The car’s loud, (because of the changes I made to the exhaust), it’s shiny, it looks pretty good and it’s a Mustang so the kids are into it. I try to make it a point to bring it over on special occasions since it usually gets them excited.
Since this car is only driven in nice weather it also spends a lot of time sitting in my garage. Normally I keep a trickle charger or battery maintaining device connected to the car so the battery does not drain during long periods between drives. That being said on this particular day the battery was low because it was summer and I hadn’t hooked the car up the charger (I drive it a lot more in the summer).  I had to jump start the car to get it going. I had no reason to be worried otherwise, it had been sitting for about a month as I’d been to busy to get it out and drive it. I was working under the false assumption that a jumpstart and the drive to see the kids would be enough to recharge my battery.
Upon hitting the interstate I realized I would need to get gas at some point if I was to make it to Bloomfield. I decided that I would stop at one of the several stations that dotted hwy 55 between Jeffersontown and Taylorsville, planning to stop closer to Taylorsville since it would give the battery longer to be recharged by the car’s alternator. I chose a gas station and pulled in, filled the tank up and to my horror found that the battery still lacked a strong enough charge to start my car. Since I had yet to make the changeover to a manual transmission that I desired to have in this car from the automatic transmission it came with there would be no push starting.
I was certain that the gas station which featured a small general store/food mart would sell jumper cables as I can recall seeing them at several gas stations through the years. This however was not the case, there were plenty of fireworks and overpriced engine oil, but no jumper cables to be found.
 A good Samaritan inside the gas station offered to go to his house, retrieve jumper cables and come back to get me started, he made good on his offer and I thanked him profusely. Back on the road I knew there was a NAPA auto parts store just on the edge of Taylorsville, my plan was to stop in, buy a new battery and a wrench to install it, this would keep me going not only for the day but also be a better solution to this minor but agitating problem. I found it ironic as well that as someone who worked in the car business daily I was on the other side of the counter so to speak, now in need of someone else’s assistance so I could remedy my car woes.
Upon arrive at NAPA I left the car idling with my wife sitting in the passenger’s seat and ran inside. I was certain they would have a battery since it should have been a common size fitting many Ford and other applications . Approaching the parts counter a rather greasy man with a scraggly beard and dirty t-shirt seemed to ask with his eyes

How hard could it be to find a battery to fit this car?

“Whaddya need city boy” (he didn’t say that, he didn’t say a word).
“Hi, I need a battery for a ’98 Mustang, 4.6L.” I began.
He grunted and began staring at his computer as if it had heard my voice and was going to give an audible response.  He finger pecked away at the keys and tapped the keyboard a few more times.
“Ain’t got it, could have one Monday, probably more like Tuesday though.” He said.
“You don’t have something that I could substitute in it’s place do you? I’m not from this area and so I really can’t wait until Tuesday.” I asked.
“Nope, but you can try ole Smitty’s gas station ‘round the corner, he might have one.”  He said in between drags on his ashy Marlboro.
“Great thanks”.
I made my way out the door and kept my fingers crossed that the car had not stalled or shut off for some inexplicable reason. Five minutes later I was “’round the corner” at “ole Smitty’s”.  I found an older man, balding with white hair and glasses sitting in coveralls on a bench in the shade just outside the garage door on the side of the building.
“How you doing” I greeted him.
“Well, it’s hot” he replied grumpily.  With that reply, I wanted to smartly say “well you know it’s probably not the best weather for coveralls” but I refrained. I could already tell this was most likely also going to be futile, since I wasn’t driving a 1975 Chevy or 1984 Ford pickup it would seem that no one stocked batteries that fit anything but these two models. I would soon find that this premonition had been correct.
After telling the man what battery I needed he lead me to a room in the back where he had batteries literally stacked or piled almost floor to ceiling. After scanning his “Inventory” for a few minutes he said:
“Ain’t got one, probably have it Monday, more like Tuesday”.
It was at that moment I realized I was trapped in a scene similar to the one in “O Brother Where Art Thou”. If you’ve seen this movie try to recall the scene at the general store where George Clooney’s character (Ulysses “Everett” McGill) is looking for parts to repair his broken down (and stolen) car as well as some “Dapper Dan” hair jelly. The store owner tells him both the car parts and the hair jelly are about two weeks away, to which Everett replies “Well ain’t this place a geographical oddity, two weeks from everywhere”.  That one line sums up how I was feeling about Taylorsville on this particular Saturday afternoon.
I am thankful to say that we made it to the birthday party, and with the aide of my brother in law Terry we hit the Wal-Mart in the big metropolis of Bardstown, KY to get a battery so Sydney and I could get home that evening.
I grew up in and still live in what I consider a small town, but I have to say that I was probably spoiled by living in such close proximity to Louisville. It always seemed if we couldn’t find what we needed as kids we were just a short drive from somewhere else that would have it.
It was interesting also to be the customer for a change and remember that helpless feeling when you’re hoping someone else can help you with your car. Sometimes in my work life I forget how much more I know about cars than many of my customer’s and how they must feel being on the other side of the counter. It’s times like that when I need to remember how I felt standing in that NAPA store or there with “ole Smitty” trying to get something as simple as a new battery so I could get on with what I had planned for my Saturday.

1 comment:

  1. Please tell me you had the presence of mind to declare, "Damn! We're in a tight spot!" at some point during all this. :-)