The Walmart mechanic was standing there staring at my ’99 Accord with the hood up. He had just broken the cable connector that attaches to the battery terminal post. It really wasn’t his fault. This is my extra “train station” car and it sits outside in the cold a lot. The battery had an acid leak that had corroded the connector down to a thin circle of copper which snapped on one side. Now the car wouldn’t start at all, and he couldn’t do anything about it.
I was trying to save a few bucks by replacing the battery at Walmart, and they don’t do “complicated” repairs like replacing a clamp. It was 7:15pm and the only other place open in Tracy that could fix it was Sears, about 2 miles away. I did not have enough time to get the car towed and I didn’t want to make my wife drive across town to pick me up and come back tomorrow.
Instead of reacting with impatience and anger, I went into thinking mode. How could I get the car started and get it to Sears before 8:00pm? Clock’s ticking. The only help the mechanic offered was to push my car out of his garage into the parking lot so I could deal with my own problem.
I took a deep breath and studied the remaining shard of metal on the clamp. I asked him “Is this made of copper?” He shook his head yes.
“Have you got any copper bailing wire I could wrap around to hold it on?” He started looking nervous, as I was WAY outside the policy manual at this point. He slowly wiped his hands on his pants and shook his head no.
I ran inside Wal-mart to look for copper wire. I walked by the food aisle and noticed a display of plastic chip clips. Aha, I need some sort of clamp! But the clamp should be made of copper. Aha, I have jumper cables in my trunk! I hustled back outside to test my theory. The jumper claw squeezed what was left of the clamp onto the post and the car started! I coiled up the rest of the jumper cables and laid them on the manifold, careful not to let metal touch metal. The hood barely closed down, and I jumped in and drove to Sears for a new battery.
Maybe this is a guy thing, but I was SO happy to score MacGyver points and get the car fixed that night (and not blow up my car on the way to Sears.) The lesson for me was in the “diehard” way I reacted. The answer to a problem rarely presents itself when you go into panic mode, or lash out at someone else with an emotional response.
Even when the clock is ticking, take time to stop and think.