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Archive for Wednesday, April 28, 1999

KIND STRANGERS TURN DEAD BATTERY INTO POSITIVE EXPERIENCE

April 28, 1999

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It was Thursday, raining and I was late leaving Lawrence on the road to Ames, Iowa, to be part of a panel talking to Iowa State journalism students about the joys and challenges of working on a newspaper.

Heading up Interstate 35, I flipped off the radio after listening to all I could handle from another expert, questioning the reaction time of the SWAT team at Columbine High School in Colorado.

At dusk the rain had stopped and I pulled my big, old Suburban off I-35 into a parking space at a rest stop near Cameron, Mo. Mine was the only car in the lot.

I was back in my car in minutes, turned the ignition key and nothing happened.

Impossible.

Oh, the things we take for granted.

Tried again, and this time the engine turned just enough to be annoying.

I did what real men do. I opened the hood, looked inside and wiggled the battery cables. As I headed back to the open car door, a red pickup pulled beside me. I turned the key again, getting only a small grunt from the engine.

"That doesn't sound real good," said the man in the pickup. Then the stranger asked, "How are things in Lawrence, Kansas?"

I guessed he'd seen my Douglas County plates.

I told him things were probably going better in Lawrence right now than under the hood of my car.

He produced a pair of jumper cables, we hooked them up, I turned my key and life was good again.

"I've got a niece in Lawrence who's a dentist. Susan Hall. Got a brother there too, Bob Gillahan," the stranger offered.

I told my guardian angel that his niece was in the same group as my dentists, the Kincaids, and I'd introduce myself the next time I was in.

"You can tell Susan you were jumped by Jude, Jude Gillahan"

I told him I'd tell her I met St. Jude.

It's 7 p.m. and I'm driving down the main street in Cameron looking for a mechanic. It's times like this when you notice most gas stations are really food stores.

I spotted an O'Reilly Auto Parts.

Wayne Byrom, a young linebacker-size clerk, said he wasn't allowed to install batteries but would be happy to take a look at my problem.

Wayne brought out a wrench, battery tester, sandpaper and his pocket knife, and, after cleaning off the positive battery cable and dousing it with Coke, I was back in business.

Car started right up.

During the 10-minute cable scraping, Wayne and I talked about helping stalled motorists.

We theorized there was always the potential for danger and sometimes it was a tough call.

Wayne closed the hood and made it very clear that, aside from buying the Coke, I couldn't pay any money for his services.

I followed him inside and decided to do the next best thing.

I bought a pair of jumper cables.

-- Bill Snead's phone message number is 832-7196. His e-mail address is bsnead@ljworld.com.

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