Monday, December 08, 2008

The Cool New Gadget

I am not a gadget person. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, loves to give me the latest in egg slicers and stainless steel upright spoon holders. Which is fine, but I am the sort that is happy with a sharp knife that I got at the dollar store years ago, and I use it until the wooden handle breaks, and then I tape it together and keep using it.

But today I got a cool new gadget I am very excited about.

Before we go there, a confession: I have never learned how to use jumper cables.

Crazy, yes, seeing as how I grew up in Minnesota and spent 8 years in Northwestern Ontario in Canada, both places where the winters get so bitterly cold that the little hairs in your nose get frosty and the ice on the lakes gets so thick you can drive on it.

And where every self-respecting car has a little cord hanging out the front, and so when you get home from work you pull on the thick gloves and wrap the scarf around your mouth and nose, and then you wade through the snow and kick around until you find the stiff, frozen extension cord under the snow, and then you plug in your car and go inside knowing that all will be well when you go to start it the next morning.

But sometimes you are parked somewhere else, like a church or mall parking lot, and you come out and turn the key while your breath fogs up the inside of the windshield and your teeth chatter, and all that greets you is a feeble rrrrnnnn rrrrnnn and then silence.

Or sometimes, even when it's not winter, you leave your lights on and the same thing happens, like that one time I had left the car in long-term parking at the Portland airport and was left stranded at midnight.

And then you need to use jumper cables. Would you believe I have always always been so blessed, not only to be rescued, but by someone who knew what they were doing? Always, the other person, usually a burly hairy lumberjack type with a pickup truck, pulled up to help me and calmly attached the cables while his breath whooshed away in clouds and his moustache turned frosty, and soon had me on my way.

This is what I can never remember--is it positive to positive or positive to negative? My dad tried to teach me this, my brothers, my landlord, my friends, my husband, and to this day I cannot remember.

And the story is if you get it wrong you'll have sparks and battery acid spewing in all directions. Or something.

For the last ten years I haven't had to deal with cold killing my car battery but I have had to deal with a little bare-bones Honda that is wonderful in many ways but has no warning system when you leave the lights on.

The last time I did this was out at Emily's and I would have been sunk if our friends Ted and Mary hadn't been in the area. Ted pulled his truck up like a good bearded Minnesotan and attached the cables and rescued me.

And once again I didn't have to do anything except turn the key when I was told and act grateful, which wasn't hard.

But now, at last, I'm all prepared for the day when my battery dies and the other party is a scatterbrained female who doesn't know how to use jumper cables either.

Paul's Aunt Susie sells Avon products, and the girls and I like to sniff through the catalog now and then. Well, the last one offered, of all things, a charger that consists of a long wire and a plug on each end that plugs into the cigarette lighters. That's it.

Here it is.

I bought it.

Aunt Susie brought it over today. It looks wonderfully simple but capable. And unlike most electrical, masculine gadgets, it has directions written for people like me. One plug says: "Dead battery." The other plug says, "Good battery." The directions are so easy they fit on one small paper and there are only 5 steps. Step 4: "Start the vehicle with the good battery, and leave it running while it charges the dead battery." See? Isn't that amazing?

I am really tempted to leave the Honda lights on for a while tomorrow to see if this thing actually works.

Quote of the Day:
"It took me years to figure out that Skin-So-Soft wasn't some cleaning solution."
--Emily, since I used to get Avon SSS from Susie and use it as mosquito repellent and to dissolve sticker residue


  1. Murphy's Law, Corollary #12; If you have jumper cables, you will not need them. when you need them, you will discover both sets are in the OTHER vehicle.

    I use a version of this corollary when going to the beach. If you take a coat/dry clothes/sunscreen/lunch, you will not need it. If you don't, you will.

    I have two jumper cable stories...(one day, you will limit the size of the comments, right?).

    The first is that I had just gotten the electrical system overhauled on my truck and something was not working right and the battery died. When we jumped it, my dh didn't look at the POSTS on the battery, just the color of cable going to it--which happned to be switched--and we got the sparks, and smoke and had to have parts of the electrical system REDONE!!

    Second, and longer...I have always been a tomboy and loved working on cars. My mother told me this was unladylike. One day, when I was youngish--20-something--I really had to go somewhere but my battery was dead so I called my best friend to send her really cute brother over, or her husband or dad, to help me. But she came herself, the most feminine lady I knew came and jumped my car for me. How cool was that!! No longer do I believe my mom that it is not "ladylike" to work on cars!!
    (My friend is still my best friend by the way, and there will never be anyone else to take her place!)

  2. What a cool gadget. I Want one, too. I also have a fear of jumper cables. I think I have some in my van, but no clue how to use them. I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.

    I just remembered my worst dead battery story. I was in college and had a dead battery after class. I called campus security and the guy came and told me their battery charger wasn't working and that they weren't allowed to use their vehicles to jump start people. Then he left. Someone eventually helped me, but I was extremely unhappy with the supposed security at my school. I think I wrote a letter to the school paper about it.

  3. That looks VERY cool!

  4. Thankfully, I've never had to deal with that by myself. Papa's always been with. That does sound like a really nifty gadget. I would like to know if it really works. If you do test, I want to know. :)

    How well does the Skin so Soft work on sticker residue? I have used GooGone, rubbing alcohol and some really strong stuff I cannot remember the name of and some double sided tape just will not come off the wall. Previous owners. What were they thinking!

  5. to coveredwithjoy--SSS is the Best Stuff Ever for sticker residue of any kind. You dab it on, let it soak a while, and wipe it off with a tissue and then wash. For some things you have to soak, peel off a layer, and soak some more. But it's the best I've ever found.

  6. Very Nice! One thing to remember though, you will need about 5 to 10 times more charging time because the wires are so much smaller than with a "proper" jumper cable. :-)

    Still a very nice idea for those who get confused by what gets hooked where. It avoids blowing up your car's battery if you were to get it hooked up wrong.

  7. So does it work?? I'm thinking of ordering one. This is another MN girl who has never jumped a car. In fact I currently don't even have a set of jumper cables in my car. Crazy I know. I tend to be more concerned if my phone battery is charged rather than check my car battery!!

  8. Susan--Paul the wise husband says this gadget probably wouldn't work very well if it's really cold because. . .uhh. . .something about the oil getting thick and slow. Obviously I haven't had a chance to try it.

  9. Well, I for one do know how to use jumper cables, having had a lawn mower that for many years needed a jump quite often. Just remember, positive to positive...and the positive sign is a +!!