2010-08-13

Friday the Thirteeneth Strikes Again

I got a notice in the mail a while back about a recall Toyota is doing on vehicles, including my Prius, for a possibility of floor mats jamming accelerator pedals. Now, I'm more inclined to believe this is more media hype than any actual problem, but as long as it's free, I have free time, and especially since they were promising a free floor vacuuming with the service, I might as well take the car in. So I made an appointment.

I left for the dealer this morning, and my wife promised to leave shortly thereafter in the minivan to pick me up. On my way in, though, I got a call from an upset wife. The van wouldn't start. The battery didn't have enough of a charge to turn it over. This was a new battery, one we bought earlier this year. It should not be dead. Unfortunately, it didn't agree.

Now, fortunately, we have a plug-in battery charger that we got many years ago, so she began charging it while I dropped off my car. Since she was going to be leaving a lot later, I walked over to our next stop, the FedEx center, to pick up a package from my former employer that had apparently already forgotten my correct address. A healthy dose of exercise and still a ten minute wait, and my wife drove by to pick me up.

We were going to get family pictures today, so we went to the shopping center. My wife wanted to stop by the shoe store to get new shoes for a couple of the kids first, so we pulled up there. The baby was still asleep, so I was going to wait in the van. She rolled down the windows and shut off the minivan. While we were unloading, though, the baby woke up. I went to start the car to roll the windows up, but all I got in response was "click click click click click". Despite the 40-minute round trip to pick me up from FedEx and come back to the shopping center, the battery had no charge. And now, we were stranded on the wrong side of the shopping center.

We hiked across the shopping center to get to our picture appointment. Fortunately, it was still morning, so it was not too warm yet; but it was still a decent hike with four kids, slightly uphill, passing a distance that included a full-size Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club (these are not small stores).

Once we got to our picture appointment (on time, even), we started trying to call the phone numbers of anyone we had in our cell phones to see who might be home and who might be able to shuttle one of us home to get jumper cables and to my mother's to pick up her truck.

Getting pictures done, we then went to get lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. While we were there, one of our church friends showed up to drive me to my house and my mother's. At my house, I got my mother's house keys, and then we went to my mother's house. Problem, the house key does not work on the storm door on her front door. It would've let me in from the garage, but I didn't have her garage door opener. We had one in the minivan, but she didn't pick me up from the minivan; she picked me up from the restaurant. (I'm not sure I would've thought to grab the garage door opener anyway.)

Fortunately, she was willing to let us try jump-starting off of her truck. We just had to go back to my house to pick up the jumper cables I forgot to grab. (I was going to pick them up after I got my mother's truck.) And, fortunately more, we weren't inconveniencing her much; through all the driving around, her daughters in the car were lulled into a nap they don't usually get, so she was getting a nice bonus.

Jump-starting the minivan was fairly uneventful, except for the usual problems of trying to get the clamps secured on the terminals and finding a good ground. Rant time: Why don't they make battery terminals longer, so that jumper cables aren't constantly in danger of slipping off the things? And, why don't they make an obvious grounding post for clamping the negative cable? The first place I clamped it was secure, but obviously not a decent ground, as it completely failed to start the car; as soon as I clamped it to a less secure but more obviously metal bolt, the minivan started right up on the first try. Rant over.

We thanked our friend profusely for the ride and vowed not to turn off the minivan for as long as we could. My wife followed me to my mother's, so we could grab her truck. (If we needed to leave the minivan behind while it got its battery replaced, we would need the extra vehicle to get home.) With the garage door opener in the minivan, this was a much easier trip.

We made a long drive to Sears, where we bought the battery, so they could check it out and replace it. Long story short, they were able to replace it while we wandered the store, so we were able to take the minivan home. They said it was in fact a bad battery, and everything else checked out ok. Unfortunately, this not only made the truck unnecessary, having the extra vehicle meant we were unable to simply stop by and pick up my car, which was already done and will now require another extra trip out to go get.

I'm not usually one to consider the 13th of a month falling on a Friday as being anything but a statistical curiosity, but it certainly seemed unlucky today.

Still, it all worked out in the end, and the worst of it was just inconvenience. Annoying, exhausting inconvenience, but just inconvenience.

1 comment:

Brian said...

And then you played Shadowrun. :)