electric mayhem, exploding cars

When my sisters, friends, or coworkers are considering trying something new or different and ask me for advice, I almost always encourage them to go for it. I tell them they’ll never know what additional doors might be opened by the new opportunity unless they take advantage of it. I tell them that they should use a situation or an experience as a learning opportunity, that even if it sucks they’ll have learned something from it. I tell them that sometimes in life they have to face the things they’re nervous about. They have to do the thing that scares them. We talk about the worst possible outcome and how usually, even in that rare worst-case scenario, there’s something to gain from the experience. Just last night I said most of these things to my sister on the phone, when she was trying to talk herself out of going after a phenomenal opportunity that dropped into her lap this week. (By the way, Ginny, if you didn’t accept the offer, I will totally sock you in the eye.)

This has not always been the case, but right now I’m in a place and time in my life where most of the people around me are women. I believe the women in my life are strong and smart and capable, and I never want them to avoid doing something because they think they might not do it well, or because they’re nervous or scared of it. I hate that so many of the women I know feel unsure of themselves when there’s absolutely no reason for them to feel that way, and I try to do what I can to help them believe in their abilities.

But when I was faced with the possibility of having to jump-start a car this week, I found myself having trouble taking my own advice.

I wasn’t nervous because I didn’t know what to do. As I do with 99% of the situations in my life these days, I looked it up on the internet and studied the instructions carefully. And I took notes.

I was nervous because I am terrified of fire and electricity and was absolutely convinced that I would electrocute myself and/or blow up the car when I tried to connect the cables.

Logically, I know that my chances of blowing up a car are pretty small, but I really spend kind of an insane amount of time visualizing all the things I could do that might make the car blow up. Ditto with electricity. The chances I’m going to electrocute myself are generally pretty small, but I think a lot about all the ways it could happen.

I don’t use my cell phone or even so much as touch my car door when I’m getting gas, because I heard that could blow up the car.

One time I was on a highway off-ramp in heavy traffic and the redneck in the monster truck behind me starting yelling at me that my car was on fire. I pulled over and got out and sure enough, there was a ton of smoke billowing from under the hood – not overheating steam, but actual smoke. I called my parents who told me to try to start the car and at least drive it home, and I was actually crying as I did it because I was pretty sure that starting a burning car would make it blow up. As it turned out, a caliper had locked, causing friction between a few parts including my tire – hence the smoke.

I don’t like to go anywhere near a car battery under any circumstances, because that might make the car blow up (and also electrocute me).

I don’t like to use anything electric if there’s even a trace of water anywhere near me, because that might electrocute me (and blow the house up).

I have a loose outlet in my guest bedroom and I don’t like to use that outlet because I’m afraid it might electrocute me.

I won’t use a hair dryer with the toilet seat up, because I’m afraid I’ll drop the dryer into the toilet and it will electrocute me.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t like to touch anything metal if it looks stormy outside, because I might get hit by lightning.

It’s kind of a wonder I can function in the world.

So anyway, I know that these fears are kind of insane and irrational, and that the best way to get past them is to put myself in some of these situations to see that really, things will be okay. Sammi’s van wouldn’t start this week and on Monday, instead of buying mascara as I’d planned, I took my notes and a set of jumper cables and went to go try to help her jump-start the van.

I was shaking and sick to my stomach on the way over there. I was really, honestly scared. I found myself thinking of the whereabouts of the guys I know – maybe T is in his office, maybe D’s husband or her sons could help us – and then I was furious with myself for thinking that way. I am always telling my sisters to learn how to do things themselves, to be strong and independent. I want to be that way too. I own power tools, dammit. I kill bugs. I AM A STRONG, SMART, CAPABLE WOMAN.

And I got there and the parking spaces next to the van were occupied. And we thought about pushing it out of the space so that my car could get close enough for the cables to reach, but the van was parked on a bit of an incline. Even when it was just in neutral it started to roll forward. I was pretty sure that if Sammi and I got in front of a van parked on an incline, it would run us both over and crash over the hill, through the bamboo, and down onto the softball field below.

And I figured that might make the van blow up, so I decided against that strategy.

And then the next day Sammi went out to get something from the van, decided to try to start it on a whim, and the stupid thing fired right up.

So I guess I’ll have to wait a while before I can conquer my jump-starting fear. I have to admit that I’m pretty relieved about that.

Comments 15

  • Jumping cars is hella easy, and it makes you look super cool to others when they’re like “can anyone jump my car” and you’re like “um.. yeah! I’m awesome at that!” So you should totally learn to do it.

    And yes, I accepted the offer.

  • a) I did not know you knew how to jump a car. Where were you when RedVan crapped out on Sunday?

    b) YAY! Ginny for President!

  • Just so you can allay one of your fears Lorie, I saw a show on Myth Busters (http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/mythbusters.html) where they were testing the cell phone/gas station thing. it was Episode 2: Cell Phone Destruction, Silicone Breasts, CD-ROM Shattering. They completely debunked the myth that you can blow up anything while on the cell phone at a pump. So feel free! Chat away.

  • “I won’t use a hair dryer with the toilet seat up, because I’m afraid I’ll drop the dryer into the toilet and it will electrocute me.”

    Heh, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who won’t go anywhere near a toilet with the hair dryer… =)

  • I am hardly a guy’s guy, but I am pretty handy with the jumper cables. That said, I still stress everytime I do it — always checking the positive and negative connections again and again and again.

  • Couldn’t you have just pulled your car up to the van, nose to nose, like, in the middle of the parking lot? Jumping doesn’t take that long. And no, I’m not normally a parking lot blocker.

  • Nope, this parking lot – known as the pit – is basically a fenced-in pen with parking all around the inner edges of the pen. She was parked up against the fence with two cars in the spaces next to her, so I could only pull in behind her. If that makes any sense.

  • I’m not comfortable using internet chat thingy symbols–I don’t even know what they’re called–but LOL seems appropriate. I was laughing out loud.

    I’ve had a ridiculous number of those exploding car fears with jumper cables. The movie in my head is always cutting between tense, slowing zooming shots of the protagonists watching the cables intently, watching one another intently. We see the hand tense on the keys. (Something creepy and blue is always on the keyring.) There’s a resignation of fate in the eyes of the protagonists. It’s go-time.

    And the car starts and we all go on our way.
    -cK

  • yeah… i’m awesome at jumping cars… and saturday… i was in harrisonburg at a football game in the pouring-ass freezing cold rain.

  • Oh, Sunday… I was working.

  • so I decided against that strategy. (beat) And the next day…

    So, really, you both decided against any strategy. See, I was thinking we’d still get to the jumping-the-van part or about connecting the cables positive to negative rather than p p and n n and making one battery start to smoke and all the fun that could have made. …but, um, no. I see.

    Anyway, here’s a little tip when you find your car dead and finally have to use your jumper cables to jump-start your own car: …actually, it’s not about the cables but another tip that’s SO COOL that everyone will freak that you even know it: Water for the Battery.
    This especially applies when summer and winter starts (respectively). If you look at your battery, you’ll notice that there are two plates on top about 3 inches long and about 2 inches wide, each. Well, those come off. If you take a screwdriver (which you should have in your car with your cables, some gloves, a flashlight, some water, some oil, pliers, a wrench, a socketwrench and steel wool) and pry the plate off. I know, I know, totally scary right but just hum the “I Am Woman” tune or something.

    Anyway, pry those both off and you’ll see holes there – about 4 of them. I’m going to bet that, when you look at Sammi’s battery and pry off the plates, you’re going to find the holes empty, or, more accurately: dry. Those should be filled with water – distilled if you’ve got it.
    Your batteries use it for …conducting the electricity or something. Anyway, that gets down after a while or during extreme temperatures …and I really gotta step away now. Sorry. Anyway; check the water level of the battery and filled within 1/4 of being full – but no worries if you accidentally fill all the way this once – really, not such a big deal.
    Still at work – 9:25 PM – ugh.

  • BTW
    i tried to start the van again in order to let it run for a little while
    no luck

  • I’m so friggin’ tired today. Okay, here’s what I think with the Van. Sammi drove it around on it’s last hydrated gasp and parked it. When it was left overnight, the cooling temps. and condensation of all the water, etc. settled down into an amount that the battery could make due with allowing it to start again – but those fumes are now gone, too.

    Seriously, if you don’t plates on the battery then you’ve got fat pastic screws ( ) that can be turned with a quarter or penny. Or, if not that either, screws that you can turn with your fingers as a tab has been provided. Take the top off, screw or plate, and get a hose or a two-liter bottle of cheap water and just pour water in – don’t worry about doing it perfectly, it’s okay if water spills over the side of the battery, you’re not going to explode or electricute anything/one. The battery will work fine after that. I swear. If it’s over a 1.5 years old then check the water about once a month or just add water just before winter hits and then again at the start of summer.
    good luck.

  • Based on this and other posts, you might consider finding out if you have a mild case of OCD. You might not, but it never hurts to know, so that you can get help with it.

  • my psych says everyone has OCD. i don’t know what he means, exactly, but i fluctuate. cause i read the comments (i can’t remember which post) on ‘one good thing’ and it turns out everyone DOES have all these freaky ass fears/quirks/idiosyncracies/eccentricies. but then, i still feel like i have a lot of them, too. so, who knows.

    as far as the jumper cables, though… it’s hard to get past an irrational fear, but it’s really easy. i used to be really paranoid about doing it EXACTLY right (cause i think technically there’s a proper order to the deal, negative first or something), but then i’ve been around enough people who do it with the ‘good’ car running, who pull all the cables off willy nilly, who put the cables on in all sorts of random order, whatever.

    as long as you get the positives on the positives and the negatives on the negatives (and one of each on the same side), you’re square. yee-haw!

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