This past July, my daughter Cara and I drove up to Erie for a doctor’s appointment, some shopping, and a mother/daughter dinner for two. Erie is a relaxing, forty-minute drive from Meadville and has the best stores. Although that day hosted the perfect sky and temps to hang out at our pool, we needed to head north. We looked forward to a great afternoon together.
After the appointment, we went to Christmas Tree Shops (and That!). I had to return an unused beach chair there.
If you’ve never been to this store, it’s filled with amazing bargains and various items beyond Christmas season. The shop appealed to me much more than my fifteen-year-old who wanted to finish the last pages of her book (Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Who remembers that one?) I wanted to peruse the aisles a bit more, so I handed Cara the keys to unlock our Honda Pilot and told her to turn the AC on. I warned her to be careful when turning the key in the ignition because the key fob was cracked.I shopped for about fifteen more minutes and scored some great deals, like these goodies.
“Why is it so hot in here?” I asked as spurts of heat came out of the vents that are supposed to deliver cool relief during a scorcher.
“I don’t know. I’ve been dying in here,” she panted.
It took a moment to realize that Cara didn’t actually turn the car on but instead just ran the fan and stereo system. The key was in the ignition, all right, and drained the battery. I tried to start it up, and got nothing. “Cara, why didn’t you turn the car on?”
“I thought I did. The radio and air are on.”
“Nuts and bolts! This is not AC. It’s hot air from the fan.”
“So why is the fan so hot?”
“Because it’s 70,000 degrees outside, and that’s what the fan is drawing it’s breath from. Geez oh man! You’re cheeks are all red. Why didn’t you open the door?”
“Because you always tell me to lock it when I’m in here by myself. Wow! I’m thirsty, did you buy any drinks?”
“No. I have no drinks.” I attempted to start the car several more times, hoping, praying, sweltering. “The battery is definitely dead. Our jumper cables are in the other car. I’ll go back into The Christmas Tree Shop and ask for help. Stand in front of the car and make sure no one parks there.”
“What?” she asked incredulously.
I planted my feet where I wanted hers to go, and said, “Please, just stand here. If someone comes and tries to park in this rock star spot, ask them not to because we need a jump.” She took her post and crossed her arms in confusion and impatience. Ask me how I felt.
“Hey, Mom!” she called out to me while I hurried back into the store. “Can you get that beach chair you took back, so I can sit out here?” Really? “Hey, mom! Did you hear me?” Why? Why me, Lord? (That’s what my own mother used to say during my teen years. Karma can go kick rocks in the parking lot with my sweaty kid.)
I explained my dead battery situation to the manager, the one who refunded my money for the chair (that I did not repurchase), and she generously put an all call out to her staff: “Attention Christmas Trees Shop Employees, if you have jumper cables please come to the service desk.” A friendly college girl named Lydia came up and her boss explained my dilemma.
Lydia was more than happy to assist. She said she was glad to get into the sunshine before her shift ended in ten minutes. She pulled her car into the spot guarded by Cara and popped her hood. In the meantime, I searched for the lever to pop my own. Guess what? I couldn’t find the hood-popper. I only had the vehicle for five years, so cut me a break. And when I get nervous and frazzled, I start pushing random buttons without thinking.
Lydia found the hood-popper and got things connected with the big red and black metal clothespins. She said she knew how to do this from jumping her boyfriend’s car. Wow! The most I did for Harry’s car when he was my college boyfriend was… hmm. I can’t remember, let me ask. Oh snap, he reminded me that I killed his battery. It was an old diesel car and I didn’t wait for the glow plugs to warm up, or something like that. So, I guess we are a family of voltage killers.
After getting everything prepped for the jump, Lydia gave me the thumbs up. I turned the key to silence. Nothing happened. We tried many more times without success. She recruited her co-workers to assist. Twenty minutes later, we still had nothing. We took a break to let the juices between the vehicles flow. I was frustrated and felt so bad for the employees standing in the heat to help me. They were all soooo nice though. I kinda wish we were tailgating together, but I only had a giant bag of popcorn to share. I knew Lydia’s shift had ended, and I told her I would just call a tow truck. She waited with kindness and patience and claimed she had no plans that evening.
The pause panned out and the car currents connected. “Cheers! Hip hip hooray! Giddy up!” and other happy exclamations echoed from me and these good samaritans.
We didn’t go to dinner and drove home, just hoping that we wouldn’t stall and the battery juices were restored. I kept the windows down, the sunroof open (no AC, no radio, no extra strains on the heart of my ride). Cara enjoyed the Santa sack of popcorn I bought at the Christmas Tree Shop. We made it home with 72 mph windblown hairdos. Harry just looked at us, and said, “Wow! Crazy hair! How was the appointment?”
“Good appointment. Our crazy hair means we should really get that new SUV we talked about.”
“Ok? I thought we decided to keep it until Christmas, since our last payment is next week. I thought we’d bank a few bucks to save up for the holidays.”
“Listen, I met an entire store of Christmas elves and think Santa would rather we take care of this now.”
We ended up getting a one-year-old Honda Pilot to replace our older one. I didn’t like the thought of driving during a northwestern winter with a car that was prone to poop out and cause trouble because I ran it into the ground during the 59 months I “paid to own it.” I’m hard on cars, so I needed reassurance that I could go from points A-B-C to X-Y-Z with safety, reliability, and a warranty. Oh, and I wanted a keyless fob this time too.
I truly felt the spirit of giving at the Christmas Tree Shops in Erie, PA. I tried to give Lydia a tip to thank her, but she refused the money and said she was just happy it all worked out for us. She’s the type of person who could carry Santa’s sack when his sleigh needs a tune up. I’m sure when he checks his list, she is sure to be found on the “good” list.