Dollars to doughnuts, this was the wrong call | Editor’s notes

I begin by saying I love doughnuts.

I know they’re bad for me. They give me heartburn, leave me feeling bloated and, let’s face it, they don’t make it any easier to fit into my pants every morning.

So I compromise. I only eat them on special occasions. Like, say, on days when the sun comes up.

But after last Saturday’s misadventures, I’m finally beginning to wonder if they’re worth it. I had “One of those days,” and I invite you to come along for the ride:

9:10 a.m.: Full of coffee and semi-eager to get on with my day’s work, I instead decide to head to my favorite little doughnut shop in Orland for a quick sugar fix. It’s chilly outside, but I stick to my shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops, reasoning “I’ll only be outside for a few seconds.”

9:20 a.m.: I arrive to Bill & Emily’s in downtown Orland, order myself a cinnamon roll and my wife a cream-filled maple bar, go outside and prepare to drive home. Only … my car won’t start.

9:22 a.m.: I pop open the hood and notice the unmistakable sight of corrosion all around my battery terminals. I figure a good cleaning will get me back on the road, but I don’t have any tools in the car. So I decide “Heck, I’ll just hike up to the auto parts store and pick myself up a battery terminal cleaner and a socket set. I should keep a set in the car anyway.”

9:24 a.m.: A guy parked next to me asks “Hey, need a jump start?” I assure him I’ll be fine.

9:26 a.m.: Less than a block from my car, I start to wish I’d put on pants, socks, shoes and a jacket before leaving the house. It is cold. Suddenly, I’m that struggling old bald guy you see walking down the streets in a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops on a windy morning, feeling every bit my bone-frozen 62 years.

9:40 a.m.: I arrive at the auto parts store. I buy what I need and begin the hike back.

9:55 a.m.: Fully confident and freshly armed with tools, I pop open the hood — but, not before accidentally popping open the latch to my gas tank — and get to work. I clean the battery terminals in record time, get back in the car and try again.

Nothing.

9:59 a.m.: The same guy asks “Hey, are you sure you don’t want a jump start?”

“Nah, I need a battery. I’ll just call Triple A,” I said.

10 a.m. I call Triple A. I’ve been calling Triple A for 40 years and never had a less-than-great experience. This time, I’m answered by a robot named Ursa.

10:01 a.m.: Ursa and I are having trouble communicating. I really want to speak with a person to let them know where I am. Instead, I get this map thing on the little screen of my iPhone, and I have to pull the little “arrow” to my exact address, which is hard to do when your fingers are coated with frosting from a cinnamon roll.

10:05 a.m.: I’m squared away with Ursa, yet stunned when she tells me “90 minutes.” NInety minutes? I’d never waited that long for Triple A. But, well, I need a battery, and this way, my car will be good as new … right?

10:06 a.m.: The guy who asked me twice if I needed a jump start drives away. I begin to miss him.

10:32 a.m.: My stepson, who must share my great taste in doughnut shops, pulls up next to me. He’d been keeping Hank the Dog for a visit, so I ask “Is Hank with you?” “No, I already dropped him off at the house,” he replies.

It occurs to me that Hank the Dog (who doesn’t drive) had somehow made it from Chico to Orland in less time than it took me to get to the doughnut shop and back.

10:35 a.m.: My stepson asks “Hey, need a jump?” I assure him I’ll be fine.

10:45 a.m.: Patience is not my strong suit, and I have a Sunday column to write. So I start typing. On my iPhone. With my glaze-stained fingers. If last week’s effort seemed below par to any of you, that’s my story, and I’m literally sticking to it.

11:38 a.m.: It’s been more than 90 minutes, and still no sight of Triple A. So I try to call Ursa back. Only — quite possibly because my fingers are still a little sticky — I misfire in my address book, and I accidentally hit an entry near Triple A.

Care to guess who I called by mistake?

That’s right — Tod Kimmelshue.

11:38 a.m. and 12 seconds: Exasperated by my latest misfire, I yelled “Oh my God! I just accidentally called Tod Kimmelshue instead of Triple A,” or colorful words more or less to that effect. Nothing against our District 4 Butte County Supervisor, but he’s typically not my go-to guy when I have a dead battery and besides, I don’t even live in his district.

11:39 a.m.: I call again — Triple A, not Kimmelshue — and eventually get a live person. I’m told there is “no guarantee” of what time they’ll show up, the original 90 minutes was “just an estimate” and there was no update.

“But they’re working on it,” I’m told. “Who’s working on it?” I ask. “They are. Dispatch,” came the reply.

“Can I call dispatch and ask how long it’ll be? Because if it’s a half hour, that’s fine. If it’s three or four hours, I need to do something else.”

“No, you can’t speak with them. And they’re working on it.”

11:40 a.m.: Naturally, in the midst of this discussion with Triple A, Tod Kimmelshue calls me back. I hang up without answering. He tries again. And again. You really have to admire such dedication from an elected official, especially on a Saturday morning.

Noon: I decide to cancel the Triple A call and just go back to the auto parts store and buy a battery myself. The person who answers assures me, again, “They’re working on it.” I said “Well, they’ve been ‘working on it’ for two hours now, so just I’m going to cancel and let them start working on something else, OK?”

What I should have said was “Besides, in the amount of time you’ve been ‘working on it,’ a county supervisor has already called me three times to see what I wanted.”

12:05 p.m.: I call my wife for help which, let’s face it, is the last thing some of us men want to do when we’re having automotive issues. She readily agrees, says she’ll be right over, and reminds me to remove the battery first, to save time.

12:06 p.m.: Good idea. I start to remove the battery. Only …. the socket set I bought doesn’t have a “deep socket” which means I can’t unscrew the bar that helps hold the battery in place. So that means if I’m going to get the battery out before my wife shows up, I’d have to walk back to the auto parts store a second time to buy the right socket. Or I could just wait. So I wait. Besides, I’m still cold.

12:15 p.m. My wife shows up. First thing she says is “Hey, why is the cover to your gas tank open?” I mumble “Hit the wrong button” and we drive up to the auto parts store so I can buy a wrench or deep socket so I can remove the bar over the battery so I can take it to the auto parts store to make sure I buy the right kind of battery and thus not make yet another return trip, which would make three trips for the same reason. Yes, this has gotten a lot more complicated than it was a couple of hours ago, and that was even before I brought a county supervisor into the mix.

I’m also thoughtful enough to ask my wife “Hey, still want your doughnut?”

12:22 p.m.: We come back from the auto parts store. I’ve got all the right tools and now I’ve even got the right battery. Just a few knuckle-scraping minutes later, I get the old battery out, the new battery in and I get back inside my car.

It starts.

I also plug in my iPhone, which had my entire last week’s column typed out on the tiny, tiny screen. That battery, too, was almost dead. So I guess the day could have been worse. I would have hated to write last week’s boring column a second time.

12:24 p.m.: I drive past my wife, roll down the window and say “Thanks!”

And she says … “Thanks for the doughnut!”

12:26 p.m.: I finally call Kimmelshue back to explain how I’d accidentally called him in the first place. Fortunately, he was very understanding.

The way things are going, I like to think he probably needed the laugh.

Mike Wolcott is editor of the Enterprise-Record. If you ever need to borrow a socket set or battery terminal cleaner, he keeps both in his car now. You can email him at mwolcott@chicoer.com, but it’s 50-50 he’ll return your message as quickly as Tod Kimmelshue.

 

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