Batteries and Boom

BONEHEAD BLUNDER: A lack of understanding
THE BONEHEAD: A DIYer
BONEHEAD RATING: 5
WHAT HAPPENED: Most of the locals eschew “come-heres,” forgetting that unless they started life here as amoebas, they are comeheres, too. Me? I think the northerners — New Yorkers, particularly — bring with them a new sense of vitality to the area, and may (depending on how badly you anticipate you’ll be beaten) have raised the IQ of the area by more than a few points. Mind you, I was offered that observation by a New Yorker. Anyway, I know bankers, bakers, butchers, and … no, I don’t think I know any candlestick makers, but if there were one, I’d know one. One thing they all have in common is that they will do for themselves whatever someone might have charged them to do.

My friends, Dick and Dave (if they didn’t anticipate this column they’re in the big-time now; hi, guys!) are great. Dick is retired, Dave is trying to. They love fishing and own a boat together as father and son.

I wish my dad and I had bonded like that. One of the things I normally did for them was replace batteries when they asked. Apparently, New York batteries don’t last as long as Virginia batteries, so replacing them was a routine every couple of years. They wanted to replace perfectly good batteries? I did it. This year, Dave, wanting to dip his toe into the retirement pool, decided to replace the batteries himself.

Dave couldn’t see the batteries, but he knew they were stuffed under the console somewhere. He found them, disconnected the cables, pulled out the old ones, installed the new, and … let’s see … were these hooked in parallel or series? Must be series, as a fourstroke needs plenty of “oomph” to crank.

The first call I got was from Dave, who said it was amazing how fast his 250 pounds exited a portable toilet console designed for a 3-year-old when something went “ZZZZZZZZPPPPPPPP” and smoke filled the compartment while he was trying to get to the battery switch. I made him take every cable off the batteries, explained the difference between series and parallel, and told him I’d be over. That evening I went there and made him get up into the console, and we went through the hook-up process again. I made certain he knew the ramifications of hooking red to black, and vice-versa. He assured me he had it covered. By golly, he was lucky. Everything actually worked!

Next call was the next day. He came back from fishing and the engine wouldn’t tilt. Does everything else work? I asked. Actually, nothing does. Bunches of emails bounded through the skies: What did I do wrong? I dunno. How fast can you get to it? I dunno, but if you want, you can call ___. Nah, I’ll wait for you. (Damn!) Fish are running. What time can you be here? In time to have a military funeral if you don’t get off my back!

I got into the console and understood the level of the sound it must have taken to get him out of the console lickety-split. Even with no impetus, it took me an age to extricate myself. Every black wire in the system was crispy and had some portion of the wire showing metal. Three hours later, with Dick handing me tools and stuff, we were down to the last problem, which was a blown main fuse on the engine. We replaced that, strapped up the hanging repairs, and called it done. Funny, but I haven’t heard a peep from Dave since. I still think he and his dad add a lot to the community. I mean, look what they did for my checkbook!

LESSON LEARNED: If I’m lucky, Dave has learned to not touch anything other than the ignition key unless I say it’s OK.

Bonehead Blunders

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