Why me? Scene: a lazy morning opening Christmas presents and having eggs, ham and toast for breakfast then the cleaning up and stock taking of all the new things in the house. Then it's time to get ready to go to the in-law family Christmas lunch. You've heard the idiom: You can choose your spouse but you can't choose the family? The Princess, two days before Christmas, declares she has nothing to wear for Christmas Day. At age 14 she is certainly primed for womanhood if her wardrobe and shoe sense is anything to go by. So SWMBO and The Princess nip up the road for some credit-wear. There we are, The Earl of Hornsby (aged 10) dressed in his suit but sans tie and jacket, me in mine, SWMBO in a black and white number and The Princess in her new dress sans tiara. Down the stairs to the Hyundai limousine...
I'm looking forward to lunch; it's at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia; a fine place to dine.
The arrangements for the day include collecting the Father In-Law, the right honourable Reverend Harry, from the nursing home in his chariot (wheel chair). So it’s just taking him and the chariot in my larger car, eating lunch and coming home again. I presume we’re going to do the hostage-style gift-exchange at lunch.
It's while trekking down the stairs that SWMBO drops the bombshell... "Dad's getting the taxi home, I've organised it.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“Because he’s not coming home with us; he’s leaving after lunch.”
“Why? Where are WE going?”
“To So and So’s place, to open Christmas presents.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
“Yes I did!”
Repeat this a few times.
“They’re not our family” protested I.
“No, the others and us are too far away and So and So is closer.”
So and So are a single child family who hangs onto our Christmas and other major-event family-do’s.
“Great!” say I. Just when I thought I’d escaped the family and not-so-family close-encounter.
We’ve reached the car, all packed in, when I start it. Or rather, I didn’t start it. The battery is flat. “We’ll take the 121.” I say.
“The wheel chair won’t fit” says SWMBO all dressed up in the back seat.
“No problem, I’ll use your car to jump-start mine”
I half get out of the car and push backward so there’s enough room to get to the battery.
“Don’t hurt your back!” says she.
“Argghhh I don’t want to roll down the driveway” yells The Princess.
“Well, it’ll help if you got out, we won’t roll down the drive and I won’t hurt my back”
It’s okay, we’re early (for a change) so it’s just a simple matter of jumping the cars and off we go. The cars are side by side in the garage, but the leads won’t reach so I have to move her car closer to mine... I hop in but it doesn't start it either!
TWO flat batteries?
On Christmas morning…
with Grandad waiting at the nursing home…
and a lunch that’ll be delayed?
A lunch I’ll never hear the end of since it will keep the in-laws waiting?
Oh Baby Cheeses, why me?
“Judy, ring the taxi and see if they can pick your dad up?"
“Why, we’re picking him up.”
“Because if it takes too long to start the cars then at least he won’t be late and we can save time by not having to drive out of our way to get him.” She rings… the wheelchair taxi has another booking on the other side of Sydney.
“arggh!” My brain races at a hundred miles an hour thinking of a way out of this. My car is half-in-half-out of the garage blocking hers. It’s in a rotten position to hill start it down my drive (a feat performed previously) and it’s in the way of SWMBO’s car which could be moved to the right position for the down hill run to battery freedom. The NRMA (road side assistance) will take forever on a Christmas Day to get here…
I’ll connect the battery charger to the smaller battery (her car) give it a few minutes before starting it.
Ten minutes pass and I give it a turn. You beauty! It’s working but doesn’t get a chance to fire before the battery gives out… so I decide to wait 15 minutes. There’s still the problem of my car blocking the way… but no matter, once I have SWMBO’s car started I can back-and-forth until the batteries are close enough to jump it.
Sure enough, in twenty minutes we’re shooting down the road in all our finery.
Oddly, we washed my car the day before. I rarely wash it. Drought, laziness, all that.
Anyway. we pick up granddad from the nursing home with the motor running… funny to see all the old people lined up in the foyer, each in a wheelchair, all dressed nicely… reminded me of planes waiting to take off.
The hanger door opens, we load granddad in and off we go. We arrived in record where the valet looked at my car, a cheap model, with barely hidden amusement as we all piled out. After all, this was the Royal Automobile Club. It occurred to me if my car won’t start then where else better to be?
Surprise! We were the first to arrive at the restaurant a five past noon. The others arrived at twelve fifteen, and marched past us saying hi and merry Christmas in that air-cheek-to-cheek-kissing way they have. They had no sooner sat down that they all arose again and assaulted the smorgasbord of seafood and carvery. I sheltered next to our children and Granddad… whom they all ignored. It was then I realised I’d not warn the valet to park my car on a slope.
Time to decamp as the “family” all filed past like they had arrived; re-performing the same kissing ritual. Goodbye to granddad as he left in the wheelchair taxi. We piled into my car, which, by chance, was parked on a slope and drove off to the Military for “afters”.
The car had travelled 40km so I presumed the battery got over it’s little tiff. I managed to corral a few of my favourite people at the gift exchange and avoid any confrontations; so it wasn’t a bad afternoon in the end.
But it doesn’t end there. We left, the car started well, we drove home and had a lovely immediate family Christmas night together.
The next morning I go out to my car which doesn’t start again.
Nor does SWMBO’s car.
I was going to take the Earl to the skate park.
So I set up mine to charge over night and forget the skate park.
We’ll have to go tomorrow.
This morning the car fails to start. So I try my same trick with SWMBO’s car and the charger. No luck. Both batteries are dead as door nails. We call the NRMA. 30 minutes and $282.00 later our cars start without a whimper…