Saturday, July 17, 2010

battery

Sitting here in front of the computer at 4:28 AM, I try to remember how I got this hung over. My head feels like a balloon that has been blown up to just this side of bursting point. Someone is viciously poking it with fat knitting needles. I have the worst heartburn ever. I am off balance and feeling quite bilious.

Here's how I remember the events.

It was a normal(ish) Friday morning. The One was still helping out at work with the huge SAPS job. We were a little late leaving the house, but not too seriously so. He went to open the gate (which still has to be operated manually) while I started the car. Or tried to start it. As soon as I turned the key in the ignition, only up to the first notch, I heard a very loud pop. At first I thought something had fallen on the car. (That's the kind of place we live in. The Landlord is rather a collector of junk, and he stores it everywhere.) Then I saw a plume of smoke or steam coming from under the bonnet. The One, who had heard the pop,was on his way back to the car to investigate, gate left half open. I got out and we saw liquid dripping from under the engine. I thought somehow the car had blown up the engine and we were seeing water dripping from it. With hands shaking, I opened the bonnet.

This is what we discovered. The battery had exploded. Acid had sprayed across the entire engine. I could not believe my eyes. Bits of shattered plastic from the battery housing lay everywhere.We stared at the damage for a while in silence. Then we became aware of the cold and The One went to close the gate while I closed the bonnet and got my things from the car. We went inside and discussed our predicament. He wanted to walk to work; a one hour journey by foot. But it was really very cold and we were late already. I decided to phone Corlea (my new assistant at work) to ask her for a lift. She was very friendly and agreed. We arranged with her to pick us up at the Police Station a short walk from our house. I got a bucket and washed as much of the acid off the engine as I could.

I was glad we had decided not to walk to work because the cold was terrible. On the way there, The One wasn't looking where he was going and walked right into a low hanging, thorny branch. He received a nasty scratch on the forehead. We had to wait a while (apparently traffic was especially bad) before Corlea arrived and I got very cold.

The rest of the day alternated between being very busy at work and trying to look busy while phoning around to see where we could get another battery. The boss kindly lent me her car and I bought the cheapest battery I had located while also delivering things to some clients to justify the trip. At R570.00 (R470 card + R100 cash) the battery had reduced the rest of the month's food budget to zero in one fell swoop. This in a month in which I am paying three cellphone contracts - my old one and our two new ones. We'd also had to renew the car's licence. Not ayoba.

The people at the battery place said it was the cold that had caused the battery to freeze and explode when I switched on the car. I sent The One this picture I took of the new battery while driving back to work. His response? "Hoeraaaaa!".

The boss must have seen what a bad day we'd had and offered to take us out for drinks after work. We drove to the pub with Corlea and we had a good time, but drank too much. Corlea had to leave early and we stayed later, having an interesting chat with the bosses. Very positive and satisfying conversation. I don't want to say too much, but they mentioned things like "satellite branch" and "buying shares". Very comforting. It was strange when the boss drove us home, battery and all.

My boss dubbed the new battery "Sid". Sid slept inside last night because we don't want him to blow up so young. When I was small, my parents had a rather alarming Peugeot. In winter, my father removed the battery from the car every evening. It slept inside, next to a heater, wrapped in a blanket. I swear. I never really understood it and thought maybe my father had had an early onset of senility. But now I understand.

We were totally wasted and went to bed early. I'll put in the new battery as soon as it gets light.

In any case, that is why I am sitting here in front of the computer at 4:28 AM with the most shocking headache, wondering when the paracetamol is going to kick in. I can't believe I still have to work later today.

Written by I
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