Earlier this evening I ran out to my truck parked in front of the house, and found my neighbor who left his lights on overnight. His car needed a jump but he didn't know how. I don't know which was better, the fact that I told him I could help, or that I even had the jumper cables he didn't. I just out-carred him in both aspects! Regardless, I was thrilled to be a show off and help him out. After hooking up the cables and showing him how to remember the order, we sat there for a few minutes and chatted while his car ran for a while. And he asked me how I learned to jump a car.

If you stay along the straight and narrow, by junior in high school it meant you were sixteen. In Massachusetts, you can get your learners permit at sixteen and the earliest day you can take your license exam is at sixteen and a half. If you were smart, you had lined up and exam a few months ahead of time, a test day a few days after your half way point between birthdays, or dead on if you were lucky enough. The absence from school was even an excusable one: sign yourself out with your learners permit, sign yourself in with your license. Ironically, if you failed the test, coming back with just your learners permit again and trying to sign yourself back in, meant you could also be full of shit, so you had to have an additional letter to show the school office, stating you did indeed fail, and weren't out being a punk.

My birthday is in April, which meant in October I had my license, and school starts in September. By October I was one of the first few cool juniors to make it to the parking lot early in the year, the rest of them still walking or riding the school bus. The anticipation of getting your license is the first lust you will ever have.

I went to a regional school, which meant kids from four different towns were being bussed in, they encouraged older students to drive, and had a parking lot for juniors and seniors to share. At the beginning of the year, students would park their cars in the morning, and you got to know who the seniors were and what they drove. The kid who drove the beat to shit limo, the back filled with speakers. The jock who drove his father's thunderbird. The rich kid with the white jeep his parents bought him brand new. His twin sister who was shafted and got the old family station wagon. You could learn a lot those few minutes of the morning.

But by October I was out there with them. Sharing that fucking elite honor with the few other juniors and getting it in with the seniors. Meeting someone new each morning as you pulled in next to someone, and someone else saying hi to you as they pulled in on the other side. Walking over to my friends waiting for me to show up, seeing who I was willing to pick up on my way in that day. You had to love it.

The afternoons were a different story, since people who had their last period or two empty were allowed to leave early. People stayed after school, kids in meetings who would get out an hour or so after later. Teachers usually leaving around 4. The football and soccer teams who would leave around 8 in the evening. I got to know this schedule pretty well because there was a period of time where my livelihood depended on the people I was parked with.

I was lucky to score my license wicked early in the beginning of the year, but I was even luckier to score a car. I wasn't one of the kids that had worked the year before, saving to buy some piece of shit $500 car, or someone who was lucky enough to be handed down a car. But I did luck out in another way. My father worked for AT&T and drove one of their corporate vans to work. Back in the day, AT&T used to treat their employees very well and it was a decent place to work. So my father, who worked as a lineman for years, eventually graduated into a manager, and traded his bucket truck for a shiny new van, which did nothing more than drive him to and from work, five days a week. Which left his car, in the driveway, five days a week. The weekends were always a different story, since parents stayed in a night, I could usually score a car, I was damned lucky. But Monday through Friday, The 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis was all mine. An insane boat of a car, it seated you and ten of your closest friends. It got shit gas mileage, but driving any car with a V8 in it was worth it. Freedom on wheels.

I'm getting to the point, I swear. I'm about to drive to school one morning, car wouldn't start. My parents had both left on their respective ways to work, the car was grounded in the driveway. Which was no big deal, I lived about 7 blocks from school... and yeah, I still drove, screw you. If you understood any of what I had just written you would realize why I did it. That morning, I just walked. When I got home from school that day, had my father take a look at the car and we jumped it. The battery was just dead. Before he even asked me I got the lecture about leaving the car lights on the night before. But the fact that the headlights were in the off position saved my ass. We didn't know why the battery died, but we were happy that a jump had fixed it. Next morning, my father starts up the car, all is well, I take off for school. Spend six hours in school, get out of class, walk to the parking lot, car wouldn't start. Shit. Did I actually leave the lights on this time, fuck fuck fuck. Check the lights, they're off, check the overhead light, looks to be off, can't see anything I left on. I shrugged it off, figured my ass would get kicked when I told my father, and walked home.

Later that night we spent in the high school parking lot, again jumping the car. After my lesson the night before, I was walked through this one, putting the cables on, starting the cars, waiting around for a bit. My second jump in two days, I was a pro, but we still couldn't figure out why the car wouldn't start. So we headed home, the car is left overnight in our driveway and the next morning, again car wouldn't start. The assumption was the battery was screwed. It wasn't at the end of it's warrantee, so that weekend had us at Sears, walking in with a fucked battery, walking out with a new one for free. Got home, popped the new battery in, and we drove the car around the whole weekend with no problems. By Monday, I was good to go, back in the car and driving instead of walking the measly seven blocks. And you guessed it, walked out of school, car wouldn't start.

Heh, you're kidding right? But I knew what I was doing now. I could jump it, had the cables in the trunk, but I needed a car. The first time was the most awkward, scanning the parking lot, looking for just the right person to ask. It had to be a loner, because someone with friends had places to be. But it had to be the right person, someone who you would think would be nice enough to help you, someone in your popularity circle, preferable a junior someone I knew, hopefully not a senior to embarrass yourself in front of, and lastly, and most importantly, a guy. Girls are annoying, and they'd never let you go near their cars. The right guy, the right car guy that is, and I could at least shoot this shit with him and hold my weight.

The first victim happened to get into the car next to me, he wasn't an optimal target, but he would do. I had lots of time sitting on my hood, scanning the people that exited the school. And he was nice enough to say hi. The parking lot taught me a lot about how to talk to people, the most important being that saying hi and honestly smiling to random people can turn their scowl right into a happy hi back at 'cha. And this guy was cool enough, since he knew what he was doing. I stepped back, let him hook up the cables, chatted about nothing for a while, a friendly thank you and then I was on my way.

This happened for a week, my father was out of town, so I had a week of jumping my car on a daily basis. For some reasons the battery was fine at night, in the morning it would start, but in the afternoons I was screwed. Tuesday came along. Get out of class, car wouldn't start. That day I met Mike. Since I had succeeded the day before, it wasn't nearly as bad the second time to ask for help. When Mike walked out I knew immediately he was victim number two. Leather jacket, smoking a cigarette, he drove an old Mustang with windows tinted himself and the car was covered in primer. We have a winner. Mike turned out to be cooler than I imagined. Lesson number two from the parking lot, don't make assumptions about people. He immediately introduced himself and shook my hand. He was a senior, and a disgustingly nice guy, when I mentioned I had cables, he just pulled right in next to me and let me go at it. And after the fifteen minutes or so we had to talk, I felt like I grew up with the kid. Like I said, regional school, kids from three other different towns I didn't know. He lived only a mile away from me on the town that bordered an edge of mine. We hung out later that afternoon, did the townie crawl to a big pit in the middle of the woods, and he had no problem introducing me to all his friends.

Wednesday. Wednesday was a half day so I got a little screwed. Everyone ran out of class as soon as possible. The one day I left a few minutes later, I got out there, car wouldn't start, and the parking lot was empty. That day I met the soccer team. They were playing ultimate frisbee in the field next to the parking lot. It was a half day but they still had practice later that afternoon, so going home only to come back a few hours later was silly for the people who lived furthest away. Paul was out there, his house was separated a block away from mine. Growing up, he had a crew of kids on his street he hung out with, and I had an entirely different group from my mine. But the two occasionally intermingled, snowball fights in the winter or street hockey in the summer. I knew enough about him to know his name and what kind of snowball he could make. And there wasn't any time like the present to say hi.

So I walked over and immediately the game stopped. Paul didn't have a car and walked to school, since he too lived pretty damn close. But our conversation was overheard by the entire group of them. This time trying to get a single person turned into literally eight other guys arguing over who's car was closer to mine and who had jumper cables. And these are high school guys, so of course it turned into a competition as to who could get to my car first. All of them thinking about where their keys were, three were eliminated early on since they were in lockers. Paul walked back with me to my car and we watched as two cars almost hit each other, one guy leave skid marks across three lanes of parking spaces, and the winner popping his hood before he even screeched to a stop. Wednesday night I came back for the soccer game and watched the guys who jumped my car kick Duxbury's ass. It was pretty ballsy to go to a game alone, with no one to talk to, on a Wednesday night of all things, but the next morning on my way into class, easily four of them said hi to me in the halls.

Thursday. Walking out to the car, that day I met Jerome. The first of many encounters with him. He sat in front of me in homeroom for years because his last name fell alphabetically in front of mine. The most I knew of him was his last name, and how to pronounce it, year after year as he explained it to teachers. I'd occasionally vouch for him being in school or out of school if anyone asked had I seen him, and that's about it. The Thursday walk out to my car had him walking right behind me. What the heck, right? Turns out Jerome's mom worked with my dad, he had heard my story about the car needing to be jumped in the parking lot late the week before. My father had relayed it to his mom, and his mom to him, that girl who needed a jump last week. That's small towns for ya. “Heh, guess what?” I said to him. He was cool and helped me jump the car. Jerome ended up in front of me for every other possible school event imaginable for the next year and a half. He sat next to me at graduation, was handed his cap and gown right before me, our families stood up together to cheer for us when our names were announced.

Friday, the last day of the week. By then I knew this was going to go down in school infamy, so I had to make a good choice. It had to be someone it was a shock for me to know. School popularity bullshit works that way, so it was a challenge. Since it was Friday and we were doing the hanging out thing, I had four other people with me waiting to get the car jumped. And there we were, in the parking lot, talking about who to chose, who would make the best story, who would talk to us Monday. Eventually the perfect candidate walked out. Luke. The senior who was televised every morning during homeroom as we watched Morning Announcements on the TVs installed throughout our school. Everyone knew of him, but all we knew is what he would put forth on the TV that morning. He was outgoing enough to want to be on the program in the first place, and funny enough to make it entertaining for us. He was perfect.

He of course was willing to help, chatted with us for a bit, and he learned my story of the infamous week of jumping my car. Car was jumped, we parted our separate ways, and that weekend my father returned and we had the car looked at. Turns out there was something draining the battery after all. It was the LED that blinked on to show that the rear defroster was on. This was during December, so it was foggy and cold in the mornings, and when I'd turn the car on I'd run the heat and turn on the defroster before leaving the driveway. The little LED would switch on in the morning, I'd drive to school, the defroster would shut off, but the LED would not, and it would sit there for the hours I was in school, draining the battery.

By Monday the car was fixed, and I was back to school. I had forgotten about Luke until the morning announcements came on. And low and behold, the 'special feature' Luke had prepared for that morning was all about the car needing a jump in the parking lot. He didn't know my name, but had taken a polaroid of the car that morning and held it up to the camera for the entire school to see. He relayed my story and ended it with an open invitation for people to jump my car that afternoon. Jerome, sitting right there in front of me, laughed along with me as the other students giggled about the mass of people that would be looking for my car that afternoon.

I had a choice, I could skip out early, avoid the embarrassment of everyone looking for me, and take off before everyone else got out of class. My last period teacher was way cool, I knew if I explained my story, he'd let me out a few minutes early. But I choose to suck it up, I figured if I could handle a week of talking to random people, what was one more day. Lucky for me I had an ace up my sleeve. That afternoon I took my time piling shit into my locker, and getting my coat to come outside. When I did eventually wander out there, low and behold a mass of people were indeed standing around my car. Jerome and Mike and the soccer team, of course Luke, and the guy I met Monday but never got his name. So I walked out there, introduced myself to him, and then introduced him to everyone else. Nick took a bow, I mentioned Mike and his friends I met on Tuesday, the win the soccer team had on Wednesday, Jerome who sat in front of me. I started to thank Luke for the public service announcement, but unfortunately for him it was not needed. Remember the car was fixed. I got in, started that wonderful V8 engine and got a round of applause from the crowd.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.