My Car Battery Died
At 6 P.M., Mary clocked out and took off her white coat. She hurriedly stuffed it into her large tote, amidst loose papers with various notes scribbled in jargon and shorthand, a paperback novel bearing the public library stamp for a due date which had passed, pens and lipsticks jumbled together in a tangle of dental floss that had fallen out of its holding spoke. She pulled out her bundle of keys, located the tiny remote control of her Camry, then headed out of the pharmacy low swing door, passing the three technicians busily engaged with the waiting customers, passing the three or four customers patiently waiting in line to pick up their prescriptions.
In Aisle 6, Mary was finally alone. Her head barely reached the fourth shelf of the over-the-counter medicines. In Aisle 7, she began to breathe easily, her eyes scanning the bandage boxes without seeing them. She reached Aisle 8 when her cell phone rang. Her son called to remind her that the seventh-grade parent conference was scheduled at seven in the evening that night, in room 10. The young cashier at the last check out lane had a pile of Halloween candy assortments on her conveyor belt and did not notice that Mary said goodbye to her.
She was somewhat glad for not having to engage in a lengthy conversation. Outside, the parking lot lights were already on. She braced herself at the thought of driving home in the dusk, and slightly missed the departed summer. She opened the car door and threw her heavy bag onto the passenger seat. The bag landed upside down on the car floor.
"Oh no," Mary ejaculated with irritation, but she had no time for self-recrimination. She adjusted her rear-view mirror quickly from its last position this morning, when she had twisted it downward to apply her makeup. Then she turned on the ignition, ready to fulfill her responsibility at her son's school as a conscientious parent.
The car cackled, but the engine did not catch on.
"Come on," urged Mary, pumping the gas pedal.
The car coughed louder, as if to clear its throat before starting to speak, but its hiccup again died, leaving Mary in desperation, on the verge of tears.
"Trouble?" She startled when the clerk asked loudly from afar. She looked up to recognize that it was only Morris, the newest pharmacy tech, who has yet to earn his reputation as a capable member of the pharmacy staff.
"Do you have a jumping cable?" Mary asked out of desperation, without much hope in Morris' ability to help anyone. He can hardly sweep the floor clean at work, so clumsy, so inexperienced.
"You mean a jumper cable?" The voice reached Mary again, but much closer. Morris was already by her door side, poking his head in.
"Something to start the car, that's what I need." Mary was irritated at Morris for not understanding her quicker in this critical moment.
"I have one jumper cable, but not long enough. Your car is stuck in between two cars, I need to be able to reach you. Wait here, I'll go inside to borrow another set."
Mary dialed her cell phone: "Hello, Vincent? You need to come start the car. It's dead. And hurry."
Her husband retorted: "What do you mean hurry, can you not find help from where you are? You just need to jump it. Use a cable."
Mary was furious, furious and exasperated: "I don't have a cable, remember? Last time you said it was too expensive to buy to just sit it in the car."
"So you don't have one. Then go ask someone to jump it. Stop acting like a princess. Go ask someone. I'd come to help, but it's silly for me to drive half an hour to come there when you could have asked someone to do it in five minute."
Mary was about to explode into her cell, when she sighted Morris coming towards her with a cable.
"Go to hell," She snarled into her cell, and slammed it shut.
"I found one in Mike's car. Let me move my car closer first. You just sit there to keep warm. No need to come out."
It took less than five minutes for Morris to move his car and hook up the cable. He switched on his engine, and hollered over the engine sound to Mary: "Start your car."
When they said goodbye, Mary almost cried from relief and self-pity. Morris simply said: "You need a new battery. Bring it back to the same store you bought it from, and they will either recharge for you or exchange a new one for you. It should be free, you are still under guarantee. OK? Now drive home safely, and I'll see you tomorrow. Bye, Mary. And remember, it's a jumper cable, not jumping cable."