Category Archives: cars

>Who’s the jumper and who’s the pusher?

>I learned long ago how to jump-start cars. It was a byproduct of owning classic British cars that were touchy in rain, sunshine, cold or any other meteorological contrivance. Or at least that was the excuse to which we ascribed their fragility; after all, a racy British car with a snarl for a grill and sleek fins could not be badly made, there had to be a reason.

So faulty Lucas electrics, or ancient wiring, or damp garages, whatever the cause, these cars were mercurial and I got good at popping the clutch and starting the car when the battery was dead or the starter was moist. It was almost like a party trick. I could start a car with a millimeter of hill, or push it myself while running alongside and then jumping in, ease into second gear. I put the key in the “on” position and the clutch to the floor, gas down, then pop the clutch. The engine then, roars, or sputters into ignition and drives away to the amazement of all. Especially men.

It was a nearly flawless way to pick up gents, way better than blond hair or a push up bra. And yet alas, as most cars have morphed from standard (actual shift cars) to automatics, this trick has been less possible to flaunt. Until today.

I purchased a 1976 MGB, a red roadster, for my husband as a 50th birthday gift. I knew his brother, who had passed away, taught him to drive on such a car and I knew that my lovely Zac lusted after cars, snappier than our Subaru as we drove on the highways.

This man is the stepfather to my children, but really their only daddy. He taught them to ride bikes, to dance, to laugh uproariously, to appreciate the Four Tops and other back in the day groups, and he told them that it was “a parent’s privilege to pay for college” when their birth father hired a fancy lawyer who got the courts to rule he was not responsible for a nickel for their Ivy League education, Zachary stepped in to foot the bill. I bought him the car as a tiny thank you for all he does for us.

He is our rock and we all adore him. So today when his baby wouldn’t start after a week of crisp fall days I talked to him about “jump starting” the car. I had done it before without him, but he wanted to try it this time. I pushed it down the hill with him at the wheel and he tried a few times but no POP. I got into the Subaru and pushed him up and down the street in front of our house. NO POP.

Finally I said, “Hey, let me try, okay?”

I got in the seat, which no longer slides up and he is over six feet while I hover at a proud five-five. I got in, held myself up by grabbing onto the wheel and depressed the clutch, found second gear, got the creaky key into position and he started the push and I popped it out right away. Zoom it coughed and sputtered into drive. I gunned the gas and took off up the hill, made a u –turn and stopped the car on the downward slope of the hill, just in case, and got out to switch.

I was a puffy peacock, all pride. “I don’t think you are doing it right,” I crowed.

“Well, I gave you a very fast push,” he retorted. He got in the car and roared off.

Why did I have to be the one to save the day? Why can I be so edgy?

I was not going to solve that half-century conundrum, but I could call and leave a message on his phone.

“I’m sorry I was bad-tempered. What I see is that we need both the jumper and the pusher; life is all about seeing which position suits us best.”

I do feel this way. I recognize he maybe better at getting the car to go fast with a big push, but I am great at leaping in at the right moment and popping that car to life. So once again, not only did we get the car to start, but also we remembered that we are a great team because of our differences.