the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The circus of life

Tyrant’s good friend and old roommate Nestor is a flight attendant for a major airline and occasionally needs a place to stay for a few days while working a route out of Salt Lake City. I have an extra bedroom in my basement equipped with an old Ikea bed that is perfect for these types of situations. It’s also a great place to sneak away and read Fifty Shades of Grey by fleshlight flashlight. Also, every square inch of the closet in that room may or may not be consumed by my shrine to Zac Efron. What? I have space in my house THAT NEEDS TO BE USED. And, by god, I will use it.


On the morning of Leta’s first day of school (remember that lovely scene? I asked Leta what she wanted to be for Halloween and when she shrugged I suggested she dress up as my nearly severed finger) he was up and getting ready for a flight when he discovered that the battery in his car was dead. He was sort of a witness to the whole middle-finger-getting-caught-in-the-door situation and mentioned that since 1) I was in such obvious pain and 2) that it was such an important day, my baby girl starting fifth grade, you just wait, you little 19-year-old in college who thinks that you will be that young forever, one day you will wake up and your back will ache from nothing other than thinking about bending over, oh dear lord where was I? I WAS GETTING OLD THAT’S WHERE.

Nestor mentioned that he’d try to find a ride to the airport, but when I returned home from dropping Leta off at school he was still trying desperately to arrange plans. Man oh man, my Granny Boone used to give her couch or an extra bed to anyone in need (and all of their family and family’s family) and then would send them on their way the next day with the shirt off her back and a warm home cooked meal because the Lord had done given her the ability to do so, the end, amen. I would never attempt to feed anyone anything that I had cooked for fear that they would sue me for the subsequent visit to the ER, but the Lord had done given me a car with jumper cables. Yes, this is how religion works. Jumper cables are specifically mentioned in the New Testament. By Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, not to mention all those times in the Epistle of James.

Sometimes in her more vulnerable moments Leta will ask me if I think she’s a good person, and I’m like DUDE. Do you know who your grandmother is? Do you have any idea who HER mother was? YOU DON’T HAVE A CHOICE. I have watched Leta in situations where the opportunity to be generous is opened up to her and her DNA is like what? You need a heart transplant? No problem! Just take mine!

I quickly took the gas receipt off of my finger and replaced it with several paper towels—SHH! Do not lecture me about bandaids and proper medical care. I was not dying nor did I die. I think this means that the method in which I treated my wound earns me a medical degree. 

I put Marlo on my right hip, walked back out to the garage and pointed toward the back of the car to indicate to Nestor where I stored my jumper cables. He nodded at me, and after a few awkward moments of silence I said, “Why don’t you drive your car over here and we can get started.”

Yeah. I said that. Those words found their way out of my mouth.

Do I have to remind you, dear reader, of my state of mind? I had almost sliced off the top of my finger on my infant child’s first day of FIFTH GRADE WHAT? HOW? NO. Not fifth grade. No. Not possible. I won’t get into it again, but how does this happen? One day I’m dancing in front of the mirror in my bathroom lip-syncing a Duran Duran song into my hairbrush and the next day my 10-year-old daughter is doing the exact same thing to something by Taylor Swift. In prehistoric times did moms reminisce like this? Like, whoa. My child is now sorting the entrails of the deer we hunted for dinner, just like I use to sort them! First the liver, then the large intestine, finally the colon. Like mother, like daughter. So organized.

Nestor snapped his head back as he is wont to do and said, “Could you possibly be more blonde.”

Oh, shit. GUILTY. I held my left hand up with the bloody paper towel wrapped around my middle finger, pointed to it and said, “I AM IN NO WAY MAKING AN OBSCENE GESTURE JUST REMINDING YOU THAT MY MIND IS BUSY REPRODUCING RED BLOOD CELLS.”

I then strapped Marlo into her carseat, started up my car and drove it up and around his car so that my engine and his sat almost two feet apart. When I grabbed the jumper cables from the back of my car and handed them to him he looked over both of his shoulders twice in quick succession. I then very immediately figured out, oh, oh my god, he has no idea what he is doing. This was only confirmed when he said, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”

How do I even describe this scene to you? Me, the blonde, holding a set of jumper cables designed specifically to help the blonde among us. And Nestor, the flight attendant, the one who said to me, “This is never going to work! It’s ‘The Blonde vs. The Flight Attendant!’” We were both like six-year-old girls encountering spiders for the first time. Ew! Ouch! No, you do it. No, YOU DO IT! I want my mom!

After several useless minutes of looking over the engines as if either of us could distinguish a car battery from a loaf of bread, we both admitted to each other that we were scared of being electrocuted. So I did what my English degree from that most prestigious institution known as Brigham Young University taught me to do and I read the instructions on what we’ll just go ahead and call “Jumper Cables For Dummies.” Because that’s what these are:


Red cable on the positive terminal of both batteries.

Black cable on the negative terminal of the live battery, engine block of the dead vehicle.

“You do it,” he said.

“NO! YOU DO IT!” I answered pointing to my bloody middle finger to signify what I had already been through in the last hour.

“But what if it shocks me?!” he yelped. “It could ruin my hair!”

I put my non-bloody hand on his shoulder and said, “I still have one good hand to call an ambulance. And I promise not to laugh.”

I watched as he carefully placed each red end of the cable to the right spot on both batteries, then the black ends. Every single time he’d release the spring and it would grab the battery we’d both flinch and scream a preemptive, “EEEEEEEK!” As if that would take the edge off of any electric shock. As if that would somehow shield us from imminent car battery death. This kind of injury and untimely end happens to blondes and flight attendants all the time.

Once the cables were in place he pointed to his car and raised his shoulders to his ears as if to say, “Okay… now… um…”  I shook my head and said that I was enough of a natural brunette to know that this was the point in the plot where I should start my car and then he should start his so that we could “jump” his battery. Which is exactly what we did, so successfully that he drove all the way to the airport and made his flight on time. 

But not before we disassembled the cables. Which looked exactly like “The Blonde vs. The Flight Attendant” in reverse, both of us letting out an, ““EEEEEEEK!” before he touched each end of a cable. When we later recounted this story to Tyrant he fell to the floor laughing and pointed out what a miracle it was that he wasn’t attending both of our funerals given that neither of us can butter toast.

I hate it when he’s right.

  • Living The Scream

    2014/09/09 at 10:03 am

    That is hilarious! I may or may not act the same way with mouse traps or anything that can perhaps cause me harm as well lol

  • Julie Egan Wood

    2014/09/09 at 10:06 am

    Awesome!! Even though I’ve seen it done a few hundred times, I’d still scream! And not know how to do it, and call and text my husband to come rescue me.

  • Katybeth

    2014/09/09 at 10:42 am

    You were so brave. The little child knows how to dial 911, right? Not that she’ll ever need to, of-course. I’d suggest AAA but by the time they arrived you would be talking about the good old days with Methuselah. Very funny story!

  • The Absent Minded Housewife

    2014/09/09 at 10:49 am

    I love my power tools. I love them very much.

  • crooked teeth

    2014/09/09 at 11:07 am

    I can imagine myself in your shoes, but with a six year old in the backseat sighing loudly and saying, “Outta the way mom, I’ll take it from here.” And then she’d jump the damn car like a boss.

  • Breanne

    2014/09/09 at 11:22 am

    I can imagine myself in this scene so well that it make sit even funnier! In all sincerity though, I truly love your story-telling skills. I’ve probably commented something to that effect before, but it’s worth repeating. No English degree can’t teach that.

  • Alexandra

    2014/09/09 at 12:04 pm

    My parents may not have taught me how to braid my hair or properly apply makeup or even given me the sex talk…..but my dad made damn sure I knew how to jump a car and change a tire. Suddenly feeling very grateful.

  • Jen Moore

    2014/09/09 at 12:22 pm

    Ba ha ha this is a great post. Two weeks ago while I was visiting California I pulled into a parking spot and a young man asked if I had jumper cables. “Yes, but I don’t know how to use them” I said as the feminist is me silently kicked me. Thankfully after a few minutes of trying to sort out the ground cable and blah blah blah this lovely gentleman saw us and offered to help. He did it like one, two, three no problem. No hesitation. Now if anyone needs helps eating ice cream, I’m your woman. I can do that in like one, two, gone!

  • Susandyce

    2014/09/09 at 1:15 pm

    For learning how to attach jumper cables and also raise my children, I owe thanks to my iPhone. Without it, my children would be ill-cared-for orphans whose mom died from jumper cable electrocution.

  • dc

    2014/09/09 at 1:31 pm

    how were you able to locate the engine block?

  • Josey

    2014/09/09 at 1:59 pm

    HAHAHAHA. Oh man, this is fantastic. My Dad made me learn how to use jumper cables when he sent me off to college with a set in my trunk, but of course I’ve used them only a couple of times in the past *gulp* 14 years, and every time I feel the way you described above. The pre-emptive EEK! because I’m not QUITE sure I’m remembering correctly how to do it.

    Oddly enough, I’ve almost always used them to jump my MALE FRIENDS’ vehicles because they are never prepared and have a set of cables with them.

    Daddy college gift FTW. 😉

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/09 at 2:03 pm

    It was a lucky guess on his part.

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/09/09 at 2:24 pm

    Not a blonde joke! Blonde jokes are women jokes. 🙁

  • Danalan

    2014/09/09 at 2:37 pm

    I work with serious electricity and electronics – x-ray machines and such – 150,000 Volts. I’ve aligned a CRT in a flight simulator that required me to sit inside the electronics bay with a 35,000 Volt wire lying on my arm, looking into a microscope and physically moving heavy ring magnets around an 18″ long tube neck. The first 7 steps of that procedure were “Remove safety interlock X”.

    I’m never more afraid of getting shocked than when using jumper cables. I jump every time I clip one on, and removing them is worse.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/09 at 2:50 pm

    I cannot tell you how comforting this comment was. I will share this with Nestor and he and I will hug each other because I think we’re still frightened.

  • Ali

    2014/09/09 at 3:21 pm

    Years ago, my husband was out of town for an extended time and it was my responsibility to maintain his car. So when the battery died, I said to myself “Watch me prove I can do this” and proudly bought a new battery. Following all the steps and two hours later , I called my dad in tears because my brand new battery didn’t work. We started to review the steps:
    Dad: Wipe the metal posts on the battery with a cloth to make sure there is not residue.
    Me: There are no metal posts just plastic.
    Dad: *Silence* *Silence* *silence* *sigh* Baby girl, take the plastic caps off then connect it to the car.

    So yeah, batteries are hard.

  • MallyMon

    2014/09/09 at 5:17 pm

    Love it! I’m absolutely useless, have always been brunette, and would have had to ‘get a man in’. Having been a single mom for years, I do have an especially talented car mechanic, a phone call away. Recommended by my ex, as it happens. For which I am eternally grateful. Amen.

  • Michael Mathews

    2014/09/09 at 7:54 pm

    Ha ha. I thought this story was funny because I could picture every bit of it. My dad could always hook up the jumper cables without a flinch, but I am convinced that something is going to explode every time I do this.

  • Michael Mathews

    2014/09/09 at 7:55 pm

    Oh and he’s totally cute. I need to fly a different airline.

  • Meg

    2014/09/09 at 9:17 pm

    The first time I participated in jumping a car’s battery was for someone else’s car who did not have the manual (I was very disapproving) and there was so much schmutz in the engine & on the battery that it was hard to find the correct places.

    My mother taught me plenty about everything with cars and power tools and home repairs, and she maintains that the most important piece of knowledge is when to call a professional BEFORE you make the problem worse. (Also, it is acceptable to pay someone else to change your oil as long as you DO know how to do it. I just don’t want to.)

  • Mandy

    2014/09/10 at 6:25 am

    The other day I was leaving the grocery store and overheard a woman talking on the phone with her husband as she stood near the open hood of her car. I interrupted, asked if the problem was her battery, and offered to give her a jump. She responded by telling her hubby, “Guess I don’t need you know. This lovely lady in a pretty pink shirt has offered to take care of it for me.” Yep, I’m girly and know how to apply jumper cables!

  • Nicole S.

    2014/09/10 at 7:08 pm

    Yeah, I have to jump cars all the time at work and I still flinch every time I have to clamp on the leads.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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