Hay’s Daze: Lively days spent bringing dead vehicles back to life during Red Deer’s cold spell

By Harley Hay

Last week, -20 C seemed like the worst thing to happen since Donald Trump.

This week, any weather in the -20s was positively Barack Obama. Minus 40 is like living on Mars, only less fun. Especially since nobody in our family seems to have block heaters in their cars anymore.

So this is how the week in the deep freeze went. The Rotten Kid, the daughter one, was at the house and her car wouldn’t start. No garage, no block heater. Dead battery.

Fair enough, it’s colder than a polar bear’s toenails. So, to lend a hand, I go out and get a new battery and, this time, a warmer – a little electric blanket for her battery. Best thing ever.

Next day, my car won’t start. Also, the Better Half’s car won’t start either.

I pop both hoods, peer in there with a flashlight, crawl around in the snow underneath the cars. Confirm: no block heaters. It’s so cold the cows are giving milkcicles.

Rotten Kid’s car to the rescue. I jump the Better Half’s car, then my car (with jumper cables, not by leaping) and it’s cold enough to freeze the ears off a brass monkey, and I’m not having that much fun.

I phone a mechanic and book a block heater install. Get the Better Half to follow me in her car to the mechanic’s shop.

I’m almost there when my phone rings. I pull over. It’s the Better Half.

“Where are you?” she says.

“You left me behind!” she says, a lot louder.

It seems her car died even before pulling away from the house. I thought she was right behind me. It was an unfortunate error. It’s colder than the hinges of hell.

I drive back home and sure enough, the Better Half’s car is deader than a frozen doornail. Mechanic’s shop is now closed.

Can’t plug my car in on account of nothing to plug into. So every few hours, I dress like I’m going on a space walk at the International Space Station, shuffle out to the car and start it, so that it will have enough warm juice to fire up in the morning. I do this until midnight.

At 8 a.m., it’s even colder. I turn the key. The car just groans and dies. Now we have two deceased vehicles in front of our house.

The Better Half is supposed to be at work. I’m supposed to have the car at the mechanic’s. We are supposed to be living in Hawaii. It’s colder than a well digger’s derriere.

The Rotten Kid to the rescue, take two. Boost my car. It’s like driving a frozen brick. I manage to get the Better Half to work. Rattle back across town to mechanic’s garage.

Mechanic is very busy for some reason.

I wait. And wait. They have to go get a block heater, so I finally get a ride home. It’s as cold as a witch’s heart.

How am I going to pick up my car, if and when it’s ready? How is the Better Half going to get home from work? I’m not having any fun for sure now. It’s cold enough to freeze the nuts (and bolts) off a steel bridge.

The mechanic finally calls.

“Guess what?” he says, wearily.

“What?” I say, cautiously.

“You already have a block heater in that car,” he says even more wearily.

“Um, pardon me?” I say, my voice cracking.

“The plug-in cord was tucked under the hood.”

“I see …” I quietly croak.

“Yeah,” the mechanic says, “but you’ve ruined your battery. Would you like me to order a new one?”

I’m moving to Mars.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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