Do This One Thing and Change the World

Do This One Thing and Change the World

We often lament that we can’t change the world; that we just have to accept things for what they are. More often than not we are right, we can’t change the world.

Or can we?

In WALMART the other day (how many world-changing stories begin in WALMART?) there was a young woman in the checkout line in front of me buying a car battery. After she paid, she picked up the battery and walked out of the store; I wanted to help her, it looked heavy, but I still had to check out.

Once outside the store, bundled up against the bitter cold that has embraced the east coast this week, I saw the young woman again, sitting in her SUV. Just as I passed, I heard the one thing that no driver ever wants to hear on such a bitter, cold day. That sickening ‘click’ and the sound of an engine not roaring to life.

After I put my bags in my car, I walked over to her. I stood a safe distance, as to not startle her, and asked if she needed a jump. She told me yes, and that her boyfriend was on his way.

“But,” she added, “this car is different, you probably won’t be able to jump it”.

Over the years, I’ve jumped many cars and never had a problem. Self-assured, I told her that I will get the car started. While she opened the hood, I pulled into the open space in front of her car, and retrieved my jumper cables. With rescue just moments away, I popped the hood of my car, turned toward her engine and...

…what the hell was that?

The battery was basically embedded inside the engine; positive and negative terminals both out of reach.

Much like men never like asking for directions, we also don’t like to do this - sheepishly, I peaked around the open hood and asked, “Do you have the owner’s manual?”

She handed it to me; I flipped to the page with instructions on how to charge the battery. It was a bizarre combination of a post sticking out of the fuse box, and a bolt that appeared to be attached to nothing. I had never seen that before.

At this point, I can’t feel my face, and I ask the young woman if she wants to sit in my car, since the heat was on full blast. While she warmed up (she only had a grey sweatshirt on) I confidently, with my new knowledge, attached the jumper cables to these remote terminals.

That done, she returned to her car, turned the key and…nothing.

Just then her phone buzzed; it was her boyfriend. He was at the wrong WALMART (men, am I right?)

She assured me that he would be able to start the car, and thanked me. But, at this point, I couldn’t leave her in the freezing cold. We went inside to warm up, and get something to eat (SUBWAY for her, coffee for me).

We talked for a bit, turned out she and her boyfriend were both chefs, and lived in the same town as my ex-wife and kids.

After about fifteen minutes, my face still numb from the cold, her boyfriend showed up. Pleasantries exchanged, we went outside.

He hooked up the jumper cables with one slight variation. Instead of attaching the positive to the terminal, he attached it to the bolt holding the cable. She turned the key, and the car roared to life.

So, in this scenario, I wasn’t quite the hero, more like the guy who holds the hero’s coffee while he vanquishes evil from the world.

She shook my hand, thanked me for my help, then we all went our separate ways.


On my way home, I was on Route 202 which, on a good day, is a horrible road. That day, there was an accident backing up traffic to my left, and a car parked on the shoulder to my right. The driver exited that vehicle, said something to the person in the back seat, then turned and walked away, going in my direction. As I crawled passed the car, I saw there was a young boy sitting in the back seat, alone.

As I caught up to the man, I rolled down my passenger side window, and asked if he needed a ride. He quickly trotted to my car, and jumped inside. He ran out of gas, something, turns out, his young son warned him was going to happen. With little choice, he left his son in the car, and started to walk toward the nearest gas station.

It would have taken him a while to get there.

After the accident, the traffic began to move and in just a few minutes we came to the first station. The young father was able to borrow a gas can, filled it with a few gallons, and in no time we were back on the road, and back to his frozen son.

He thanked me, and soon we were both back on the road.

Now you are thinking, “Okay, Al, enough of this dribble, you told us how we could change the world”.

Well, I may not have changed THE world, but I did change THEIR worlds.

For a young woman, stranded in the cold with a dead battery, I provided warmth, laughs, and lunch while her boyfriend figured out which WALMART she was at.

For a young boy, instead of sitting in the shivering cold not knowing when his dad was coming back, I returned his father to him in just a few minutes instead of an hour.

This is the thing, just help people. It doesn’t take a lot, it doesn’t take money, it may take some time, but we have enough of that to spare.

I also help people for an incredibly selfish reason – it makes me feel good (my god, what a monster I am).

Later, when I told my ex-wife Arlene about what had happened that day, she looked at me and said,

“Who do you think you are, TRIPLE A?”

She paused, then said, “No, you’re not TRIPLE A - You’re SINGLE A”.

Damn right, I’m SINGLE A.


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