Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jumper Cables and the Social Contract

I now have jumper cables in the trunk, due, as I said, to the best husband in the whole world.

Unlike most other tools one may carry in one's trunk, jumper cables involve me in the social contract to help others when their cars aren't starting. Let's see, what I have in my trunk right now other than the new cables are a gallon of water, a sweater, pair of boots, old blue jeans, and a coffee urn. I suppose I also have a car jack because I have the little "donut" tire packed in underneath the trunk floor. Other than the jack, which I hope I never see, none of those things would be particularly helpful on the road, though I have worn the sweater myself.

Jumping a car is always something someone else does for you. If your car battery weren't dead you wouldn't need it to be charged - and that always takes another car battery (or a charger, which the Chevron on Webster keeps on hand precisely because so many people, like myself, forget to turn the headlights off after they come out of the tunnel). It's also always appreciated, as nine times out of ten someone discovers his or her car won't start precisely when it's time to go somewhere. Also, most of the time, it's not something you do for the person who did it for you, which makes a social, not a personal, contract. It's between me and whoever needs my jumper cables in the future.

Next time someone asks me if I can jump their car I will be able to say yes, even if they don't have jumper cables, thereby paying back the lady in the SUV by doing for someone else what she did for me.

I'll just give whoever it is the cables and allow him or her to attach them to the poles on the batteries.

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