A Tale of Some Northland Truck Mechanics
A Little Estrogen Can Be a Good Thing

By: Jerry Angst 2009

It was a pleasant summer afternoon and the two of us were sitting comfortably in lawn chairs in the driveway, drinking beer and idly watching the few cars that passed by Bob's lakeside home. We were also absentmindedly following the efforts of three shade tree mechanics on the other side of the road as they struggled to revive the dead engine of a pickup truck.

They first caught our attention when they raised the hood of the problem vehicle and spent quite some time with their heads buried in its interior. Occasionally they would pause in their examination of the engine to climb back into the truck and try again to start it. After a bit, one of them went to a nearby cabin and got a second pickup truck which he parked along the driver's side of the one that wouldn't start. Getting some jumper cables from the dead truck, they used the running vehicle to jump start the dead one, but after a short time it appeared that the attempt had failed. After some additional discussion among the three of them, they closed the hood of the running vehicle and moved it to the rear of the dead one. They hooked the two vehicles together with a chain which had been retrieved from a nearby shed and pulled the disabled one 20 feet nearer the road. At the sight of this unusual occurrence Bob and I began to pay closer attention to the activities of the three men, and we even put forth a conjecture or two concerning their reason for moving the disabled truck nearer to the road. Since the events taking place had nothing whatsoever to do with us, we concluded that we should wander across the road and inquire into the matter (after we got another beer, of course), and perhaps even offer some advice.

Upon our arrival we learned that the dead truck had two batteries, but that they were only able to jump one of them with the second truck. The reason they moved the dead truck back 20 feet was to get it away from the garage, thus providing space to park a third truck along side the other two so that jumper cables could be connected to both batteries at the same time. It seemed like a good idea to Bob and I, so we stepped aside to allow the work to proceed. Incidentally, a fourth and a fifth shade tree mechanic from a neighboring cabin had, by now, joined the group. (As you may already know, nearly every male in this neck of the woods is, or at least considers himself to be, a passable shade tree mechanic.) When a third pickup truck was eventually rounded up so that the above plan could be carried out, the effect was still the same.........the engine simply would not turn over. There was no sound, no movement, nothing. That would seem to rule out a dead battery (or batteries) as the source of the problem.

At this point the testosterone really began to flow. Counting Bob and I, there were now seven shade tree mechanics involved in the project, each trying to show-up the others and each seeming to have a different idea as to the cause of the engine malfunction. In a very short time we had an over-abundance of theories. Everyone was expounding his own hypothesis and no one was paying any attention to the ideas or suggestions of anyone else. But as time went on, the assembly seemed to divide itself into three camps. One group espoused the theory that there was a loose ground wire somewhere on the engine, the second group was convinced that the problem was a blown fuse, and the third group still clung to the belief that the root of the problem was battery related.

The three camps, each with its own informal leader, went about its own method of proving itself right. The group believing in the illusive loose ground wire began combing the engine in detail to find every single wire connection so it could be "wiggled" in hope of finding one that was loose. Bob was a member of this camp. He literally climbed on top of the engine so that he wouldn't miss a loose wire if there was one to be found, while the other member of his group crawled on his back under the truck to look for a loose wire in that area. The individuals composing the "blown fuse" group (of which I was a member) took the covers off of the two fuse panels and, with the aid of the owner's manual, began checking every fuse whose description seemed even remotely connected with the ignition system. Those clinging to the dead battery theory busied themselves by removing the cables from the terminals of both batteries and cleaning them with sandpaper and a wire brush which had been procured from the aforementioned shed.

By and by, the wife of the truck owner noticed the activity and wandered over to see what all the commotion was about. In answer to her inquiry, her husband informed her that the truck wouldn't start and that the ignition key had no effect whatsoever. As they talked, the driver's side door was open and her husband, being a member of the "blown fuse" group, was kneeling on the ground blocking the entrance to the truck as he examined the contents of one of the fuse panels. Below is, to the best of my recollection, a reasonable facsimile of the conversation between them:

Kate:     "Give me the key."
John:     "It wont do any good. We've tried everything with the key, so now we're........"
Kate:     "Give me the key!!!!"
John:     "Look Kate, we've done everything with the key that can be done. There's no sense in........"
Kate:     [Very sternly now and pronouncing each word slowly and distinctly] "GIVE - ME - THE - KEY!!!!!!!!" [Expletive deleted.]

Ignoring Kate, John stood up to get in a more comfortable position while he read more of the owner's manual, thus giving her room to stand on the running board of the truck. Upon doing so, she reached inside the cab and took the key out of the ignition. Without saying a word, she pushed two buttons on the remote locking device, put it back into the ignition, and turned it. RRRRRRR-RRRRRRRR-RRRRRRR!!!! The truck immediately started..........much to the amazement of all those present.

At this point a strange thing happened. No one laughed but me. There was total silence among the group except for my laughter and John's calm question (asked with a due sense of astonishment): "What did you do"? Then a second, and even stranger thing happened as well. Suddenly, no one seemed to be the least bit interested in the problem, or even its solution, anymore. Silently and dejectedly, they all began picking up tools, closing hoods, and wandering back to their respective cabins. A bit later Kate explained to the few of us still left at the scene, that there is a feature (or perhaps a quirk) in trucks of this model. If the doors are locked with the remote, they have to be unlocked with the remote. Likewise, if the doors are locked with the key, they have to be unlocked with the key. If that procedure is not followed, the engine wont start. What she did was lock the doors with the remote then unlock them with the remote, and the truck started. When John asked her how she knew that, she simply replied, "I thought everyone knew that".

As mentioned above, the group had an over-abundance of testosterone. What it obviously lacked was a little estrogen.........which can be a good thing.