Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 1.6.18
Stanstead, Quebec


It takes a village to start a car

When it came to our car battery, I knew we were playing with fire. Or rather lack of fire. It had come to the point where simply leaving the key in the ignition would drain it. But we had a solution: don't leave the key in the ignition.

That tends to be our MO for dealing with automotive issues; we make due, Jerry rig, fail to meet safety standards. For example, this fall, the hydraulic suddenly drained from the rear hatch supports. I call it "hydraulic," but for all I know the technical term is "thing that makes that ‘woosh' sound when you lift the hatch so it doesn't crash down on your head."

We remedied the hatch problem by jamming in place a large stick the dog had been chewing on. I refer to it as an "artisanal hatch support."

So naturally, rather than get another battery, we bought a battery booster to carry around in the car. This worked for a while. Whenever someone foolishly left the dome light on for 15 seconds, we would jump out of the car, open the hatch, jam the stick in place, retrieve the booster and, voila, the car would start and we would be on our way.

Then it got cold.

Over Christmas, the car sat in the driveway for a few days. Our son had gone back to Ontario by then with his (not his) car, reducing us again to just the one. And it was dead, and with the cold, our little Canadian Tire booster pack couldn't get the job done.

That's when the cavalry arrived.

Keri across the street pulled into the driveway, and we rigged up cables battery to battery. No go. Then ever-resourceful neighbour Clint walked over. He took my booster and fastened it to the cable clamps, which is something I didn't know you could do, like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. But the only explosion was the sweet explosion of engine ignition.

But enough was enough. I called the garage and made an appointment for a new battery. This was Wednesday, and I made an appointment for Friday because on Thursday Abby had a driving lesson in Magog. I figured now that we had got the car running for a while, we'd be able to start it okay in the morning.


Thursday morning, the car barely had a pulse. Clint to the rescue again! He brought over his truck. We double-clamped with my pack. We triple-clamped with his pack! (Whoa!) But nothing.

Meanwhile, Abby had her appointment to keep. So we called our friends Steve and Karen, and they loaned us their car for the day. Clint drove me over to retrieve it, and while we were gone, he hooked up an electric charger to give it some longterm juice.

That afternoon, I phoned the garage to say we might need a tow in the morning. How much would that be? Sixty-five bucks! Deb had the idea of asking whether anyone would be willing to barter a call to CAA. I posted my pitch on Facebook.

Eric offered to bring a battery by and install it in the cold.

Patrick offered to drive up from Lennoxville in the morning.

Our son in Ontario wrote, "If only you had two cars..."

William offered to give me his card info and just tell the driver that my "son-in-law" had to go to work, but that was too much play-acting for such an early hour.

Kim and I nearly had it figured out, but the timing was off.

Finally, Joanne offered to drop by. It's charging overnight, I told her, so it might start in the morning.

It didn't.

I called for the tow, and Dany came up amazingly fast for such a cold morning with so many people in the same situation. Joanne drove over, and we gave her a cup of coffee as our car was rigged up, signed for and towed away.

Later, Clint dropped by a set of keys so we could pick up our car in the afternoon.

Nothing particularly unusual happens in this story. In fact, I bet this was taking place in some way or another all over during these cold winter days and other minor crises. We all have our Keris and Clints and Kims and Joannes and Steves and Karens and all the others. Where would be without these gestures of help and kindness? Thanks to them, our car is back on the road, chewed stick and all.