It was about 10 PM one dark night, heading for home. I was out in the middle of nowhere on Interstate 5. There were no highway lights, no light from roadside businesses and there was no moonlight.
But, the country was flat and the road was lit by occassional oncoming traffic and my own headlights. I could see far ahead and the shoulder on my side of the road was peripherally visible, nothing but sand and dirt it appeared, from casual observation.
Until everything went black.
The road, my headlights, the road shoulder, everything was gone. I was traveling 65 miles an hour through pitch blackness. The engine was dead, the dash lights were gone, no cars were coming in the opposite direction to light the road and the only car traveling in my direction was an eighteen wheeler I had passed several miles back.
I remembered from my last memory image of the shoulder of the road that it was clear, sand and dirt that was maybe a little bumpy, but probably safe enough to pull off the road before that eighteen wheeler came down on me at sixty plus miles per hour.
But I couldn’t see the road, I couldn’t see the shoulder, I couldn’t see anything.
And I hadn’t really checked out that shoulder because I sure wasn’t planning on having to use it. How safe was it? Where was it? I had to guess.
I slowly braked and eased over the right, hoping I could “feel” the shoulder under the wheels of my car. I had to get off the road completely, but not far enough past the shoulder that I might hit something or go into a ditch.
I managed to bring the car to a stop before that eighteen wheeler rolled by, which was about 30 seconds after I had finally come to a complete stop. I could see by the trucks headlight’s as it passed that I had judged almost perfecly in the darkness. I was off the road and well onto a safe shoulder. But, that was scary. And what was I going to do now?
There were no lights in sight, no human activity to be seen except for the occasional passing car or truck. So, I asked myself, “Why did everything go black, why did the engine die?” Of course. A fuse! I knew the fuse box was easily accessible under the hood of my 912 Porche an I always carried tools and a flashlight.
But, it was so pitch black, not even any moonlight, that I had to wait for passing vehicles to give me enough light to lift the hood and find my toolbox. I turned on the flashlight and looked into the dark with only a dim orange beam. The flashlight batteries were almost dead. I immediately turned it off to save what was left for when I had to have it.
I groped in the dark to feel for the fusebox and opened it. The open hood blocked any light from passing headlights, so I used the dim orange beam from the flashlight to identify the main fuse, then shut it off to save what was left of the batteries.
I pulled the fuse out, holding it tightly so I wouldn’t drop it, as I’d never find it again in that darkness. I waited for the next passing car to check the fuse out in the few seconds I had as the light from that speeding vehicle’s headlights washed over my dangerously situated pit stop. The fuse was fried.
And due to my thoughtlessness, I had no spares. Fortunately, it was so dark that even the dim ogange glow of the almost exhausted flashlight was enough to see what I was doing under the hood, if it only lasted. Obviously there were only seconds before even that orange beam would be gone.
I knew I had a couple of jumper wires in my toolbox with metal clips at each end. I found one and used it to bypass the bad fuse, hoping the fuse had only blown from age, and not anything wrong with the wiring. I got the jumper wire attached with the last few photons from the dying flashlight batteries. The battery was now gone, dead as a doornail.
But, when I walked around to the driver side door, I saw to my great relief that the dash lights were on. The car battery was okay. I put the hood down, tossed the toolbox on the front passenger seat, and turned the ignition key. The car started. Whew! I flipped on the headlights and pulled out onto the highway, grateful to be moving again. It was an unsettling drive, but everything stayed working until I got into Los Angeles about three the next morning.
The first thing I did the next day was buy extra fuses, D batteries, C batteries, AA batteries AAA batteries and two spare flashlights. I had learned my lesson well. I was able to get around that burned out fuse with with a jumper wire and a little luck, but there is no work-around for dead batteries.
I make sure today that I always have spare batteries of all sizes that I might need in an emergency, for both home and all my vehicles. I order them online and pick them up on my doorstep. Simple.
Just remember though, you can order all your batteries on line, but you have to deliver them to your car by hand. Don’t forget to do that.