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  • Writer's pictureJenna Beall Mueller

Why You Should Always Carry AAA, a Book, and Cash

On Wednesday night, I was making a quick trip to Kroger for some last-minute camping supplies.

Neutrogena makeup-removing wipes. Hard seltzers. Wheat Thins. A random succulent arrangement that caught my eye.

You know, all of the essentials.

I loaded up my Corolla with my groceries, removed my face mask, and spritzed my hands with sanitizer. Then, I put the key into the ignition and...nothing. No overhead lights, no dashboard icons. Nada.

My car was dead.

I immediately called Adam who had *JUST* finished getting the camper off its stabilizers and hooking it up to his truck. This was no small feat for newbies like us. I'd been there for half of the process and then peaced out for the easier grocery store chore.

"I'll pick up a new battery and be there soon," he said, presumably stifling a sigh.

I thought of undoing and then redoing all of the camper work. Even worse, I thought of Adam trying to back the camper into the driveway in the dark without our guardian angel Scott's help. Yikes. No thank you.

"I'll just call AAA," I said instead. "Isn't that why we have the service?"

Besides, I was in a Kroger parking lot. It was one of the safest places my car could have died.

After much debate, Adam agreed (though he kept texting and calling every few minutes for status updates).

I quickly got ahold of a Triple A representative, and the associate assured me help would be there within 55 minutes.

Not too shabby!

"Which Kroger are you at?" the associate asked me.

"The Oakley Kroger," I replied.

"Is that the one on Paxton?"

"Um, yeah. I think so. Sure," I said, making a decision that would bite me in the butt later.

I opened my book—Susan Orlean's The Library Book, which is absolutely enchanting—and settled into my front seat.

Almost immediately, I received a second call from AAA. They were completely out of the kind of battery my car needed and asked if I still wanted a jump. Obviously I said yes, and 30 minutes later, I received a third call from Jimmy.

"Hey! I'm in the Kroger parking lot now. Can you tell me which section you're in?" he asked.

I craned by neck around, looking for Jimmy and his blinking truck. "I'm in the smaller lot beside the pharmacy drive-thru and ATM."

"I'm by the ATM, too?" he said, starting to sound unsure. "You are at the Kroger on Paxton, right?"

No, I was not at the Kroger on Paxton. I was at the one on Marburg. I'd mixed up the streets like the westside native I am.

"I'm sorry. I'm at the Oakley Kroger, the one on Marburg," I said quickly. "That's my fault. I told them the wrong location."

Jimmy sighed. He was very exasperated with me, though in my defense, these two Krogers are only five minutes apart. It wasn't like Jimmy would need to drive across town! "I'll be there soon," he said.

Even though I was pretty sure Jimmy hated me at that point, seeing his white AAA truck rambling through the parking lot was like the sight of a knight in shining armor.

"Jimmy!" I actually called to him, waving.

Thankfully, Jimmy didn't seem as annoyed with me in person as he had on the phone. While I leaned against my Corolla reading my book, Jimmy toiled away.

He kept a constant commentary going of what he was doing, ruling out various problems along the way.

"Yep! Uh-huh," I would occasionally hum.

Let's be real. I am a terrible driver, and I really have no interest in cars.

I was also texting both my mom and husband during this time, as most thirty-something gals would do.

"Make sure you tip!!!" my mom said.

I looked inside my wallet. I had $5 on me. Pathetic.

"Um, Jimmy? Is it okay if I pop over to the ATM real quick?"

Jimmy said yes, that was fine, and I scurried away. Naturally, the closest Kroger entrance (the one also closest to the ATM) had been closed for the night, so I had to really hustle across the store.

As it turned out, the entire errand was pointless since the ATM was out of order. UGH.

I returned to the parking lot where Jimmy was still hard at work. It was dark now (too dark to read), and I was honestly beginning to think a tow truck was in my future. I was also worried about the state of the cheese I had bought.

But ten minutes later, the Corolla roared to life—and she stayed that way, too!

"You did it!" I cheered.

Jimmy looked proud. I apologized that my car hadn't been a simple jump. He said that the first and last calls of the day were always the trickiest.

As it turned out, my battery was perfectly fine. My problem was corrosion, probably from acid leaked from a past battery. When Jimmy showed me the damage, I was a) immensely impressed my car had been running fine before this, and b) immensely impressed that Jimmy had brought it back to life.

"Um, I have a sort of bizarre question to ask you," I said, continuing my habit of prefacing topics in the most awkward way possible. When I quit my last job, I told my manager, Something strange has happened.


Jimmy looked at me like, Oh dear, God, what?

"Do you take Venmo? I only have $5 for a tip, and the ATM was all acting weird."

"I do," he smiled, "but we're not supposed to take tips. Thanks anyways, though."

What a compliant AAA associate! I marveled.

I thanked Jimmy three more times, said how much I appreciated his help twice more, and then finally headed home.

From now on, when our AAA renewal arrivals, I will respond with a resounding yes! I will also continue to carry a book with me at all times.

But I really need to be better about carrying cash.

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