Useful Dad Skills and Everyday Heroics

Categories Apollo 13, Life of Dad

This was the day I saved a life.  In fact, this was the day, I saved two lives.  A crisis had erupted, the universe had called upon a savior and that savior was me.

I was on my way back home from playing and winning at one of the most masculine of sports in this world – Squash – and was enjoying the post exercise endorphin buzz.

I’d taken the game back up recently following a decade-long hiatus largely to justify the exorbitant gym membership, but also that my wife had been dropping subtle hints I may have put on a few pounds recently.  Like calling me fat boy.

It was a bitterly cold Wednesday night and I was filling up the car from a self-service pump in an empty petrol station situated within a deserted supermarket car park.

I should explain that my wife and I are very lucky drivers.  Our luck is such that when she needs to drive, there is always sufficient petrol to take her where she needs to go.  And when I need to drive, I’m lucky enough to have just enough petrol to get to the closest garage.


This was one of those times I was lucky again.


Now, I don’t generally make a habit of filling up my car from self-service pumps in empty petrol stations situated within deserted supermarket car parks.  Especially on bitterly cold Wednesday nights.  But I am certain that doing so while wearing white squash shorts was breaking new ground, even for me.

Needless to say I felt a little exposed.  And this was before I spied silhouettes inside a darkened car across the forecourt.

What was slightly more concerning was that I could see one of them continue to rock backwards and forwards in their seat with zero evidence that music of any kind was being played.  Just to emphasise my isolation I then heard the screeching of two cats fight a few miles away.

I reached into my pocket, took out my phone and put it to my ear to pretend, at least to me, that I wasn’t alone.

Suddenly I heard a car door close and footsteps approach me.  I willed myself not to look up and make eye contact.

“Excuse me” came the voice.


This was it.  I was about to me mugged.  Mugged of my phone, possibly my car and maybe… even my life.


No, I thought to myself, I was not going down this way.  I was not going down wearing 10-year-old shorts that I swear had shrunk with age.  I took a deep breath, steeled myself and looked up at my would-be assassin.

She was 5’5’’ with curly dark hair and smiling from a kindly face that was slightly blotched from where she’d recently been crying.

“Could I borrow your phone, please?” she asked.

I just stared at her blankly.

“This phone?” I said, pointing to the phone in my hand.

It was the only phone for miles.

“My car won’t start, my phone’s dead and I need to call my Dad to come pick us up.  I think it’s the battery” she said pointing back to her car where I could now see the second silhouette was a small girl of about 7.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Okay, that’s good” I said.


She stopped walking towards me, her smile faded and she took a step back.


I suddenly realized that this was the wrong thing to say to a stranded woman in a deserted petrol station at night, nevermore so when dressed quite improperly for winter.

“I mean, that it’s just the car battery.”

“Really?” she asked cautiously.

“Sure” I started, reaching deep into the recesses of my brain to pull out any sort of reassuring mechanical parlance that I could muster.  “It just needs a bit of a plug-in.”

Her face lit up.  “Great.  I’ve got some jump leads in the boot but I’ve never used them.  Do you know what to do?”

I paused.  “No, sorry.”

She started to look at me oddly again.

“But we can Google it?” I offered.

Twenty minutes, two YouTube videos and one phone call to her dad later, the once-moribund car engine sprang back to life.


“Thank you” she said beaming with gratitude.  “You’re a life saver.”


I was elated.  I had mastered a new skill that men of a previous generation would approve of and I had rescued a crying woman and her small child and in turn, received their undying thanks – obviously once they realized I wasn’t a deviant.

I was a ‘life-saver’.  I was no longer just helpful, or useful in hindsight but a saver of lives; a savior no less.

I drove home excited.  I couldn’t wait to get in to regale my wife of my heroic deeds this day.

“Okay, cool” she said glancing back to her phone, once I’d finished telling her both the story and of my newly acquired expertise.

She’d obviously not heard me properly, for if she had, she would be swooning and gushing with admiration.

“Did you hear when I said about how the car sprang back to life?”  I asked her.

“Yes babe.” She nodded.

“And how I can be useful in all real-world jump-start crises?”

“Uh-huh” she said without looking up.

I sat down next to her on the sofa.  This might not have been the response I was expecting but I knew deep within that this was a turning point for me.  Now I’d done it once, I pictured I could hold my own during all of those jump-start based conversations at parties rather than nod along to other peoples’.

My wife finished with her phone then told me what I’d missed when I was out, when she’d cooked dinner, played, bathed, read to and put our two kids to bed.


“And when she called me a life-saver?”  I asked suddenly, hours later in bed.


My wife turned to me with a look that clearly portrayed that she thought we’d moved on from this conversation some time ago.

She sighed.  “So let me get this straight.”

I nodded

“You were filling up the car?”


“And a lady comes over and asks to borrow your phone as her car had broken down?”


“And then instead of saying yes like a normal person,” – I began not to like where this was going – “you panicked, said something creepy and to make up for it, you misled her into thinking you could fix it?”

“You’re forgetting though, that I did actually fix it!”

“Ah yes.  You typed ‘How to Jump-Start a Car’ into Google.”

“Well, it was You Tube, but I don’t think you’re appreciating the true heroic message of the story.”

“You’re right.  You’re a hero.  You should post it on Instagram.  You should alert the newspapers. I’m tired. Goodnight.”  she said rolling over – muttering something about being the ‘true hero by looking after our children all day and night’ and ‘it’s not the shorts that have shrunk fatboy’.  Or something like that.

I lay there, thinking about what she had said.  ‘Post it on Instagram!’  ‘Alert the newspapers!’ I mean what kind of person does she think I am?  Does she think I need to tell everyone on the entire planet about it?  I ask you, here, on this public blog, how needy does she think I am?

As I sum up this story, if you’re willing to be a hero or at the very least useful in a quiz, it is actually worth knowing what to do and what stuff you’ll need should you ever need to be almost as heroic as I was.

Jon’s List

Here’s the what:

Here’s the how:

  1. make sure both cars are parked with brakes on
  2. attach one of the red clips to the ‘POS’ or ‘+’ terminal on your battery
  3. attach the other end with a red clip to the ‘POS’ or ‘+’ terminal on the other car
  4. attach the black clip to the negative terminal on the other battery
  5. attach the other black clip to an unpainted metal surface earthing point
  6. turn on the working car’s engine
  7. run like hell
  8. ignore 7
  9. leave the working car to run for a few minutes
  10. then turn on your car and leave for about 10 minutes
  11. turn both cars off and disconnect the clips in reverse order that you applied

3 thoughts on “Useful Dad Skills and Everyday Heroics

  1. Hey Jon

    Would you be interested in a guest blog post on my new parenting website ‘The Parent Pause’ – for anyone navigating life with children in Rugby and the surrounding areas? (Currently under construction for another week or so!)

    I think you have a great writing style and it would be good to balance with more of the dad perspective.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Natalie Bullard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *