Fresh lessons from a flat battery in the FirstRand parking lot.

By Alec Hogg

Earlier this week I shared some ideas on the benefit of humility. Yesterday afternoon in the FirstRand parking area the universe reinforced the lesson.

Two young ladies were struggling to jump start one of their cars. The bonnets were open and they had the required jumper leads, but seemed stumped. My offer to help was gratefully accepted by one. But as I started connecting the batteries the way I must have done a hundred times before – positive to positive; negative to an earthing point – the other told me to stop.

Her boyfriend was on the cell and had a different idea, telling us to connect the batteries differently – negative to positive. Boyfriends trump strangers, even if those offering to help are Dad’s age. So I smiled and followed her instruction. And a single turn of the ignition later, the flat battery kicked back to life.

I left a little wiser. Not just that there are other ways to connect car batteries. But in the realisation that just because something has always worked one way for you, doesn’t mean another will not.

An email response from Sandra Barone

Firstly let me thank you for an excellent website and a most interesting newsletter – Reading it is the absolute highlight of my morning.

I just had to comment on your battery story this morning. I have since been googling like mad and absolutely everything I can find emphasises the importance of never connecting the positive to the negative and the dire consequences of doing so, ranging from blown fuses, electrical problems and exploding batteries. I find it really hard to believe that starting the car that way didn’t cause any damage, also I would not recommend it to anyone to actually try to jump start their vehicles in this way.

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