It almost always pays to give something a second chance.

This morning, one of our cars would not start.  Every day or two for the last two winters, I have been diligently firing up our older car, especially when the temperatures are very low, to prevent its battery from losing its charge (we had a lot of trouble with this a few years ago).  But I never expected our newer car—a hybrid—to have any such trouble.  After all, it has a gigantic battery which powers the car when it is in electric mode.

Nonetheless, the engine did not turn over when I switched on the key.  Instead, every indicator light flashed on and the dashboard screen displayed an error message.  I switched it back off and tried again with the same result.  Putting the transmission in gear similarly had no effect.  This car wasn’t going anywhere.

So I went back into the house, took a deep breath, calmly considered my options and devised a rational plan for how best to proceed.

Believe that?  Actually, I ranted and raved about the incompetence of battery and automobile manufacturers, scolded myself for not starting the car at all the previous day, and generally swore a blue streak for several minutes.  There was nothing calm or rational about my response.

Once my blood pressure dropped a bit, I sat down at the computer to see if I could troubleshoot the problem.  I didn’t have much luck but I did learn that hybrid cars have a second smaller battery, just like any other car, which is used to start the engine initially (it is not until the system is in operation that the hybrid battery is employed).

I next called the service department at the nearest dealership.  They were not much help (apparently, the error message our car displayed covers a wide variety of ailments) and explained that if the car would not start, we had no choice but to have it towed into the shop (i.e., they didn’t think a jumpstart or other do-it-yourself procedure would work).

That didn’t help my blood pressure.  But in a moment of calm, I decided to give the car a second chance (well, technically, a third chance).  It may simply have been wishful thinking on my part but taking the time to try starting it once more would not take any effort and would only slightly delay the unpleasant task of calling AAA to have the car towed.  I had nothing to lose by trying again.

And sure enough, the car started up as if nothing had previously been wrong.  Only 15 minutes had passed and the temperature was still below freezing; nothing had changed since the previous attempt.  Who knows what the problem had been but apparently, the car just needed a few extra moments to wake up this morning.

So, next time I will try to skip the emotional outburst and go straight to the calm, rational—and, when dealing with human beings, compassionate—response of giving one more chance.

(As it turned out, we were in the neighborhood of the dealership later in the afternoon and took the car in for a free check.  According to the car’s computer, the voltage of the starter battery had indeed been low.  There was no indication of why the voltage recovered without any external intervention.)