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Slices of Life: DIY adventures in towing the car
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We had car issues last weekend. Namely one of the kid's cars wouldn't start. This obviously became a problem for my husband and me - mostly my husband, but I attempt to support him in these family matters.

Since the car has been sitting unused for some time, we thought (hoped) maybe the problem stemmed from a dead battery requiring a simple jump-start. My husband hooked up the red and black cables and I stood nearby, supervising.

The car clicked, but didn't start.

The battery is new, so we were stymied. My husband threw out words like alternator, solenoid and serpentine belt, which sounded a lot like "Blah, blah, blah," to me. I nodded and tried not to appear too glazed over.

After more poking and adjusting under the hood, the car remained unresponsive. It was clear we needed knowledgeable roadside assistance so my husband contacted a nearby car care professional who said he'd be glad to take a look.

That left us stymied in a new way: how to get the car from our driveway to the auto mechanic's shop?

Normal people would consider calling a tow truck, but my husband and I are hardly ever normal. For us, DIY, aren't just letters; they are a way of life. Why let somebody who knows what they are doing tow you when you can put yourself in danger and do it the hard way yourself?

"Do you want to pull or be pulled?" he asked. He's a generous man - always giving me first choice.

I didn't get the chance to answer because we discovered the towing doohickey on the non-operational car was located under the rear (not front) bumper. This meant the person being pulled would have to go backwards. Since my husband's always been better at being backwards than me, we decided I better occupy the forward driving (towing) vehicle. We enlisted our youngest son to ride shotgun with me to keep an eye on the other car.

The route was short, just a few blocks, but involved maneuvering down two fairly steep hills, navigating three corners and crossing Main Street.

My husband instructed me to go slow. Like I'd consider doing anything else on this little joyride.

And we were off. I inched my SUV down the first hill to a stop sign. Traffic on the typically quiet road was bustling (of course) and I waited and waited for an opening large enough to get both our vehicles through. While doing so, I prayed my husband's car wouldn't roll down the hill and hit me.

After a matter of seconds, which seemed like days, I had my chance. I crept into the intersection and steered into a left turn. I thought we were in the clear when my son yelled, "Dad's on the curb."

I hit the brakes.

My husband got out of his car and assessed the situation. He then motioned for me to keep going. So I did. White knuckle doesn't even begin to describe the situation. My hands were shaking and no amount of deodorant would have been enough that day.

I drove forward and he miraculously made it off the sidewalk and onto the road. We negotiated our way over railroad tracks and through a right turn without incident. The auto repair shop became visible up ahead. We rolled toward it at about 5 miles per hour.

And finally, we were there. Sensing victory, I headed toward the back of the lot. My son yelled, "Put on the brakes. Dad's going to hit that car."

I did as I was told. My husband came to a stop within inches of a parked car. I hadn't even considered the possibility of hitting another vehicle. Silly me.

Still, we were triumphant and celebrated with a high-five moment. Pulling a car backwards across town with a tow cable - at least I can cross that one off the bucket list. I hopped out of the SUV and climbed into the passenger seat. Even though we'd only gone a few blocks, I'd had enough driving for one day.

- Jill Pertler's column appears Thursdays in the Times. She can be reached at