October 5th 2009. On tour with the Duncan Crew.

We had just finished up a nice demo at Old City Kites in Sacramento and it was time to get in the van and be off to our next gig. Emil Lamprecht, Paul Escolar and I piled in and Emil turned the key in the ignition… nothing. In addition to our music for the demo, we had accidentally left too many accessories running in the van for the last 2 1/2 hours. The battery was completely dead.

We asked Anwar, our host, if he had jumper cables. He didn’t but suggested that the workers who owned the trucks next to us might. I talked to the first guy to come out to the truck, and after I explained to him what jumper cables were, he told me he didn’t have any, but his buddy might. The three workers were all Hispanic so the next part of the conversation took place in Spanish. What surprised all of us was that the second guy didn’t say either yes or no, there was a pretty involved discussion and then the first guy turned to me and said, “Yes, we have them.”

The worker guys started digging around in the second truck and pulled out a big coil of electrical wire. This is the kind of wire that contractors use to put in an outlet or run electrical lines through your walls. I thought maybe the jumper cables were under the coil of wire, but no, they were going to use that wire to jump us.

It never would have occurred to me that their method might work, but they were very confident, we only had 35 minutes until our next gig, and I was happy to roll with it, so I got the hood open as fast as I could. Emil on the other hand was pretty nervous about it and asked, “Are you sure that’s safe?” The guy with the wire looked at him with an expression that said, “Of course this is safe, don’t be ridiculous.” Paul was apparently pretty nervous too, but he hid it well.

The worker guys got the big coil of wire out, cut it to the right length and started whittling off the insulation with their pocket knives. It was a surprisingly quick operation, and it was clear that at least one of the guys had done this before. With both hoods open, the worker guys put the wire in place. There was some coordination that had to be done of course: “Negra positivo?” “No blanco.” I suggested to Paul and Emil that they stand far enough back that they couldn’t get hit by any spraying acid from an exploding battery… just in case.

Getting a jump for the Duncan Crew tour van
The Duncan Crew tour van about to get a good jolt.

Getting a jump for the Duncan Crew tour van
The electricity donor.

The thing that was worrying me the most was that the guys were just holding the wire onto the terminals of the batteries with their bare hands. I know how batteries work, and I have heard horror stories about what happens when you accidentally touch a wrench or something to both terminals of a car battery, so I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that their beating hearts were right smack dab in the middle of those two battery terminals. I didn’t think anyone was going to grab on to the terminals with their bare hands, but sometimes you can’t help imagining the worst-case scenario.

Emil got in the van, and after a little more discussion the worker guys gave him the signal and he turned the key. The van started right up as if there had never been a problem.

The three of us Duncan guys cheered and threw our hands in the air, and the three worker guys looked at us like we were idiots. Throughout the entire jumping process there was a wonderful disparity between how freaked out Emil, Paul & I were versus how nonchalant the three worker guys were.

Emil hooked the guys up with yo-yos to say thank you and we were off to the next gig. We made it with 5 minutes to spare.

Almost as funny as the story itself is that whenever Emil is telling it he can never remember the word “jump” and keeps saying that the worker guys “rebooted” our van. Kids these days huh?