I realize my columns lately have been dealing with many things that have been going wacky around my house – the lawnmower, the automatic garage doors, the furnace – the list goes on. So I really didn’t want to write about yet another problem. But this latest one is just too weird not to share.
It was after dark one night last week when I was driving up my driveway and noticed a glowing green light coming from underneath the garage doors. Considering I had nothing in the garage that could glow, my first thought was maybe a burglar with a green flashlight was in there.
My second thought was the Martians had landed.
Luckily, my dogs were in the back seat of my car, so I figured if anything tried to attack me as I drove into the garage, Raven (a.k.a. “Cujo Junior”) was likely to leave some serious teeth marks on it.
Once inside the garage, I remained in the car while I eyed my surroundings. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, other than a bright green glow coming from the corner. Gathering my courage, I finally got out of the car and searched for the source. It was coming from the spare battery for my lawnmower.
Before I continue, I probably should explain how the battery works. It’s big, about the size of a car battery, and weighs over 30 pounds. The lawnmower contains a compartment the battery fits into. Once the battery is in the compartment, there is a key that goes into a slot on the back of it to activate it. When the lawnmower finally is turned on, the battery has five indicator lights on it that light up. There are three green lights, one yellow light and one red light. A fully charged battery has all three green lights lit. As the battery gets weaker, however, only two green lights will light, then only one. Finally, the yellow light will pop on, meaning the battery is on the verge of dying, and the red one means the battery is about to cough and die, and desperately needs to be recharged.
The lawnmower’s instruction manual specifies that the indicator lights on the battery will not light unless the battery is properly seated in the mower, has the key in it, and the mower’s motor is running.
Well, I have big news for the person who wrote that manual.
This particular battery had been sitting on the floor in a corner of the garage for weeks. I hadn’t charged it. There was no key in it. And it wasn’t even anywhere near the lawnmower. Yet all of the indicator lights on it, especially the green ones, were shining more brightly than I’d ever seen them shine before.
I happened to notice that one side of the battery was swollen, which instantly sent me into a panic mode. Visions of the battery exploding made me grab it and lug it out to the driveway, where I set it on the asphalt. The lights on it seemed to get even brighter, casting a fluorescent green glow everywhere.
Not understanding what was going on, I went inside and headed straight to my computer to search for information. One of the items that caught my eye said something about batteries building up hydrogen gas inside and exploding. Visions of a giant mushroom cloud looming over my neighborhood made me decide to call the fire department’s non-emergency number and have a little chat with someone there, just to make sure I wasn’t about to inadvertently wipe out the local population.
The man I spoke with listened to my story, then calmly asked me to hang on. When he returned, he said I probably should move the battery to an area where there was nothing combustible near it.
“Why?” I dared to ask him.
He didn’t respond.
“Then you think it’s safe for me to be carrying it around?” I persisted, wondering what would happen if I dropped it.
“It should be fine,” he said. “Just wear gloves and face protection when you do.”
Call me a doubter, but the words “gloves and face protection” didn’t exactly make me want to rush to pick up the battery.
So I left it right where it was. The green lights kept getting brighter. My driveway is over 400 feet long, and the battery’s lights could be seen from the road.
My friends Paul and Nancy came over the other night and were intrigued by the battery. Paul checked it over and said, “Well, at least it’s not hot to the touch.”
The weird thing was whenever he got close to it, the lights would start flickering in different patterns.
“Maybe it’s some kind of code, like Morse code!” I jokingly said. “A message from beyond!”
Paul said, “The only Morse code I know is S.O.S., and it’s not flashing that!”
“That’s a relief,” Nancy said under her breath..
So Paul contacted a few stores about the battery’s mysterious behavior and was told the battery probably was “sulfating” and I should wrap it in a blanket and take it to the nearest battery recycling-center.
Maybe I’m just a big chicken, but the thought of driving around with a swollen battery in my car really didn’t appeal to me. I had visions of hitting a bump in the road and being launched into space.
So as I write this, the battery still is sitting in my driveway. It has been out there through rain, wind and fog, and still continues to shine brightly. I figure it probably still will be sitting there when it snows.
Meanwhile, I’m going to just keep waiting for the lights on it to finally die…or for the Martians it’s trying to signal to come pick it up.