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This morning when I stopped to get gas, I noticed another car with its hood up. Before I even got out of my car, the driver approached me asking for a jump. His battery was dead. He had a Spanish-speaker’s accent, possibly Mexican.

“Sure,” I said, always ready to help out. A dead battery at 18° F is no fun.

I backed out and pulled my car around so it faced his. He already had his jumper cables out. They were clean and shiny and looked like they had never been used. They were also thin, and I wondered to myself if they were good enough to get the job done. He hooked them up, double-checked the polarity, and got back in his car to try it. The engine turned over once, then made that stuttering sound that means “not enough juice.” He checked the cables and tried again. Same result.

“I guess I’ll just leave it here,” he said.

“Let’s try my cables,” I replied.

I got out my own jumper cables. They had obviously seen use, but they were much thicker and had stronger springs in the clips. We hooked them up, and he hopped in to try again. His car started right up.

He thanked me and left. I put away my cables and pulled back into place to get gas. It was only as I was putting the dispensing nozzle in my car that I saw his shiny, new cables draped over the inverted U-barrier at the end of the island. He had left his useless jumper cables behind.