Four-year-old Car Jack Engineer
"Alternative" Car Jack
Several years ago I was driving along a highway in Paterson, New Jersey one morning with my four-year-old son strapped in his child safety seat in the center of the back seat, when one of the tires on my car blew out. Luckily, no other cars were nearby, so I was able to navigate safely to the shoulder of the road.
Now, anyone who is familiar with Paterson will know that it is not a place where you would like to break down, especially not a woman with a young child. This happened when cell phones were rare and I didn't have one.
Although this was a four-lane highway, there was very little traffic and I did not see any buildings nearby where I might make a phone call.
With resignation, I realized that I had better try to change the tire myself. Of course, I had been taught how to change a tire in Driver Ed class many years earlier. The only problem was that I was not strong enough to loosen the lug nuts, so no matter how well I knew the procedure, if I could not get the lug nuts off, I would not be able to change the tire.
I located the car’s manual in the glove box and turned to the section with instructions on how to change a tire
The first step was to find and remove the jack from the trunk. This I was able to do with no problem. But the jack was in two pieces. I got back into the car to try to put the jack together. Not being very mechanically inclined, I was not too successful.
Suddenly from the back there came a little voice. “That’s not the way it goes, Mommy.”
My son had a bird’s eye view of the jack from his perch in the back seat.
Now I knew that my son was smart, since he had learned to read by this time, mainly by watching "Sesame Street" and "Learn to Read" on television. But did he really know how to put a jack together?
“Okay, Smartypants,” I said with exasperation, handing him
the pieces of the jack. “Put it together, if you can.”
“Okay, Mommy,” he replied. Turning the pieces around in the opposite direction from the way I had been trying to put them together, he quickly snapped the jack together.
“Here you go, Mommy,” he said, handing me the jack.
Outdone by a four-year-old, I thought, but said, “Thank you, sweetie.”
“Too bad you’re not older, so you could change the tire for me,” I thought.
I got out of the car and attempted to loosen the lug nuts. Of course, I found that impossible, so we were no closer to solving the problem.
“Where are the police when you need them?” I wondered. Obviously, they were nowhere in sight, so we were going to have to walk to try to find a phone.
Holding my son firmly by the hand, I walked with him along the side of the highway. Sensing my nervousness, my son was close to tears, so I tried to reassure him.
"We're going to find a phone and call Daddy to come and help us," I promised him.
Several cars stopped to ask if we needed a ride, but because accepting a ride with a stranger can be deadly, I politely declined. However, I did ask them to try to notify the police when they reached a phone.
My son and I continued walking, and to my surprise and relief, we saw a store on a side road. They had a pay phone there, and I was able to call my husband at work.
By the time we got back to the car, he was just pulling up. He quickly changed the tire. Just as he was putting away the jack and closing the trunk, a state trooper finally arrived. We told him everything had been taken care of and thanked him for his time. My husband went back to work and my son and I continued on our way.
My son is now 19 and has just finished his first year at the University of Virginia, studying Electrical Engineering. With the kind of early intelligence he had, who knows what he's going to invent?