Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Chaos reigned at my house last Monday morning.

At the same moment that I was putting on my jacket to leave for work, Julia showed up to reclaim her cat Jack that we’d been babysitting for the weekend.

Hi, Julia. Bye, Julia.

Only I didn’t get very far. My car wouldn’t start.

I heard a ticky-ticky sound when I turned the key, then nothing. Only the radio worked.

The situation screamed DEAD BATTERY.

I guess I’d been warned. The car had hesitated before starting the previous morning.

My peppy Accord V-6 had now become 3,000 pounds of inert metal with me sitting behind the wheel with an expression of stupefaction.

I’ve experienced dead batteries, but not in years. This one felt like my first-ever automotive breakdown.

Why now? Why me? On the worst possible day.

I say worst only because Mondays in general are the worst, and this Monday I was trying to get to work early to handle some of the duties of a coworker on vacation.

Now look at me. Not only will I not be early, I’ll be late. And who knows how late. One hour? Two? Will there even be a next day’s Register?

Witnessing my panic was Oliver, Julia’s boyfriend, who was parked at the top of the driveway, waiting for the cat.

Need a jump? he asked.

What a timely offer. Crisis solved.

Where are your jumper cables? he asked.


I marched into the house and yelled out for Cheryl, who informed me that she/we didn’t own such a thing.

We once did, I said. I saw ‘em.

Oliver positioned his car for a jump while I tore through the back of the garage. Car wax, yes. Jumper cables, no.

He identified a gizmo I’d never seen before. It seemed capable of providing a jump when properly charged. We plugged it in, attached the cables to the battery nodes, and waited a few minutes.


Then Julia came scurrying out of the house, but without Jack. Cat’s hiding, she said in frustration.

Oliver couldn’t wait any longer. He had to get to work. They raced off catless.

I wasn’t surprised they couldn’t find Jack. It was turning out to be that kind of Monday morning.

Retreating to my car, I dug out my AAA card and called for help.

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A light mist was falling. A deluge was forecast. The newspaper needed me. But there I sat.

AAA lets you follow the tow truck’s route on your cellphone. Watching the truck crawling its way to Browns Valley was surprisingly entertaining.

About 30 minutes after my call, help arrived.

The tow truck guy got out a tester. My five-year-old battery was shot, he said.

He would have sold me a new one, but he didn’t have my size. So he fired me up through his truck’s umbilical cord and recommended I drive straight to a battery supplier. If I turned off the motor for any reason until then, the car won’t restart on its own, he said.

In this precarious condition, I set off for town while reviewing my options. Do I drive to a parts store in the hope they have time to install or do I drive to a more expensive garage?

With my internal newsroom clock ticking, I chose the more assured option.

Things happened fast at the garage. I was told my old battery was undersized. I was told to warm up in their waiting room. Thirty minutes later, I was good to go.

I wasn’t wearing my glasses when I paid the bill. I could see it was over $100, but the numbers were blurry.

Later I discovered I may have bought the most expensive battery in all of Napa. But what the heck, I had my wheels back.

I arrived in the newsroom only 95 minutes late. I played catch-up the rest of the morning. The next day’s paper did get out.

And when I got home that night, there was Jack, looking innocent as hell. She’d decided to come out from hiding.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.