Monday, May 14, 2018


     So, older sister and I visited the cemetery, with silk floral arrangements for our Mom and for Dad's Mother, who died when I was two and sis was eight.  It's an old and nearly-forgotten place, unmowed so far this year, dandelions all gone to seed.  But there are many trees and there's a creek not too far away, and it's quiet and peaceful.

     Three generations of my father's family are buried there, and some of his and Mom's friends from High School are there, too.  It can make walking through the place unexpectedly poignant: "Oh, here's Goldie...and there's Marvin...."  people my parents knew, people my sister and I knew, at least a little; people whose names are are on buildings and streets in the little  neighborhood where they all lived.  Yes, there's an "X" street, too, named for my grandfather, who owned an auto garage not far from it.

     We left a little quieter than we arrived.

*  *  *
     I picked up a new battery for my motor scooter Sunday afternoon.  I didn't get the old battery out before the weather turned so terribly cold last winter and a short test ride a couple of weeks ago convinced me it was puny and not charging well.  Nobody makes a sealed storage battery of the right physical size and storage capacity to fit the available space, so I end up having to pour acid into the shipped-dry batter, which I don't much like doing.

     Last year, when I was turning in the previous defunct battery and acid container, the friendly countermen at the neighborhood auto-parts store offered to prep the next one for me.  So this year, I took them up on the offer.

     They filled the battery with a casual (but careful) grace that spilled not a drop (I have to keep a box of baking soda and a bottle of water handy), credited me for the dud and sent me on my way.  Once home, I stashed the battery near the scooter, to put in later.  Remember that.

*  *  *
     It was good grilling weather and the corner grocer had a deal on steaks.  It's been hot enough that I was hankering for cucumber-onion salad -- just sliced cucumber and onion, in sweetened, diluted vinegar with a little salt and pepper (and maybe a hint of garlic), so I picked up fixings for that, along with a baking potato and some green salad.

     The grill and hardwood charcoal worked their usual magic; the green salad and potato were great. The cucumber-onion salad was okay, but wanted re-seasoned; this is easily done by pouring off the liquid, making a new batch (sweeter and less salty, with a bit of black pepper) and pouring it over the veggies: these "unpickles" are good for at least a week in the fridge and get better over time.

     After dinner and another episode of The Expanse (Tam is catching up), I went out to the garage to install the new battery in my scooter.

*  *  *
     Everything on an old-fashioned scooter is tiny.  The battery is no exception, easy to sit on its little shelf and strap into place.  Bolt the lugs on the terminals, and you're almost done: it's a conventional battery and there's a vent that needs to have a plastic tube installed.  It's shipped capped, and I noticed the auto-parts guys had left the cap on.

     Heavy "dishwashing" gloves are my preferred protective wear when working with batteries -- even a sealed car battery is pretty filthy after years under the hood and they help avoid that burning sensation.  They're not terribly clumsy to work in but the tiny rubber cap over the vent connection was tricky.  I tugged at it and--
     I stepped back smartly while saying, "Yow!" and dropping the little cap.  There was a faint rotten-egg smell in the air; I stopped inhaling as soon as I caught it, stepped out into the driveway, expelled as much air as I could and breathed in.

     Of course pressure had built up in the battery; the auto-parts clerk had likely assumed I'd be putting it in almost immediately, given the afternoon was pretty good riding weather and we're looking at a week of rain.  I hadn't. I'd left it sitting for several hours in 80-plus -degree heat and thus I'd got a surprise.

     The battery was fine and after a few minutes to let the fumes clear, I finished the job, put the cowling back in place, and rode the scooter up and down the alley a little.  Looks like it'll do!


Chuck Pergiel said...

'Hydrogen sulfide' popped into my head when I read your description. Could that be right?

Roberta X said...

The operant element here is "sulphur." As in sulphuric acid -- battery acid! It would not surprise me if hydrogen sulphide were emitted, everything needed is there, but I am decades past learning the chemistry involved.

Anonymous said...

Beware! The madwoman is on the loose!

Too bad that you couldn't find a sealed battery. I have ridden bikes for 40+ years, the wet acid ones just don't last more than a couple of years. The sealed ones have 3 times the life.

Ride safely!

John Amdor said...

Hydrogen sulfide is correct - a by-product of the chemical reactions that occur during charging, or in this case, resting and rehydrating the dry plates.

Two words to consider: Battery Tender. For those of us living in areas where Mother Nature interferes with riding year-round, a battery tender pays for itself quickly.

Roberta X said...

I actually own a Battery Tender. But I didn't get the battery on it before the first big, multi-day freeze.

Paul said...

My brother about burned a car up once discovering the un-abated fumes from a battery. Not sure how it came about but I know it got his attention.

Batteries are nothing to be blase about for sure. I will have to replace the one in mine as well this year. Now to find the key.

Will said...

One of the mechanics in the bike shop I worked in back in the 70's caused a small bike battery (probably for a Hodaka) to explode. He had filled it with acid, and was connecting it to a charger when it blew. His body did a good job of blocking off the shop from flying acid and parts. Made a heck of a bang as I was walking past him.

I don't think we ever figured out the cause, although the cap was still on the vent tube. Either gas pressure or gas ignition. They were supposed to be charged with the cell caps out, but he had screwed them in.

That was the second battery I had encountered that exploded. Had a car battery explode in the Sears Auto Center I worked at (first full time job!). This had blown while the hood was closed, and put dents in that hood. (Late 60's full size GM type, IIRC). I don't think the cause was known.

Lead/acid batteries should be treated with caution, and safety glasses are suggested whenever working around, or with, them. You REALLY don't want acid in your eye. BT;DT.

Ritchie said...

Like Jimmy Buffett's "big suspicion 'bout ammunition", I have a big suspicion 'bout lots of things. Batteries. Electricity in myriad forms. Chemistry. Pressurized objects. Not to mention the permutations. And ammunition.