Monthly Archives: August 2006

If I Weren’t Actually LIVING It…

…I wouldn’t believe it.

According to the lovely, calm, even-tempered Ed at the body shop, my Hockey Puck isn’t totaled, but has suffered a fair bit of damage, mostly to the undercarriage (sustained while scaling the stone wall) and hatch (sustained after experiencing the Newtonian law that says a body in motion stays in motion…). Even though the car doesn’t LOOK all that bad – there are a couple of good scratches on the bumpers and a dent in the hatch, though not a major one – it managed to bend an axle on its trip and the frame is likely bent, as nothing in the back end fits together quite right anymore. Ed calmly explained to me that he’s 99% certain that all the damage is contained to the area behind the back edges of the rear passenger doors, though, since everything forward of that maintains its lines. He could tell that the “crash” happened at a pretty low speed (because the parking brake was UP, People!) and assured me that he’d be able to repair the damage.

But that’s not what this post is about.

So, I’ve got this crappy rental car to use while my precious little dinged-up Puck is in for the restorative work. It’s a Chevy Cobalt. It’s an automatic. It’s bright red. Let me tell you a short little story; my husband is the one in the family who makes the “big” buying decisions – cars and computers in particular – because he does all the research and is, well, more particular about some things than I am. When I sent him out shopping for my car, I gave him these guidelines: “four doors, five speeds, not red, not yellow.” ALL the rental cars in the lot were red automatics. What’s UP with that?

ANYWAY, I’ve had this P.O.S. for exactly three days. Yesterday, we packed up and headed to WeedWoman’s mother’s place on a lake in the middle of New Hampshire (no, not the big lake – this fact will be important later in the story). We managed to get there just fine, though getting onto the highway is a bit of a challenge in this car because, well, it has no balls. None. It can’t get out of its own way. While this is INCREDIBLY frustrating to me – who’s used to a car with guts (and gears) enough to actually get the job done – it has taught me to be more patient with people who stop at the end of onramps. It may that they’re not just morons who don’t understand the point of a “yield” sign – it could be that they just don’t have the chutzpah to get out into traffic. But I digress…

We get to the lake and proceed to have a WONDERFUL day. It’s getting late, we’re getting tired, it’s time to go home. We pack up the P.O.S., say our goodbyes, scratch the puppy one more time, buckle the girls in and turn the key…

Have I mentioned that I hate this car?

It wouldn’t start. Instead, it made a HORRIBLE clicking sound that I was sure was the starter motor trying to self-destruct. We thought it might be that the battery was dead, so I checked to see that I didn’t leave the lights or the radio on – I didn’t – and, in fact, these things all still worked, indicating that there was still juice in the system.

Rolling my eyes heavenward, I dialed Enterprise’s roadside assistance. I get Teresa on the phone. I explain my situation to her and she explains to me that she’s going to order a tow for the car and that I can get a replacement vehicle from Enterprise on Monday morning. It’s now Saturday afternoon. I’m in what could fairly be described as the outskirts of the hinterlands of New Hampshire – I’m not at the big lake – at the end of a dirt road, an hour away from home. Did Teresa have any idea how I was going to get my family back to our house? She said she could order a cab for me, too. I couldn’t contain myself anymore and I laughed out loud. A CAB?! Are you kidding me? You don’t know much about New Hampshire, Teresa, do you?

I’m not entirely sure how these roadside assistance places work, but I have my suspicions, based on my rather extensive recent personal experience, that they are mostly call centers based around major cities far from New England. My guess is that operators sit at computers and enter in the information the customer gives them, and those computers spit out information on both towing companies and repair facilities based on a program that figures physical distance between where the car is and where the facilities in question are located. I imagine a map comes up with the car at the center and a radius of so many miles drawn around it from which the operator chooses aid based on location. What these people don’t realize, however, is that the closest facility to the car in as-the-crow-flies miles is not necessarily the closest facility to the car in the real world. The roadside assistance people yesterday sent a tow truck from nearly 40 minutes away and were planning on towing the thing to a town which, as the crow flies, is about 12 miles away. Driving to this place in a flatbed, however, and requiring all paved roads, would have taken the driver north about ten miles and then south another ten. When I pointed out to the roadside operator that it would be far more convenient for EVERYONE involved if they towed it closer to home since both the tow truck driver and the rental facility were in that direction, she told me that this plan wasn’t feasible because it took them “out of range.”

Whatever.

While all this was going on, I asked her how she proposed I was going to get me home. That’s when she came up with the idea of calling a cab for us. I explained to her that, even if she COULD find a cab in this part of the country (which she wouldn’t have been able to do as there are only three cab companies in the state that I’m aware of, and none of them convenient to where we were), I wasn’t willing to PAY for whatever unreal price they would charge to come out and get us and drive us an hour home. She hesitated at that and told me that she MIGHT be able to get a supervisor to authorize payment, but she didn’t have a tone of voice that inspired confidence in me.

All in all, I was on the phone with roadside assistance for the better part of a half an hour.

The tow truck driver has been the only positive part of this experience. He arrived reasonably quickly and was personable, good natured and funny. He literally doubled over laughing when I told him about the cab (“they have NO idea where you are, do they?!”). He wondered why they wanted him to drag the car further into the hinterlands when there’s a Chevy dealership in the town he came from. He listened to the horrid clicking the car made when we tried to start it up and suggested he TRY to jump start it (“it’s already busted; what’s the worst that could happen?”). When it actually started, he insisted on following us most of the way home to make sure nothing ELSE happened, even stopping along the way so we could add gas to the tank to make it home. In all the letters I’m going to write about the service I’ve received during all of this, his is going to be the only positive one and, should I need towing services again, I’m calling his company.

This saga ended this morning when I got into the car to go to work and, yeah, it didn’t start again. I took Husband’s car to work and told him to call someone to have them drag the thing away, that I didn’t want to even LOOK at it anymore, but he decided to tinker with it enough to get it started, thinking that there’s something wrong with the alternator and the battery just isn’t charging properly. He hooked it up to one of his fancy car starters and drove it to the rental lot where I met him on my way home from work. It isn’t just the battery, though; Husband said the car BARELY made it the six miles to the rental lot – it was shaking and hesitating and coughing and sputtering and changing gears in ways it shouldn’t be. The car is a dud.

While I was waiting for him to make it to the lot, I’d called the rental company’s 800 number to let them know what was going on and to tell them to suspend my contract and NOT charge my insurance company for all of this. I spoke to the representative for about four minutes before she put me on “a brief hold” that lasted more than half an hour (my cell phone has a timer). I ended up calling the company from Husband’s cell when he arrived and explaining to the person who answered THAT call that I was still on hold on MY phone. The second rep managed to get things mostly straightened out and then went looking for the other rep. I’m not sue what happened after that – I got fed up and discontinued the call after I passed 30 minutes.

SO. Hopefully tomorrow will find me with a new rental car – one that will actually run for more than a day or two. I’m really praying that this is the last bit of drama I have in this saga; I’m starting to get really, really tired.

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Uh….oops…

I picked my car up from the dealership on Tuesday afternoon after its having had its 20,000 mile check-up. Knowing what the traffic over the bay bridge would be like at 4:30 in the afternoon, I decided to take the round-about way home and, on the way, Bowyer called me. Cell reception along the round-about route is pretty sketchy, and the call was dropped. However, the round-about way brings me, literally, right past his house, so I stopped in to see what it was he wanted.

I pulled up to his basement door, just like I’ve done two or three times a week for the last seven years. This is important, People; for the entire time Bowyer’s lived there – seven years this year – I’ve visited AT LEAST once a week and have always parked in the exact same spot.

Anyway, I pull in and warn the girls that we’re not going to stay long, so when I say it’s time to go, there should be no whining or complaining. Punkin’ Pie thought it might be best if they stay in the car and read, but knowing how Bowyer and I get to talking, I told them to come in for a bit (besides, it was hot in the car).

We meandered upstairs, I popped open a diet Coke and told Bowyer about the job interview, he told me about the rampant stupidity going on at his school, and we made plans to hide from the heat that was expected the next day. After about 20 minutes or so, I gathered up the girls, we said our goodbyes and headed downstairs. When Punkin’ Pie got to the basement door, she screamed.

“AAAAAGH! MOMMY!! WHERE’S THE CAR?!?!?!”

Sorry? What do you MEAN, “where’s the car?”!!

Sure enough, Folks, the car? She was GONE.

Have I mentioned that Bowyer’s driveway is a hill?

The parking break was insufficient to hold my little hockey puck in place. She rolled backwards and, following the rules of physics, yielded to the slope and curve of the driveway, rolled over a stone wall and came to rest in the woods. Observe:

and…

I cannot adequately describe the yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach upon realizing that my car was firmly lodged in the woods. Three of the four tires were off the ground, and even if they weren’t, there’s no way I could have driven it back over the rock wall. Besides, I wasn’t sure that the gas tank was still intact, so I wasn’t interested in turning the key and possibly burning down my brother’s neighborhood.

VW Roadside Assistance, while polite, was not terribly helpful. I explained the situation to them – that the car was situated OVER a rock wall and with three tires in the air and that it would require some sort of lifting apparatus to retrieve it – TWICE sent flatbeds – one at about 8:30 (I called them at five) and one at 10:45. Neither truck operator would touch the thing. The second guy told my husband that “nine times out of ten, the customer overestimates the situation, so the dispatchers often send a regular truck instead of the heavy equipment. That’s usually enough. You guys are the ‘tenth’ time – you need a boom truck.”

It turns out, we needed TWO trucks (“I think I will need TWO wives…”)

In the grand scheme of things, life is not too bad. The car isn’t totalled, and my children WEREN’T in it when it took its little joy ride, thank the Universe. Of course, VW is denying ALL culpability in the incident (“we didn’t do anything to the parking brake – you must not have pulled it hard enough”) and we’re going to have to get our insurance company involved. I’m still really stressed out about the whole thing, and am going to not only pull the parking brake with all I’m worth, but will leave the car in gear when I go to visit Bowyer.

But, ugh.

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