Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Car wars

Hello my peeps. It's an expensive day here at chez Factotum-Engineer. Car repair. Ouch.

I can live with the repair (I don't have any choice, do I?) but let me tell you about the Drama of getting the car to the garage. Hint: I am more than ticked off at AAA.

Here's the scene: I am leaving tennis last night and the car won't start. It's not the battery. How do I know that? Because I've had a dead battery and when you have a dead battery, your radio doesn't work and the windows won't open.*

This was the starter. I have had starter problems before.

I called SH, who is out of town, to see if he had any ideas. "Try to get a push start," he suggested.

I walked to the corner bar, right past the thin guy talking on his cellphone, and found two big, beer drinking, smoking men. I looked like heck, all sweaty and gross and not even in my cute tennis skirt but just in shorts, but when I asked if they would push the car, they got up immediately.

Men here are so polite.

We tried the push start but no luck. I left the car parked in a one-hour parking between 9-7 zone and walked the mile home, gnashing my teeth.

When I got home, I called AAA. Said I needed my car towed to the garage. Realized maybe I could do it right away if I could reach the garage, which was about to close. I told the AAA girl that I had to call the garage to see what provision they had for leaving a car at night - I didn't want the tow truck driver to have my car key and no place to put it. "Most garages have key drops," she said.

I called the garage and they were closed.

I called the Police State of the City of Wauwatosa to advise that my car would be left on the street overnight. Overnight street parking is illegal here. The call took 15 minutes and involved two separate people. I do not know why. It's not that complicated. But they were so confused at the location of the car.

Them: What's the address?

Me: It's on 74th street, right by the Lion's Club.

Them: The address?

Me: It's on the side of the Lion's Club. The Lion's Club address is 2336 St James. I'm around the corner. There's no address for where my car is.

Them: What?

Me: The car is at the intersection of St James and 74th.

Them: So 2336 St James?

Me: No! That's the front of the Lion's Club. I am On. The. Side.

Them: OK. If you're in a one-hour parking zone, they'll tow you in the morning.

Me: What???!!

I called AAA back. Different rep, so I had to tell him my story again. Asked if we could schedule a tow for this morning at 7. Unfortunately, no - they don't schedule pickups. I have to call when I need it.

I set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. and had nightmares about oversleeping and the car being towed, but not towed to where I wanted it to be towed.

At 6:18 a.m., I called AAA again. Would they send a truck?

AAA: Are you at your car?

Me: No, I'm at home. It will take me half an hour to walk there.

AAA: You have to be within 5 minutes of your car.

I walk to the car. I call again. It's 6:48. I wait.

A truck arrives at 7:40. That's 52 minutes later, if you don't want to do the math. As in, they could have dispatched someone before I left my house.

It's not a tow truck.

It's just a regular truck with a guy who wants to give me a jump start.

Let me make a little digression here:

1. It wasn't the darn battery. I told them that when I first called.
2. What kind of idiot calls AAA for a jump when she is parked in a neighborhood or otherwise near other cars? All you have to do - unless you are in the middle of nowhere - is remove the cables from your trunk and ask someone to bring his car over to yours. Negative to negative, positive to positive. It takes five minutes.

I ask the AAA guy why he's not a tow truck. He shakes his head, sighs, and tells me that this happens All. The. Time.

He calls for a tow truck, but says in the meantime, let's try that push start again but with the truck.

The push start works. I take the car to the garage, then they shuttle me home, which eats an hour and a half of my precious time.

At 8:18, the tow truck driver calls me to say he'll be there soon.

Garage calls to say it will cost $1,600 to replace the starter (which I knew was the problem) and repair the oil leak that caused the starter to go bad.

* Because we have power windows, not crank windows, which are what I want in case I drive the car off a bridge into the water. You die if you have power windows because the electrical system shorts out and do you have a rock handy to bust the window? No you do not. With manual windows, you open the window a bit, let the water in until the pressure equalizes, then Poof! You open the door, grab your purse and swim to the surface.


Anonymous said...

Sixteen big ones seems a lot for a starter, even with oil leak included.

Class factotum said...

Anon, I agree. I don't know if it's because we're having it at the dealer or because it's a German car or what, but SH won't take the car to any other garage - he has had problems with non-specialists before.

BethanyC said...

I'm glad you've put so much thought into that surviving with the car submerged thing. It's good to be prepared.

Michaela said...

You are SO funny! Do you have elaborate escape plans for various situations? e.g., In case of bear attack, poke bear in the eye, then climb nearest tree...etc? I'm sorry about your car nightmare. O.M.G.! I am just glad you didnt get a ticket for being parked in a tow-away zone. That would have really stunk.

TosaGuy said...

I've actually had great service from AAA and my parking conversations with WPD have been very brief and productive. Perhaps you need to hire me as your AAA/WPD consultant.

Justin S. said...

I am from AAA National Member Relations. I apologize for negative experience you had with AAA emergency road service. If you would allow me the opportunity to lodge a formal concern with the AAA Club, I would very much appreciate the chance to restore your faith and trust in AAA. If you could please provide me with your membership number, location and date of incident, I will look into this right away. Thank you!
Justin S.
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