Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Oh boy, what a day...

Sunday started off well enough. I preached on Romans 7: 12 - 25 and even got an "Amen" from out in the crowd (a loud one, too). Normally I don't put much stock in stuff like that, but I was preaching on the need to not hide from our sins so that the tension between what we "wish to do" and what we "actually" do can drive us into the arms of Christ. A lot of people apparently felt some freedom as a result of the sermon - we'll see what comes from it.

After worship we went out to lunch at one of our favorite 50's joints with some friends who are a newer couple at Central. I got a decidedly un-fifties lunch (Grilled Caesar Chicken Steak sandwich, yum) and we got to spend some time with folks who are becoming really good friends. Then we hopped in our car and drove to Morgantown, PA to pick up our daughter (who was at my wife's folks for the weekend). We got out to Morgantown early, so we found a Sonic Drive-In and got some fruit slushies (the lemon is tasty).

After we picked up my daughter we decided to travel part of the way home via a back route because it was a nice day and we were feeling adventurous (Route 23 from Morgantown to Valley Forge is a fantastic drive that I recommend to anyone). When we got to King of Prussia we were feeling all relaxed and hopped on the Schuylkill expressway for the last leg home. This is where our fun began.

Now the sure-kill distress-way has a particular portion that is always backed up, insane, or both. It's called the "Conshohocken Curve" and, frankly, it's a sucky portion of road that I'm intimately familiar with. Just as we entered the curve we heard a pop, a crash, and a clang from our under-carriage and then white smoke started pouring out from under our car. We got to the breakdown lane, pulled off, and turned on our hazards (I'm getting flares). I got out, went to the front of the car, and looked underneath. A huge pool of fluid was forming under our car, and it looked like a line had broken.

This was not a good place to be (in many respects). So we called AAA and 911 because we were afraid some 18-wheeler was going to annihilate us. AAA said they didn't have an extended cab, and my family wasn't answering their phones (I grew up about 20 minutes from the Curve), so the State Trooper packed my wife and kids into his cruiser and took them to the auto-shop that AAA said they worked with (if Jen had a blog she could tell you that story, oh boy). With the family out of harms way I got into the car, called qohelet on my cell, and cringed as cars missed nailing me by a couple of feet. About 10 minutes after the family left, Jen called me and said that the auto shop was closed and that they were presently at a gas station. I renewed my efforts to call my family and thankfully one of my cousins answered my parents' phone (no one in my immediate family answers the phone, it's weird). They went to get Jen and the Kids, and I tried to say alive on the Schuylkill. As the auto-shop was closed I called AAA and told them that we'd need to change our destination to Riverton, NJ (where the mechanic we normally use is located).

After about an hour and a half the dispatched tow-truck called me and said he was 10 minutes out (apparently AAA hadn't told them to stop looking for an extended cab). With a sigh of relief I watched as our car was put on a flat-bed, and hopped into the air-conditioned cab. The driver apologized for being late, and then told me, "Believe it or not, but the next exit to turn around is 7 miles from here." Now, (a) we were 50 yards from the Conshohocken exit that he was perfectly ok backing up to and (b) I didn't want to turn around, I wanted to go home. When I informed him that I had called AAA and told him that I wasn't going to Conshy, but was rather going to New Jersey, the driver looked at me and said, "Uh, I can't do that. We've already got 2 trucks in New Jersey and that would leave this region without a truck. AAA never told me about the change." So he got me off the Curve and took me to Plymouth-Meeting Mall (where, incidentally, I used to work). It was about 6:30 when I got dropped off, and AAA (after trying to weasel out of the fact that they screwed up on the dispatch) agreed to get another truck to me "within the hour."

Now, around here Malls close at 5:00 on Sundays, so by the time I got there the place was closed up tight. There was a mini-mart near-by, however, so I was able to get a drink and a bag of combos (never mix combos and green-tea when you're dehydrated, bad idea on my part). I got back to my car and figured I'd have about 30 minutes to wait. My family was safe, and I was reasonably comfortable, and it wasn't that big of a deal.

Then, to paraphrase a Monty-Python sketch, "absolutely nothing happened." An hour rolled by, my family was on their way home, and it was getting dark - more importantly, there was no tow-truck in sight. I waited 10 minutes, and then called AAA to figure out what was going on. The gentleman who answered was relatively pleasant, and told me that the truck had marked "on site" in their box and he didn't know why I wasn't seeing him. He put me on hold (for several minutes) while he tried to contact the truck. They didn't answer their phone. He left a message and an e-mail and told me that he expected that I would be contacted within 10 minutes. It was 8:00. It was dark. All the cars had left the lot and I was there, very much alone and feeling rather grouchy. I called my dad and we agreed that if the truck didn't come by 8:30 he was coming to get me and AAA was going to get an ear-full. At about 8:10 I watched a cop about to do a bust across Germantown Pike, with Mall Security at the end of my parking aisle to make sure that the busted didn't run in our direction. This didn't make me feel very good (especially since the people they were busting had just walked right by me and almost got into a fight with a car that was driving circles around them). So, at 8:25 I called AAA and they got an ear-full.

You have to understand, I used to work a computer help-desk for some of the dumbest computer users on the planet. I know what it's like to be first-tier support and so I try to be nice to these folks as a matter of shared experience (not to mention it's just a good thing to do, but with telemarketers all bets are off). I'm nice to these people, and I got mean. I said I knew that there was nothing this person could do, but asked that it get passed up the ladder that I was, frankly, pissed. We had broken down just after 4:30, it was 8:30. It was dark, it was not a nice place to be, and I wanted to go home. I told the service-rep that I was now dictating terms and what was going to happen was that I was going to get a ride home with my father, and that the next day I was going to get a private tow-service to tow my car home and that AAA was going to pay for it. Before my 4 hour insanity I was happy to pay the $3.50 a mile to get my car back to my area but after having AAA drop the ball I wasn't paying a cent. The service rep said, "Yes this is totally unaccetpable." I agreed and said, "And please understand, you've lost us as a subscriber, we're done, we're through." I was told that I could indeed submit a reimbursement and that she'd send the form out immediately. Then she asked, "So, just to confirm, you would like us to cancel your service call for tonight?" That was too much, so I growled, "You mean the service call for the truck that is marked 'on site' but is apparently in another dimension because they aren't on this site? Yes, I'd like to cancel that call - and if you can fire the driver while you're at it, that would be great." I hung up the phone, called my dad, and got a ride home. I got home at 10:00 PM.

But wait there's more!

It turns out that a gear had broken in our transmission, and managed to shatter the casing for the drive-train. So, it turns out that we'd need a new transmission, and that cost would be....$1600. We had just put $900 into the car a couple of months ago and $1600 was well over the value of our 1998 Saturn SL2 so after all this we ended up having to junk it, and go out car shopping. Last night we came home with a 2002 Toyota Camry and a car payment. The week started out so well...

6 comments:

CoderForChrist said...

Wow...just...wow.

wezlo said...

yah

Dr. Qohelet said...

Mrs.Q and I were really worried when you called telling us you were broken down on Schuylkill. At least you got a green tea ;-)

wezlo said...

The only place worse to break down on the Schuylkill is across from Manyunk (where there is almost no shoulder). The Curve is bad enough, but we were at the leading edge of the nasty section so it wasn't like death was assured at the moment.

And never mix green tea and combos on an empty stomach, ugh...

Eric said...

What coder said.

Melanie said...

ugg....I knew your tale was bad but this is really bad.

Ask one of my parents about our breakdown there with the trailer - it's not as exciting but still rather hairraising none the less (we didn't have any towtruck problems) is still a freekish story.

In a not so hairraising tale (actually it's quite comical) I could also tell you of the time Nikki (one of my former roomates) car broke down on rt 40. Or of the suburban like vehicle that we got stuck in some snow (wyoming geology spring trip) (sort of hairraising and sort of funny).