My secret friend from the San Fernando Valley was in New York City yesterday. I drove in to see him and his dad and have dinner together. It was great. I had a nice time.
I wish that was what this story was about. It isn’t!
As you hopefully know, I am the spokesman for Premier Subaru in Branford. I have a Subaru Forester and drive it nearly 100%. It’s a great car! But Saturday was partly sunny and mild. It was a chance to drive my 12 year old MB SLK230 with the top down. It hadn’t been driven in around a month.
It called out to me.
I succumbed to temptation!
After dinner my friend and I walked (and I took photos) as he picked up some necessities in his 24/7 Upper East Side neighborhood. By 10:30 we were back at my car. I said goodbye and headed home.
I was on First Avenue halfway between 57th and 58th when the car stopped running! It was as if someone pulled the plug on the gas!
Lights lit on the dashboard, but I had no chance to look. I needed what inertia the car had to make my way across two lanes of traffic to the curb.
I nosed into the far end of a bus stop at the SE corner of First and 58th. Luckily it was Saturday night. Traffic was light. It hadn’t begun to rain yet either. In retrospect that was even luckier.
I tried to start the engine. There was no combustion.
I’m not sure I would have driven the car at that point anyway. Even after 94,000 miles trust is lost very quickly.
So there I was, alone on a Saturday night with a dead car!
I called Helaine first. That’s what husbands do. I’m sure I was short with her. I was panicky. My head was racing. My car was in a bad place.
I couldn’t just walk away and plan. I knew there was stuff to do, but didn’t know exactly what.
I took out my AAA card and dialed the number.
In the end Triple-A was incredibly helpful. Not when I first called!
“Current wait time is three minutes fifty four seconds.”
No!!! AAA, you’re supposed to be like 911 when I have trouble. You’re supposed to pick up right away and be helpful.
To add insult to injury while I waited AAA’s recorded announcements tried to sell me stuff. There is a time and a place for commerce. This was neither!
Like I said overall AAA was incredibly helpful. The operator was friendly as she took my info then transferred me to a New York City agent.
There were too many questions. I was, after all, sitting in a traffic lane in Manhattan! Dispatch first. Questions second.
As I ended with the New York operator she gave me a reference number and told me to call back if the tow truck didn’t arrive within 20 minutes. Of course there was no way for me to write any of that down¹. I switched to blind faith mode.
Ten minutes later a New York dispatcher called followed by the tow.
When the truck operator got out I could have kissed him. Instead I went directly to my wallet, got out a ten, handed it to him and said, “I drove this car off the lot. Please be gentle.”
I have no way of knowing if ten dollars was the right amount, but it seemed so at the time. I just wanted him to know he was appreciated even before he did a single thing.
Ten minutes later my car had been pulled onto the flatbed and tied down tight. I didn’t know what was next so I walked toward the passenger door of the truck… but no. My car was going to the garage where there were no mechanics on-duty. It didn’t need me.
“Do I get a receipt?” I asked as the driver walked to the cab of his truck. Nope. He didn’t have any business cards either.
I picked up Clicky and shot away as my toy car made a right turn on 58th Street and disappeared from sight.
I’d spoken to Helaine a few times while waiting. Originally I was hoping she’d drive into the city to pick me up. In retrospect that didn’t make sense. Then I asked my friend if I could use his couch? He said yes, but Helaine checked the schedule and found a train leaving Grand Central for New Haven at 12:15 am. I hopped a cab.
Grand Central late is different than Grand Central early! There were gaggles of city visitors milling around and even sitting on the hard granite stairs waiting for their trains.
On this particular night a movie crew was setting up for a late night shoot. From the looks of things it was still hours before the cameras would roll. They were coordinated and busy. Movie set-up is physical labor.
I arrived in New Haven around twenty after two. Helaine was waiting. She was wearing shoes, but had driven to Union Station in her pajamas.
At the moment my car is at a garage somewhere in Midtown. Tomorrow, I assume, a mechanic will call with an outlandish estimate. I’ve asked my friend Steve who’s incredibly car savvy to be my ‘truth meter’ when they call.
I guess this story really isn’t done yet.
This story continues. Click to read on.
¹ – When I got home I downloaded and installed the AAA app on my iPhone. Better luck next time.