Where Don’t You Want Your Car To Break Down On A Saturday Night?

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.

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 down&#185. 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.

&#185 – When I got home I downloaded and installed the AAA app on my iPhone. Better luck next time.

26 thoughts on “Where Don’t You Want Your Car To Break Down On A Saturday Night?”

  1. Sounds like you had a rough time Geoff. At least it wasn’t pouring rain like today. I guess that you will have to make another trip into New York to get your car when it is ready. I hope that it is just a minor issue for you.

  2. Geoff, we had an accident near the Bronx not too long ago at the beginning of a drive south to FL. It was horrible, but only the car was hurt. In retrospect we were grateful that it happened in a place where we could use public transportation to get home (literally since we live within walking distance of the Branford train station). That we could do the same to go pick up the car a few days later and continue our journey was also lucky. And the NYC autobody repair guys couldn’t have been nicer, they even knocked $100 off our deductible.

  3. My ’73 MG broke down in a worse place, on the Bronx Whitestone Bridge! I got pushed through the toll by a towtruck and left off to the side of the road by a pay phone. This was before cellphones. It was around midnight on a Sunday night, but I had AAA. Guess what! AAA doesn’t service bridges! *&&%$@# Long story short, I had to leave my little white convertible on a street in the Bronx. (a tow truck driver drove it there by grinding through the gears, since the clutch wasn’t working.) I left it there and took a cab home to CT and wake my parents up around 3am to pay the cabbie who was not too happy to take a check. Next day I called my mechanic and he said: “sounda like it needs some clutch fluid”. A friend drove me to the Bronx, my baby was still there, intact! Sure enough, a pint of hydraulic clutch fluid and the shift worked again! Months later a freak summer hailstorm caused a tree to fall on it in Fairfield. Insurance covered it, best thing that ever happened!

  4. Just for clarity’s sake, that’s a 1999 MB SLK 230 Kompressor with the 2.3 L (2295 cc) 193 bhp I4 supercharged engine that does 0 to 60 in about seven seconds? While a tip is not actually required, that’s a sweet car, I would have given him a twenty. Hope the story ends well.

    1. Yeah, it is a helluva car. I once had it doing 100, pressed the gas and saw it was willing to accelerate smartly from there! I, however, was not.

      It’s not very practical. It’s a two seater. With the top down there’s room in the trunk for your wallet.

      1. Yeah, but what cachet. I figure if I can’t be thin, I’ll be blonde and drive a convertible, albeit a ’92 LeBaron. At this point I can’t figure if it’s a classic or a clunker.

        1. If having a fancy sports car was meant to increase my attractiveness to babes the experiment was a failure! Most often heard: “Nice car. Didn’t you go to high school with my father.”

    1. Yes. The Subarus are crazy dependable! Don’t take my word for it. You can’t read about them without reading how you have to shoot them with a gun to kill ’em!

  5. Car troubles + NYC = disaster! So glad you made it home safely! Our AAA plan covers towing up to 100 miles for free. Couldn’t you have had your car brought to a local garage?

    1. Yeah – this is the first I’m hearing about that. We have regular AAA as we have since we got married. It was a lifesaver, my phone experience notwithstanding.

  6. Geoff,

    Don’t you drive an Outback? I could’ve sworn the photos you posted of your new car from Premier were of an Outback, not a Forester. Either way, the Subaru is a great car, and nearly impossible to kill!

    1. When I signed up with Premier Subaru we agreed I should drive the car. That will be especially important this winter, because I’ll depend on Subaru’s all wheel drive to get me to work to tell you to stay home!

      In order to learn more I am swapping out cars every few months. It was an Outback first. It’s now a Forester.

      I am very impressed with the Subaru’s. They work well. They’re dependable. They’re a good value for the money.

  7. im a retired limo driver geoff. i was driving a couple of people to JFK.it was pouring rain and we just came off the white stone bridge on to the cross island parkway when the rear tire went flat.in the pouring rain i changed that tire got soaked but got the people to jfk in time for their flight. hows that for above and be on the call ps the time was on the bill but the guy gave me another 20 bucks. plus he did hold our umbrella

  8. aaa just came out with a premier membership and gives you one 200 mile tow and three 100 mile tows per yr. had aaa for 40 yrs. only used the tow twice but only short distance but still worth the free tow and not worry.

  9. AAA for me was a waste.
    Here I was in the middle of one of our horrible blizzard type storms last year and my Jeep dies..
    So like yourself I pull out the card and phone for help.. Ha!
    I get this woman who tells me there were no trucks in my area?
    I have learned to always keep tabs on the age of my battery, oh and yes,,,didn’t renew the AAA……………….

  10. Geoff,
    Glad to see you last night on the weather. This story reminds me of my husband’s BMW getting a flat tire on the way
    back from NJ. They car pooled back and forth with another family
    for a soccer tournament, this BMW lease was up at the of the month also so I have no idea why my husband drove it all the way
    down there but of course got 2 flat tires and had to be towed
    then had to leave car there and get a rental because they other
    people had to be back for work they got hope like 5 in the morning. The rental coming charged like a extra $50.00 because
    he dropped it off closer to the repair shop than we he picked it up. What a nightmare for him , We had triple A also but even if
    you don’t have it and you break down or lock your keys in the card you can join that day and they will come out for you. The only thing I can say is I am glad that car is back because they
    have these special tires that aren’t suppose to go flat and do and to get new ones is like $1000.00 for 2, No more leases and
    no more BMW’s.

  11. I missed the 12:15 on Saturday night by less than a minute…

    I’ve had a dead car in NYC before. After that I ponied up for AAA Plus and the next time that happened, they towed me all the way back to my dealership in Stratford for free. It’s definitely worth the $ even if you only have to take advantage of it once a decade.

    (I have to congratulate you on a 10-minute response time from AAA, though. Never in my entire life has AAA arrived in less than an hour.)

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