Sunday, August 06, 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.”


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.


Blogger vanx said...

There is something to the Medieval world view that is so on target. Fortuna's Wheel, for example. Bad episodes cascade and interweave under the orchestration of Fortuna. This might seem quaint to the modern hipster, who has him/herself replaced Fortuna with corporate institutions, such as roadside service, insurance, and healthcare, that now orchestrate our train wrecks. I feel for you on your downspin, but I sense you realize that the absurdity itself will give you strength! This makes little sense, but I'm sure you know what I'm getting at. The wheel now traditionally turns upward!

9:49 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Oh, no - I totally believe that, though I'm not entirely certain that Fortuna has been completely usurped by modern mechanisms (see Kizz's latest post for exhibit A - her shit has nothing to do with insurance companies and tow trucks).

As a matter of fact, I have also noticed the "bad things happen in threes" phenomenon going on in my life, too, at least where cars are concerned. First, Husband's car gives out in a BAAAD neighborhood on the way back from the airport a couple of weeks back. Then the Puck has her little accident ("IF I knew then WHAT I know now, I wouldn't have had my little accident"*), then the P.O.S. develops near-fatal ailments. Gah!

The absurdity of it really is the only thing keeping me intact at this point. I mean, come on - I couldn't MAKE this shit up. That, and the more distance I get from it, the funnier it becomes.

I'm busy sending out the "That's THREE! I'm DONE, now!" vibes in the hopes that, well, I really am done.

(*can anyone cite the movie quote?)

6:23 AM  
Anonymous nhfalcon said...

Jack Nicholson in Witches of eastwick referring to Cher, Michelle Pfieffer, and Susan Sarandon?

Completely wild guess, btw.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

nope, Falcon. Not even close. Sorry. Guess again?

4:36 PM  
Anonymous nhfalcon said...


7:08 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

DING, DING!! YES, Falcon! The receptionist in the waiting room was a suicide - she held up her obviously slit wrists as she made her snarky comment - the implication being that suicides get to be civil servants in the afterlife.

Good job!

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be honest and now thank Google and IMDB for giving me the answer. I'm actually not a big fan of Beetlejuice.

3:23 PM  

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