Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Harrowing Adventure with Mick the Tow Truck Driver

Hello Readers!

Was Super Bowl Sunday really a week ago? Did the semester really begin two weeks ago? Yes, and yes. I feel like I've been playing catch up since the first Tuesday of the semester. This is the day my car broke down. I feel like this story is so big, that I must tell it before I return to my posts about fashion. Aren't blogs a medium for soap boxes?

Wait, what? My car broke down? Yes. The week before school began I took my car in to my local Honda dealer to get an oil change/check up and they suggested a replacement of my timing belt. After discussing the issue with my mom, I set up an appointment. When I asked the appointment specialist how long the procedure would take, she estimated between 1 and 2 hours, 2 at the most. Not bad, right?

When I dropped off my car, I was informed by a technician/mechanic that the appointment would actually take 4 to 5 hours. Since my mom was with me (with her car) I decided to go with her instead of waiting out the procedure in the waiting room. They told us to come back at 5-ish to pick up the car and pay the bill. At 5:16, on the way to the dealership, I received a call from the dealership where I was casually told that my car was making a strange noise, so it wouldn't actually be done until 5 pm the next day.

Readers, it isn't often that I get mad. But this time, I was furious. I politely, but firmly, told the man on the other line that when I made this appointment I thought I was only going to be without my car for 2 hours, then 5 hours, and now over 24 hours? I told him how frustrating this was, especially because I was getting ready to drive back to school, and asked if it could be done earlier. He offered 10 am as a definite hour and 8:30 am as a possible hour of completion. I wasn't a happy camper about the matter, but I was at least glad that my Honda service department was being thorough.

Well... guess what? I picked up my car around 9 am the next morning (good), drove back to school successfully, but on my first voyage to St. Louis since 2011 my car broke down less than 4 miles away from my point of departure. Something in my engine stopped working and I (with almost certainty) knew what was the problem. My timing belt. I knew that it had to be something with the timing belt.

I called my mom to get my AAA number (I couldn't find it in my car), and called for a tow truck. While I was waiting for the tow truck, I called my lead technician at my "trusty" Honda dealership and left a message with something like "Hello _______________. This is Laura. You worked on my Honda Civic on Thursday and Friday last week and replaced the timing belt, but it snapped or something. I thought I should let you know that I sitting on the side of 1-70 W waiting for a tow truck. Please call me at your earliest convenience."

This wasn't the end of this adventure. The tow truck came in under 30 minutes, but after nearly 30 minutes of rude cars whizzing by my car and shaking my car (not moving over to the left lane, even though no one was in the left lane), I was a bit on edge. I remembered from my driver's ed classes that in situations such as these, it is better to stay in your car than stand outside of your car if you are out of harms way. When the tow truck driver arrived, however, I climbed over the passenger seat and exited the car from the left side, to be as far away from traffic as possible. He saw this and asked "why didn't you get out on the driver's side?"

My response? "Because I am terrified, sir."

He laughed at me and muttered something about women running out of gas... and I corrected his assumption by adding my diagnosis of a faulty part in my timing belt. He said, in so many words, that I didn't know what I was talking about and it was probably the fuel tank. And, that he had "a buddy that could fix that." I declined his offer, and he told me to wait in his truck.

As I waited in the truck and watched the tow truck driver load my car onto his truck, I noticed that my windows were open. I remembered that my insurance card, a free signature lotion coupon, and a few other important papers, were tentatively tucked into my sun-shield thingys. I pictured the wind sweeping them away into the oblivion of highway 1-70 and a border of fields and jumped out of the truck and asked the driver to wait. He shook his head, pressed a few buttons and asked, with a puzzled look on his face:

"What in the blazes is wrong?" (not his exact words, but something to that effect)

"My windows are down! And all of my insurance cards and important papers are going to blow away!" I shouted.

"Why do you need those?" He replied.

"Because they are important to me!" I pleaded.

I didn't think he would take my plea seriously. His name was Mick and he seemed like a "good ol' boy." He wore overalls, a trucker hat, a tan Carhartt jacket, and fingers stained with years of work with car fluids. He already thought I was a girl dumb enough to not refill her car with gasoline but smart-alecky enough to offer my own diagnosis of my vehicle's woe's. But, Mick surprised me when he shrugged, opened the driver door, and closed my windows. Then he yelled at me for getting out of the tow truck.

Our drive back into town, to a business of my own choosing, instead of Mick's buddy's house, was every bit as fun as being stranded on the high way. He asked me a few personal questions and proceeded to critique the following:
-my choice to drive a Japanese car instead of an American car
-that I was 26 and not married
-that I had a Master's degree but hadn't settled down (because I guess I had those two things backwards?)
-that I chose to pay him by credit card instead of by cash (even though he offered the option).

Stepping out of Mick's tow truck was a moment of great relief for me. To show that I was still a good sport, and to thank Mick for arriving so quickly, I said thank you and held out my hand for a handshake. He hesitated, looked at me like I was from another planet, and with great hesitation shook my hand.

Thankfully the garage who took care of my car did a wonderful job, and offered customer service excellence and respect that made me (almost) forget about Mick the Tow Truck driver. The problem with my car was indeed related to my timing belt, as I suspected. The tensioner placed in my engine while replacing my timing belt broke, causing the belt to snap loose.

Throughout this whole ordeal, my Honda dealer's service team remained in constant contact with me and the garage and took responsibility for the breakdown. When I went home last weekend, my dad and I stopped by the dealership and spoke with the service department foreman who listened to my frustrations and restored our confidence in Bob Lindsay Honda (the dealer) and the Honda brand.

Now that over a week of distance stands between me and this situation, there are several lessons I hope to carry with me in similar situations.

-don't be afraid to speak up: when you feel like something isn't right raise your voice and bring your concern to the appropriate parties. In this episode, I was able to do this, but I wish that I was more outspoken back in Peoria when I first had concerns about my car.

-in stressful situations, remain calm: my dad has always said that the brain runs better on cool than hot. When I called my service technician, I wanted to cry and shout at him even before I knew (for certain) the cause of my car breaking down. But, I did not do these things. I remained calm and spoke rationally and logically.

-you can't argue with an idiot: okay, Mick is probably not an idiot, but the way in which he spoke to me was not only rude, it was idiotic. Women care about more than marriage and when a woman's car breaks down the reason isn't necessarily because she ran out of gas or didn't take care of her car. I know this, you know this, but there are people who do not. I wanted to talk with Mick about his ill-informed and hegemonic gender assumptions- but something told me that a discussion such as this would fall to deaf ears.

Thank you for reading! I look forward to sharing a outfits and fitting room reviews with you soon!

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