Transformer Terrorism And AAA No-Tow Trucks

Original post, by email from cell:

Beside frwy, crunched rim+tire, waiting 4 tow truck for 4 hrs so far!

A bit of explanation. Houston flooded today. Parts were bad; parts were not. I waited until the NWS said the flood danger had abated, then headed out to my business appointment.

I never made it there.

Just north of I-69 (US 59, the Southwest Freeway), after managing a string of deep puddles south of the freeway without serious incident, I went through one more puddle.

It wasn’t a puddle. It was part of the median.

My left front tire burst, and the rim of the wheel was in pretty bad shape. I turned into what I thought was a service station, but there was no service to be had, only gas, beer, candy and crackers. Nonetheless, they were not pleased to have my ancient Chevy sitting square across the door to their convenience store. I phoned AAA and arranged a tow.

Two hours, three hours, four hours later, still no tow. Each hour I called AAA again, asking where the tow was. For four hours, they gave me an apologetic non-answer about how busy they had been because of the floods.

After five hours, I read them the riot act. Can you imagine that? me? complaining that I didn’t get what I paid for? 😈

Their reply was infuriating: their service provider in the area in which I was stuck was refusing to dispatch trucks, citing dangerous road conditions. By the time they told me that… five hours after the original call… the gas station manager complained to me that I had to move the vehicle or the Fire Department (which indeed came over earlier) would ticket them. I resisted the temptation to say, “Or what? You’ll have me towed?”

By this time, Stella had gotten off work and wended her way through rush hour traffic to meet me, bring me food, caffeine, a cell phone charger, etc. As it turns out, she succeeded in flagging down an unoccupied flatbed tow truck. It’s amazing what a cute woman with a nice smile and a (completely misrepresentative) helpless look can do to a fellow who looked a bit (and sounded a lot) like Arnold Schwarzenegger. At last, my car was towed to my regular shop, which literally held the door open 15 minutes late on my behalf.

Of course, one last thing had to go wrong. The ATM in the same convenience store/gas station was faulty, apparently having burned out when the transformer blew up in the next block, with a sound like a large bomb. What? did I neglect to mention that? So we had to find another place to get cash.

I do hope the events of the day are truly over now!

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  • Bryan  On Monday January 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I feel for you. You take measures and pay for service, but when you need it, it doesn’t seem to be available.

    I’m willing to bet that the tow truck operator for that area had all of the trucks out and working, but didn’t want to take a fixed rate AAA call when they were busy over-charging other people. I’ve run into that in the Northeast, and I filed the appropriate paperwork to ensure that said company was fined for its actions. New York used to take a dim view of such activities.

    • Steve  On Tuesday January 10, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Bryan, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t subscribe to AAA, but Stella has heretofore insisted. Before that, when I needed a tow, I just called my repair shop, and used whoever they sent. You are almost certainly right about why the tow operators did not respond to AAA calls.

      If I were sane, I’d dump this aged car and buy another. But it’s not that simple. I know, for certain, that despite my disabilities, I can drive this particular car; I’m not that sure about others. Having experienced a full year in Houston with no access to an auto, I’m unwilling to put myself in that position again. It’s easy for me to tell myself I simply shouldn’t have gone out yesterday, but similar arguments would keep me home most of the time, and I’m not willing to do that. Some risks, if indeed they are risks, are necessary.

  • ellroon  On Tuesday January 10, 2012 at 1:14 am

    I’m glad you survived. That sounds absolutely horrible. We just experienced a scary flat on the freeway, but our AAA guy was there very quickly.

    Do register a complaint like Bryan suggests. You pay good money for such services and they ignored your needs.

    • Steve  On Tuesday January 10, 2012 at 8:15 am

      Thanks, ellroon. I was never really in danger of my life, and I was completely uninjured, but I agree it could have been otherwise.

      Houston has really bad floods like this every few years. I’m sure some tow drivers see them as a great opportunity. There’s probably no way to change that attitude: even if an official complaint cost them a fine of a few thousand, they’ll just see it as a cost of doing business. IMO it’s AAA that bears the bulk of the blame here.

  • oldwhitelady  On Tuesday January 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Good gravy, Steve. It sounds like a frustrating day. Thank goodness Stella was able to flag down the flatbed tow truck fella!

    • Steve  On Tuesday January 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Thank goodness indeed, OWL! Stella saved the day. Tomorrow (Wed.) I may even get my car back from the shop!


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