I began to worry about battery life on my iphone. It was getting dark, the snow was picking up and I had no heat. In one prior event in the snow, my wife, Barbara, and I had been stuck at Homewood for several hours. Without heat, I was concerned.
I had been climbing the grade about three or four miles from the intersection of Hwy 50 and 395 when I noticed a great deal of difficulty pulling the hill. I was approaching the chain control fairly soon, so I pulled off, planning to switch to 4 wheel drive. But the engine died. I engaged the 4×4 and noticed smoke coming from the hood out the left side of the engine compartment.
I got out and inspected the compartment. Perhaps I’d left a rag in it, but I found none. I couldn’t see a fire. Maybe the front wheel four wheel drive lug was something that might be binding and getting hot. I couldn’t ascertain what was wrong, so I gave up and tried to start the car several times. It wouldn’t
Checked the cell phone for signal. That looked good. Let the car cool a bit and noticed the smoke seemed to have stopped. Tried, unsuccessfully, to start it again.
Concerned about being stuck on the side of the road far from facilities, I called triple A.
The operator, Constance, had considerable difficulty following my description of my location, but finally seemed to find it.
When she got my card number she at first said that I had used all the service calls available to me in the period, and asked if I’d used four during that time, although she never described what the time period was. At that point one of us noticed that the membership date on the card had expired–by two days.
I pointed out that surely a new period must begin with the new card date.
She then indicated they would send a commercial tow truck, for which I would have to pay. In view of my 50 year membership and my thinking I had actually paid the membership earlier, I asked to speak to a supervisor. At this time I expected that I would have no problem getting the issue resolved. Constance placed me on hold. I was on hold for a very long time.
Eventually, Constance came back on and said there was no supervisor available. I expressed disbelief. Telling her that snow was a factor, I had no heat, and it was getting dark, I asked her to try the supervisor again and to mention my long time membership. She told me the best she could do was send me a non AAA tow truck. I insisted on retrying the supervisor.
While awaiting her supervisor, I decided to try the car again and got it started. I pulled out into the traffic lane and got only about three or four car lengths before the vehicle stopped with a jolt and died (not clear which came first).
I let the car roll backward to get off the road, but it froze up again(?) before t had gotten clear out of the lane. I put out a flare.
Constance came back on the line and repeated that there was no supervisor available. I told her that the circumstances had changed and that I was now in danger of being hit by traffic as I was in the lane. She said she would alert the highway patrol, and put me back on hold (I never saw a highway patrolman).
I asked her for the name of the supervisor. She said she didn’t know which supervisor would be handling my call (clearly implying there were more than one). So I asked her for the name of her personal supervisor. She refused to give me the name, saying it was against AAA policy.
I asked her name, and she gave it to me.
I asked again for a supervisor and told her to tell them that, if I didn’t get to talk to, nor be given a name of, one of them, there would be a hell of a lawsuit. She placed me on hold again and then, shortly, Cynthia, who was apparently not a supervisor, but someone from something called the escalations department, came on the line.
After some discussion with Cynthia, she agreed to send an AAA tow truck, but warned me that, if I hadn’t paid for the next year’s membership, or did not renew it on the phone as we spoke, I would be billed for it. After being reassured that, if I were to discover on getting home that I had renewed, I could be reimbursed for the double charge, I had her connect me to membership.
The lady who answered called up my records and I asked about my current status as shown on their records. I don’t recall whether she got that request or not, as she began to have trouble hearing me. We tried back and forth a few times, me hearing her fine, and then she gave me a callback number.
When I called back to complete the renewal I was connected to an answering machine that informed me that there was an unusually large volume of traffic and I should expect to be on hold a long time. I was concerned about battery life on my cell phone, and my potential circumstance needing my having it, so I hung up and decided to follow up on it the next day.
Very shortly thereafter I got a text message saying a truck had been dispatched. Estimated time of arrival: less than one hour.
Next I got a call on my cell phone from the tow truck company informing me that the tow truck would not be able to take me to South Lake Tahoe because the boss didn’t want his trucks going down on the other side of the pass in the stormy conditions.
That surprised me. I didn’t think bosses of tow companies could easily override the coverage of 100 plus miles I carried, it seemed unreasonable in view of the fact the trip back to Carson is no farther, and much steeper and more dangerous in bad weather, than the trip to South Lake, and the roads were in good shape. He said there was not much he could do.
I asked if it would be possible to have my wife meet us at the top of the pass (the only place to change directions on that route) and pick me up so I could avoid the cost of getting a room in Carson City that night. He said that would be fine, if she were there to pick me up. He said they would tow the vehicle to their shop in Carson and deliver it to Anything Gas, the repair shop in S. L. Tahoe I’d originally specified as the destination, the next day.
After hanging up from him I called Barbara and asked her to be at the top of Spooner in time to meet us. She agreed and would start getting ready as quickly as possible.
I wrapped up and started working on my computer.
After a while a truck pulled in behind me and the driver came to my window. He asked if I was who he was looking for, and I said I thought probably so. He asked if I’d been sitting there since about five. I said yes, and we both thought it all added up.
I told him about my wife meeting us at the summit and that she’d probably be there by the time we arrived. He informed me that it would be an hour and a half before we got there (about ten-twelve miles away). He said he could take me all the way to Tahoe. I thought the AAA guy had talked some sense into the owner, and was pleased.
I called barbara to tell her not to come after all, and the driver, William, started pulling the pickup onto his flatbed, and putting chains on his truck.
But, as we talked in the cab on the way up the hill, it became pretty obvious that he had been sent out on a different call to pick up another Toyota for a commercial run. Confirmation came when the AAA truck passed us. William flashed lights at the truck and we both pulled over at Spooner summit to discuss what was the most sensible course of action.
The AAA guy said switching loads made no sense, so I stayed with the pickup, which stayed on the D&S Towing flatbed, which took me to Anything Gas. I paid D&S towing $220, and hope to get a reimbursement from AAA as soon as I’ve brought my membership up to date (which, indeed, I apparently have not yet done–I did call membership the next day, though, and was told a supervisor would call me back when I asked to speak to one. They had all just gone into a meeting–what is it with supervisors being unavailable to speak to customers?)
But I didn’t ask for any of their names.