Stories and thoughts about family and life

Thank God for AAA

on May 27, 2014

I’ve actually said that several times over the past year, and I have to say it’s a phrase I didn’t think I’d probably utter quite so much in my lifetime. I am thankful, though. I remember when my sister bought my first AAA membership several years ago, and I thought “I won’t ever need that–I’m capable of solving my problems when they occur” but then realized that AAA also allowed me to procure great discount books at outlet malls and discounts on hotel stays and thought “hey, why not?”
My husband and I agreed to replace his vehicle last year and “upgraded” to a newer vehicle with more bells and whistles. We had never had a vehicle with bells and whistles, or at least not like this one. This one has a sunroof and a DVD player, a rearview backup sensor and dual trip odometers. You know–the REALLY big stuff! We fell in love with this vehicle pretty much immediately. It was quite an improvement over the stripped bare, standard transmission, air-barely-works, heat-barely-works, manual windows 4 wheel drive we traded in. We thought we had arrived, especially for a vehicle with no payments and fewer miles.
The first month or two were great. Then we had a weird incident where he drove somewhere and parked and when he got back into the vehicle it wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even try to start. We called our mechanic who sent someone by to look at it. They couldn’t see anything immediately wrong with it, and suggested towing it back to their shop for further testing. They have a towing service, but we opted to use our AAA discount, which tows for free within a certain radius. 45 minutes later, the vehicle is loaded up and headed for the garage.
We anxiously await a call from the mechanic to diagnose our situation. When he calls, he says the vehicle started right up when they got it to the shop. They can’t really see anything except a wire that could probably stand to be replaced, but since they can’t recreate the problem they’re not certain that was the cause. They’ve apparently driven it around and killed the engine repeatedly and it always successfully restarted. We think it’s just a fluke, pick up the vehicle and go on our merry way. A week later I was supposed to drive this vehicle on an out of town business trip. At the last minute I just decided to go ahead and take mine, and I’m thankful I did. My husband called me when I arrived at my location (nearly two hours away) and informed me that the vehicle had stranded him again. It was particularly upsetting for him as his dad was in the hospital and he was needing to meet up with his mom and sister. His sister picked him up on her way to the hospital and AAA came and picked up the vehicle again and towed it back to our mechanic.
Again, when the vehicle arrived at the mechanic it functioned fine. After some research, our mechanic suggested it could be a failure in the fuse box, which we decided we could replace ourselves. We had left his vehicle parked at my office and ordered the part online, only to receive it and realized we couldn’t possibly make the change ourselves. We called the dealer and asked them if they could do it and again had to call AAA to tow it.
We thought we were out of the woods as we make it through the next 30 days without an incident. But it happened two more times with various other repairs before we finally solved the problem–a drain hole from the sunroof was plugged up and forcing the water down through some apparently unnatural course which was shorting out one of the fuse boxes. Anyway, by the early part of February (six months after purchasing this vehicle) we finally had the issue resolved and we haven’t had a problem since.
Mid-February we receive a letter from AAA. We have met the maximum number of tows allowed under our contract. We can’t be towed again until we renew. If we need another tow, we will have to pay a standard towing rate. I stared at the letter and counted up the number of tows. Wow. We really had used this service a lot. AAA had more than paid for itself this year. I am so glad we didn’t have to pay for all those trips on the tow truck!

We went out of town for the Memorial Day weekend. We had been talking about going to Springfield to visit my husband’s sister and her family for quite a while. We thought the long weekend presented the perfect opportunity, with an extra day off and nothing planned. We were going to simply hang out at their house and relax for a few days and enjoy some time together. We even bought a homemade ice cream maker and the guys all made us yummy treats for dessert Saturday night. And then it happened. One of the boys came and asked my husband for his keys so they could get something out of the car. He didn’t have his keys on him, and the fun just grew from there. We spent a ridiculous nearly 90 minutes searching and re-searching the house.
I had my husband re-trace his steps from when he got out of the vehicle. He could remember going around and getting a new bag of ice out of the back passenger side, but he couldn’t remember having his keys after that. Our niece had locked the door to the vehicle (trying to be helpful), and no one had seen the keys since. We finally resolved that the keys were inside the vehicle.
I can only imagine the scene taking place outside the house for the neighbors. My husband and his brother-in-law both took flashlights at different points and checked in each of the windows. Then they went again together, circling the vehicle and looking in the windows. This vehicle has tinted windows in the back doors, which makes what they were doing especially difficult. We tried to open all the doors, hoping there was one that maybe was unlocked. This act of desperation went unrewarded, and I finally said “it’s time to call AAA.”
Having no idea where we were actually located, my sister-in-law took the phone and gave some cross-streets to the AAA rep. 10 minutes later my husband received a call that assistance had been dispatched and we should expect arrival in 30-45 minutes. My sister-in-law gets out camp chairs for all of us and we take our seats in their driveway and await the arrival. I’m accustomed to having AAA send a wrecker only when they expect to have to tow you. Otherwise, it’s a van who might unlock your vehicle or bring you gas, or change your tire. However, in Missouri, or specifically in this slightly rural area in which we were located, they must not have the little assistance van. They sent out the largest wrecker they could find for the occasion, which added to the atmosphere we were creating in front of their house at nearly 11:30 p.m.
My husband and brother-in-law watched in amazement as the tech worked to get the door open. He laughed at me when I asked about what he was doing and remarked that I expected him to whip out a slim-jim and quipped that obviously I was thinking more old-school than our vehicle is. They don’t really do that much anymore. Now they pop your lock in a much more technologically advanced fashion–they use a tube with a balloon on the end and insert it in the door. They inflate the balloon until the door “pops” and then they use a cable to “push” the unlock button. We were so excited to see the door coming open we didn’t have a chance to prepare for what came next. As the door released and opened, the car alarm went off. We all stared at each other in complete shock. I glanced from house to house nearby to see if anyone was running outside and preparing to curse us. The tech informed us all the door alarm would shut off in 30 seconds, so we all waited not so patiently for this noise to subside so we could continue our search. My husband climbed in the driver’s side and tried to look into the rear passenger floorboard but couldn’t see the keys. My brother-in-law opens the back door on the driver’s side to help. Again, the car alarm goes off. Reasoning that we’ve just got to rip off the band-aid, I tell my husband to hurry and open the other rear door (which is where we think the keys are), so we won’t set it off again. He runs around and opens it, and we wait until the alarm stops going off. 10 second go by and it starts again, and we all glare at the technician, who tells us that it sensed another door was open and that set the alarm off again.
My husband and brother-in-law search the rear floorboard and cannot locate the keys. Then, as you’ve probably guessed, someone thought they should perhaps check the front floorboard on the passenger side and opened the door. Again, with the car alarm. I’m thankful at this point that the vehicle only had 4 doors and a tailgate. I can’t even imagine what the neighbors must be thinking, and I’m hoping at least by seeing the wrecker in the front yard they’re reasoning that we’re going to get this noisy vehicle out of their nice quiet neighborhood.
The AAA technician asks if we want to have the vehicle towed since we realize now that we aren’t finding the keys. I burst out laughing and sister-in-law thinks I’m delirious. “I don’t have any tows left!” I blurt out. The technician stares at me for a second, a bit dumbfounded I think. We establish that I can still get a tow if we need it, but will just have to pay for it. I end up telling him that we’ll find a locksmith and have another key made, thank him for his time and tip him what little cash I had in my wallet. After he assures us that the car doors aren’t going to keep setting the alarm off, he leaves. My sister-in-law was very amused at my blurting out that we had used all our tows, and I ended up relaying this story to her.
And that’s how we spent our very relaxing Saturday night near Springfield. Incidentally, my brother-in-law ended up finding our keys in a chair in their bedroom (where none of us had been), which tells us someone with little hands relocated the keys for us.
Also incidentally, my AAA membership renews June 1. đŸ™‚ We’ll be able to tow again after that, although I’m hoping not to be so familiar with the AAA towing policy again this next year. As an aside, if you don’t already have AAA, it’s a great way to ensure your loved ones don’t get stranded with a flat, or run out of gas, or lock their keys in their vehicle.


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