After that, I wandered around Clark street and up to my old haunts on Belmont - which have almost completely been replaced with big box stores (Target, DSW), utterly generic and interchangeable restaurants, or utterly twee boutiques. The local punk store, The Alley, which used to be the place to go for body jewelry, band T-shirts, leather clothing, and insane platform shoes... has moved across the street to a nice little storefront where there's a coffee bar on the first floor, and a small, curated selection of band shirts, jewelry, leather wristbands, and shirts featuring the former store's logos. Had a latte and chatted with the barista there about the neighborhood and technology, encouraging to look into the tutorials and material out there and to not get suckered in all starry-eyed by big corps with the lure of being able to make videogames. So that was nice.
After my nice little two hour jaunt, I got back to the car to find the battery was completely dead. Reading the manual, I found out about the following purported features: the key will not release from the ignition lock unless there's power, the battery is in the trunk/rear of the car, there is a jump-charge point in the front but it consists of a well-protected plus terminal (good!) and a random rusty as fuck seemingly-arbitrarily-chosen bolt as ground (baaaaad.) Also, according to the manual, if you pop out a plastic insert in the bottom of the steering column there's a plunger you can press to release the ignition key; I was completely unsuccessful in finding/engaging it. Similarly, if you happen to have a 3.5in/10cm or longer screwdriver, there's a panel in the back of the liftgate you can pop out, wedge in the screwdriver, and release the gate. That didn't work, either. When digging around in the back to try and find the panel, I found the hidden storage compartment! Where helpfully, my dad had put.... two pairs of golf shoes. And no jumper cables.
Two random people had come by to offer their help, but neither of them had jumper cables or could assist me with the random wacky bullshit features of this oh so wonderful 2007 Chevy HHR. If I had been able to get the key out, I would have walked up to the WalMart a half mile away to get jumper cables or a jump kit... but given the neighborhood, I also wouldn't have put it past people to randomly lock the doors and make the car completely inaccessible. (Another fun fact - there is precisely one entry keyway, on the driver's door. None of the other three doors or the liftgate have key entry.) Time to call the parental units, whose car this was and who I had thought would have had tools and supplies in the back.
Dad answered their landline and cleverly avoided my question, "Do you have towing services included with the car insurance?" by saying I should call AAA [The American Automobile Association, providers of roadside assistance, maps, etc]; I tried rephrasing this two or three times, but no dice. So he read off 9 digits of AAA account number and hung up. As he failed to give me the actual phone number and I was somewhat irritated at him already, I tried finding the number online; no dice. Called my sister, who I knew would actually answer my questions in a correct and timely fashion, and got the phone number. Called them up to find... AAA account numbers have sixteen digits and Dad had neglected to give me the first seven.
Called Mom on her cellphone and explained what was going on this time around. She read off her entire account number and verified the phone number for service. Mom also revealed that she had moved the car that morning, and got confused as to which levers were for the windshield wipers and which were for the lights; she had set the lights to manual on and not in the automatic position in trying to turn off the wipers. We theorized at the time that was what had caused the battery to drain, and she was extra apologetic on the phone. I told her I wasn't mad at her, it was an understandable accident - but I was kind of pissed at Dad. She gave me a sigh of understanding, and offered to come and get me if need be. I told her I didn't think it would be necessary. Ho ho ho ho.
Called AAA and was told somebody would be there to jump the car in ninety minutes. I ate a hotdog from the nearby place, sat on the front bumper because it was 90F and all the windows were rolled up (and were, naturally, power windows with no manual override), and stewed. Guy finally showed up with his power kit, and while he was nice enough, he seemed like kind of a dimwit. He didn't have any sandpaper or wire brushes to clean off the contacts; instead he seemed to think that just moving the jumpers around would eventually provide a good enough connection. Eventually, there was enough power for the dashboard indicators and headlights to come on, and I could turn on the radio! But the windows didn't work, the ignition wouldn't turn over, and none of the locks unlocked. Sad trombones played in my head, and the battery guy said he'd call the tow truck.
AAA SMSed me to say that the estimated arrival time for the tow truck was 11:58pm; as it was only 9pm, this was a rather unpleasant surprise. I figured, fuck it, I'll go drink in one of the local bars to pass the time. It was a surprise when the driver called 20 minutes later to say he was about two blocks away - when I was about five blocks away from the car - and I hustled on back. I arrived just in time to see the tow truck driver start to pull out of the alley where he had been turning around, and some asshat park his car right in front of mine with maybe a foot of clearance. Both tow truck driver and I were decidedly not happy; he said he could either call out the flatbed, or try to winch the car up by one wheel and angle it out so he could get the tow bar fully engaged. I opted for the latter, as I didn't want to wait another couple of hours, and after nine or ten iterations of pulling forward and backing up on the rather narrow street that was parked up on both sides, success! The car was angled out, the tow bar was fully engaged with both wheels, and we could head back towards the house.
It does not sound like the life of a tow truck driver is a happy, jolly one. He said he'd been working for sixteen hours, hadn't eaten for eight, and his asshat co-manager was being particularly useless that day. I told him that if he wanted to stop and eat, that was fine by me, but he waved it off; I asked him if this was a normal occurrence for him, and I got to learn further sordid details of the towing life. He said that he was part of an independent towing company, and that AAA jacked him around quite a bit, making him drive across town several times a day and not giving enough time for that or for finishing the tow. In addition, he sometimes did car repossession; he's been shot at, stabbed, had the windows of his tow truck attacked with a baseball bat, all sorts of exciting stuff - and even the normal tow jobs seemed to bring out the craziness in lots of people.
Anyhow - we got to the gas/service station a few blocks from the house, Mom arrived, we paid the nice man, and went home. The next day, we found out that it wasn't the headlights that caused the battery to die, but the starter went kablooey and shorted out as well as a short or two elsewhere. Oh, and that the shocks in back were so dead that both the springs had broken. And the front brakes were pitted and needed repair. And one of the tires was bad. And there might be other things, too.
Thus ends my little story of going out on a nice summer day, having two hours of leisure and five hours of car issues. I think this illustrates part of why I have trust issues with Dad, really strong urges to check on or fix things myself instead of relying on others, or for asking for things in general.
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