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January 7, 2007

AAA Saves the Day

Ready for my morning saga?

First of all, I am now sitting in Cafe Sole, a coffee shop not too far from my house, with a large chai and a poppyseed muffin, my computer (obviously), and wet socks. I was leaving my house to come here several hours ago when something happened to change my course of events.

Getting to and from my apartment can be confusing for the first-time visitor (or, if you're Tara, the second- and third- and fourth-time visitor as well). You enter a different way than you leave, both in getting to the neighborhood and getting around in the parking lot. Significant in the events of today, the parking lot is one-way. You enter going one direction, and to leave you have to follow the parking lot as it curls around the building and funnels you onto a narrow lane which dumps you back onto the street. Everyone leaving the parking lot has to go through this lane. So I hate it when people park there. Okay, I don't know that I've ever seen anyone actually parked there, but there's a short length of the lane that comes up against the apartment building and sometimes people will use this spot (clearly marked with a sign that says "No parking, violators will be towed") to load or unload people or gear. My general take on this is that unless you can pull way over to the side so that there is still ample room for others to get through (and there are a lot of biiiiig trucks that park in our parking lot), it's a bad move. Inconsiderate. So I was pissed off when I came upon a car parked there late this morning on my way to this coffee shop to hop online.

Granted, the car wasn't parked for the long haul--it's blinkers were on and the passenger door open--but still. With the snow, it wasn't pulled over far enough for me to get by, and why should I have to wait for them? This is everyone's parking lot, not just theirs.

The driver came out shortly and, without apology, took her time closing the passenger door and getting into the car. She began to pull out, but couldn't. Her wheels spun. I backed up to give her more room. She kept spinning, forward and back. Since she was parked where she shouldn't be, I didn't get out to help her out. No way. Instead, I decided to go out the wrong way and be done with it. So I again backed up--and right off the side of the lane. My wheels spun. When I opened my door, I was greeted with snow--all the way up to the base of my doorway. The snow was packed against the low curb, giving no indication that I had even reached the curb, and I had swiftly driven both my left wheels off into the soft snowbank on the other side, where the ground drops off. Quite a predicament, I realized quickly.

As I watched the woman drive by me going the other way, I flipped her off. I guess I shouldn't admit this online, especially since it begs a lecture (or at least a little disapproving gasp) from my parents, and I don't often do this sort of thing, but I did. There was a slow-motion moment in which she was looking at me and I was looking at her and little besides my raised finger intervened between us. I knew she saw me.

I had to step into snow up to my mid-calves just to get out of my car. What to do? Who to call? When I saw the woman walking back my way, I pulled out my phone to look busy. Was she coming to offer help? I hoped not. I didn't want her help, didn't want to deal with her. I was relieved when all she offered was a snide comment--"When you lose patience and flip somebody off it makes a person less inclined to help out." She went into her apartment. Too late, of course, I thought of saying, "This isn't for parking, lady, it's a driveway." So I didn't even get my jab in about what had annoyed me so much. I hadn't noticed the no parking sign yet, so I didn't point that out, either. (I had plenty of time to notice the No Parking sign later.)

I locked up and went back to my apartment to find the number for the apartment complex's maintenance group. It took me a bit of fumbling, but I did find it eventually, and headed back down to attend to my car. On my way, I passed a painter carrying gear into the complex. "Do you have a car with a winch?" I asked him. "No, I don't," the man said apologetically, "but she might." His coworker approached from the parking lot and agreed to help me out. "Yeah, I have a tow-rope," she said. We met at my car.

I felt a little silly. Maybe a lot silly. This woman had a huge, beefy, well-used-looking truck (complete with stickers of naked women on it--can't say I envied that part) and wore work clothes--Carhartts with different tools and such stuck in the pockets. She lied down on a mat she had in the truck to find something to hook her rope to under the front of my car. She looked tough. And there I was in my clogs and striped socks and skirt, with no gloves (I was just going to a coffee shop, after all), watching her while she worked on my vehicle. Yeah, I thought, I'm just a dumb girl...

Meanwhile, a car drove up behind me. My car was only mildly in the way (it was pretty far to the side, incidentally, since two wheels were over the curb...), but her big monster truck completely blocked the lane. Now *I* was the one. I imagined the driver that had blocked me in the first place sitting by a window overlooking the whole scene, smirking with a smug satisfaction. Well, lady, you contributed to this, I thought, no matter what you're thinking now. The driver of the car got out. He could have gone out the other way (against the one-way signs), but he came over to check things out. He admired the big truck, chatted, helped out with the operation. He and his friend just moved out here a month ago from New York, and have already been skiing 10 days. He said they got ski passes and didn't have money to do much else, so they've just been skiing.

The woman with the truck, finding nothing else, looped her rope through my drive shaft. She got in the truck, I got in the car, and she pulled. But I wasn't going anywhere. With my wheels over the curb, which I guess she had not realized, she was afraid she would damage my car if she pulled it hard enough to get it up and over.

I thanked her and Dean, waved to his friend in the car, and they were all on their way.

I called AAA. Due to high call volumes, they said, yadda yadda yadda. I was on hold for quite a while. Luckily, I had a book. I just hung out in my car, reading and waiting. With Driver looking on (I imagined), snickering.

I expected to have to wait forever for help, but the man on the phone told me to expect someone within 75 minutes. "After you get your car out, do you need a tow anywhere?" he asked. I was a little taken aback. "Not unless you break it," I said.

I settled in to read. My feet were wet. I took off my socks and let my feet dry in the sun. Then, before they got too cold, I put on some exercise socks I had in my car from a long-ago plan to exercise after work one day. I worked on reading "Longitude," a book I started yesterday and one which seems fitting for my job. So far, I recommend it.

After a good while, I was interrupted by a knock on my window. The AAA guy? No. A small, Mexican man who flashed a friendly and metal-filled smile. He was offering to help me out. Very kind. Why not? Who knew how long the AAA guy would actually be, after all.

The plan was for him to attach his car to mine and pull while I gave my car gas and two or three of his buddies pushed my car up to get it over the curb. We ended up with at least four men on my car, all pushing and pulling and I won't say my car didn't budge, but it certainly didn't budge very far or very effectively. So, after only a brief effort, we gave up. And, before the last of them had wandered off, the AAA guy showed up. With a tow truck. Very helpful.

This rig had me out in almost no time. Well, sort of. He hooked on to the loop at the back which Dean and I had found, had me turn my wheels, and pulled. And my car slid right along the curb. He put a block behind my real wheel and tried again, and this time it worked. The front tire was a little more problematic--he pulled, and the car slid and slid and slid. No purchase on the side of the curb, and it just kept sliding, pushing the snow behind it. I got in the car and held the wheels straight, and the same thing happened. He put a block behind the wheel, and the same thing happened. Then he repositioned his truck, pulled again, and I was up onto the lane. That stupid lane. "Wow," he said, "this is a weird place to not have marked" (of the curb). It made me feel a little better, but still. I had driven off the side of the road which I drive all the time, living there and all. Sigh.

I was going to go home and regroup, get dry socks and such, but screw it. I turned out of the complex and came straight here. And here I am now. Living to tell the tale. I hope you picked up the moral of this story. Some people are mean, and some people are nice. Sometimes we as individuals are mean, and sometimes we're nice. And lack of patience is almost always trouble, even if we think we're justified. That driver is the one who spent her afternoon warm in her apartment with whatever it was she wanted to carry inside from her car, and I'm the one with wet socks.

Posted by beth at January 7, 2007 9:05 PM

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the heck with the moral of this story! had you been patient, you would not have had this hilarious story to share with us! (okay, as your mother, there are aspects of your behavior that i thought you knew were better left thought but not displayed - this is my disclaimer on raising you to do such things!)

Posted by: wilma - mother of beth at January 8, 2007 12:11 AM

My dear Beth, You never cease to amaze me. Great story. But,as a loving and proud relative, I also wish to be on that disclaimer list with your mother. Keep the adventure going.
Aunt Pat

Posted by: Aunt Pat at January 8, 2007 12:41 AM

Live in the moment, Beth. Flippin made you feel better then, and now is now.

Glad to see a new blog entry, girl. Send some snow up to MN, PLEASE!

Posted by: BillMill at January 8, 2007 3:56 AM

You should buy a lovely red Ford 4WD F-250 Pick up truck with a block heater and a Mico brake and perhaps put Mat Tracks on it. Then next time this woman parks in the way, you can simply drive over her!

I hope your socks dry out and your feet warm up...

Happy Happy,

Posted by: Brian E Kliesen at January 8, 2007 6:50 PM

Beth Beth! This is reason to buy a house and have your own garage (and to maybe get a car that can handle the snow, curbs, and other fun obstacles). I was pretty fed up with apartment living when I used to shovel out my parking spot in Ithaca and my jerk B-school neighbor would pull into it the minute I left for the store - every time.

Posted by: Jen Yu at January 9, 2007 9:34 AM

Hi Beth

Good tale, and I would have flipped her off too
although I am a unusually patient person.

My motto is you get what you give. And sometimes you just gotta give a little negativity (when called for). :)

Up here (GTA - north of Toronto) I wish we had some snow......

looking forward to more of your photos


Posted by: Chris at January 13, 2007 2:59 PM

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