A rant narrowly averted - my towing story

I just finished dashing off the following letter. Names of the towing companies have been changed for editorial effect. I should be angrier since I only got about 5 hours sleep and I’m missing a day of work (got to take the kid to the dentist shortly since it’s her car that’s involved and she obviously can’t drive herself today.) The “we” I mention in the letter would be my daughter, her boyfriend, and me. They’d gone into Jacksonville last night, and on the way home the car died - luckily at a very safe, public area where they were able to push it into a parking lot.

I present for your reading enjoyment:

So I’m home now waiting for the dealer to call with the bad news. Thankfully it happened now and not in 3 days when we’d have been heading up I-95 to Baltimore. And I’ll take advantage of my unexpected day off by cleaning… or not…

Oh geez! And the fun never ends, huh?

Not to be a critic here, but once you’d decided to leave the car overnight in the parking lot, why not just pick up an accessory belt and install it? Is it a weird kind of serpentine belt? For most cars, I think it would be quicker to just loosen a few bolts and pop on a belt than have to fool around waiting for a tow truck.

NOTHING is easy on the VW Beetle. Access to the belt area is very tight and we don’t have many tools as my husband took most of them with him on the boat. And anyway, we needed to get the car serviced before our drive north. I’m also concerned about what caused the belt to fail. Since it’s an unknown, they’re going to have a look and make sure we didn’t have a loose or damaged pulley or something else that my unpracticed eye might miss.

Considering we’re about to drive 800 miles on Saturday, I think it’s definitely best that the guys who know the car take care of the car. It’s not like a flat tire or a burned out light - we’re talking a car that wouldn’t start. I know enough about cars to know my limits. Besides, if I tired to do something on the engine, I might break a nail!! :stuck_out_tongue:

What is it with Floridian towing companies? As long as we’re on the subject, I’ve some stories to share. Names have been changed mostly because I’ve forgotten them so had to make something up.

You must understand that I live in an apartment complex in Gainesville. We have no assigned parking spots, so people just park wherever they can, but since we’re close to the UF campus and the complex doesn’t want non-residents parking here, for obvious reasons, they issue parking stickers and tow if you don’t have one. Granted, they only tow at night, which I should think would largely be useless since most students don’t take classes at night, but that’s the way they do things. No one ever claimed people here had a breeding population of brain cells.

So I woke up one morning several years back, only to discover, mysteriously, that my car was not where I’d left it. I don’t need it during the day, since I walk to the office, but of course one likes to see that it hasn’t gotten up and moved by itself, so I was a little distressed. But being, if not intelligent, at least smarter than our local tow truck drivers, I ran over to the apartment office, they called the towing company, and discovered that I had indeed been towed, despite the prominent presence of my parking sticker. No problem, I thought, we all make mistakes every now and then. So I just had them tow it back.

Then, while I was at work, I got a phone call from Dan, the apartment manager. The towing company, for reasons known only to them, had decided it would be a good idea to charge me for (a) towing my car away and (b) towing it back. I went a little ballistic, Dan commiserated, my car was returned free of chage, and shortly thereafter, towing companies were changed.

Several months later, I woke up on a Monday morning to discover that my car was missing. Ah, I thought, obviously IdiotTowingCompany of Gainesville has struck again. So down I went to the office, talked to Dan, and we called up the towing company. They took a look at their register, and said “no, we ain’t got that car.” Oh shit, thought I.

So I went back to my apartment and called the police. They took a look at their register and said “yes, it was towed by IdiotTowingCompany of Gainesville last night, although they said it was grey instead of black.” So back I went to talk to Dan, who called IdiotTowingCompany of Gainesville again, and told them that the police say that they’d towed it. “No no, we don’t have it. It’s not in our records.”

So Dan and I hopped in his car, drove on down to IdiotTowingCompany of Gainesville. We went in to talk to them, and they insisted that they didn’t have it. I pointed out that (a) the police say you do have it, and (b) that’s it right here. “Ah,” they say, “but we don’t have the records.”

Being a tactful diplomatic sort, I responded “I don’t really care whether you have the records or not. You see, you have my car, and I can guarantee that I didn’t leave it here last night.”

They shuffled through, and nope, no record.

“Look, I understand this is complicated. Bear with me. This is my car. This is the sticker that says ‘do not tow this car.’ This is the license plate number on that car. Notice this record, which has that license plate number on it. Admittedly, the car is black and the record says it’s grey. Your driver is a colorblind idiot, but you must admit that he brought it here.”

“Oh,” they reply brightly, “but that’s our stack of records for cars we’ve already returned.”

“What are you talking about? You can’t have brought it back; it’s sitting right bloody fucking THERE! Of COURSE you didn’t return it!”

“No need to get testy… I guess we can make an exception. That’ll be $90 for the tows and $75 for holding it over night.”


After much sound and fury, my car was eventually released to me, sans towing charges. And once again, we soon thereafter changed towing companies.

Several months later, I was driving up the freeway to Alachua one Friday night, late. Say, 11:30. I was about five miles from the nearest exit, in either direction, when suddenly my engine went from happy to way way way too hot (thermostat problems, it seems). I managed to barely make it over to the side of the road, kill the car, swear a bit, and then ponder my situation. Hmm… Five miles from the nearest exit, no cellular, can’t drive. Irksome.

I hopped out of the car, disgruntled, and started walking. What else was there to do? About a mile down the road, some random biker with no teeth pulled over and offered me a lift to the next exit. I weighed hopping on a motorcycle with a random (toothless) stranger against walking for another hour, took him up on it, and was dropped off at the offramp 4 minutes later, at around midnight.

At the bottom of the offramp is a Best Western or some such. I can’t begin to tell you why you’d want to stay in Alachua, but if you do want to stay there, there’s a hotel for you. I borrowed their phone, their yellow pages, and thought ah, 24 Hour Towing of Alachua… Surely they’ll be of use.

So I called them up. “No, we don’t tow after midnight,” they explain. “Our driver is old and needs his sleep. Call a towing company in Gainesville.”

Of course, my first thought was but why in the bloody blue thundering fuck do you call yourselves “24 Hour Towing of Alachua” if you do not, in fact, tow 24 hours? Ignoring this unworthy thought, I called a company in Gainesville, explained carefully where I was, where the car was, and so on. They told me they’d be there in an hour. Ah, well, at least I was getting my useful tow in the end.

Somewhere around 1:30, I started to wonder whether I speak the same language as them. You see, I would have thought 1:00 is one hour after 12:00, yet no tow truck had I seen. Puzzling. So I called them back up, and they said “oh yeah… Right, he’ll be there in 30 minutes.”

About 45 minutes later, a tow truck pulled up. Without my car, of course, but we can’t have everything. I hopped in and had my first meeting with George.

George, you see, was the driver. An utterly stereotypical redneck. I couldn’t get but half of what he was saying, and that which I could get wasn’t worth the effort. Something about having had to leave his room at the motel to pick me up. George, I thought, I don’t really need to hear the sordid details.

Now, the only way to get on the 75 northbound is to go back to Gainesville. So back to Gainesville we went, turned around and got on the freeway, picked up me car, and went back up to Alachua. From there, we got back on the freeway south again. George helpfully commented that it would have made sense to pick the car up before getting me, since he’d just gone from G to A to G to A and was headed back to G. I tactfully refrained from saying that yes, this would have made a great deal of sense, which is why I’d requested it and why you didn’t do it.

So we passed the first offramp for Gainesville, and suddenly the engine sputtered. “Well shee-it,” said George, “gonna havta stop an’ git gay-us.”

“Fine, George, that’d be good. And then I’ll be getting home, right?” It was, after all, something like a quarter to 3 in the morning.

We got to the next offramp, started our way down. Life was, if not beautiful, at least not hideous. Up until, that is, the point that we ran out of gas. On the bloody offramp. At 2:45 a.m. We coasted for a ways, ran a red light, and stopped a few hundred feet short of the gas station. This isn’t happening, I thought. No one can possibly be this incompetent..

I opened my eyes. We were still stopped.

“Day-umn,” George said. And off he trekked for the gas station, while I slumped in my seat in despair.

Several minutes later, George returned with a gallon of diesel, dropped it into ye olde fuel tank, and turned the key. No ignition. Turned the key again. No ignition. Added some of that starter fluid, turned the key… no ignition.

“Day-umn,” my helpful driver said once more. “Battery’s day-ud.”

Oh my sweet merciful Jesus, I thought, please strike one of us dead. Preferably him. I will dedicate my life to you if only a bolt of divine wrath smiteth this idiot where he stands.

No bolts of divine wrath were to be seen. Day-umn, I thought.

George walked over to the gas station, which was apparently the home base of his towing company, while visions of increasingly violent murder swam through my head. I was tired, I was cranky, and this was not helping.

Several minutes later, George showed up with another tow truck. “I’ll pull in this one, you steer the dead one, get it?” Thus, I found myself for the first time steering a tow truck.

Well, he refueled the one my car was attached to, attached a generator of some sort to it, and sat down to talk to his friend Ray. Ray, I think, was the smart one of the pair, but that wasn’t saying much. I sat on the pavement, awed by my experience.

Perhaps 30 minutes later, George decided to try the tow truck. Miracle of miracles, it started! “Jes’ let me turn it off, disconnect the generator, and we c’n go,” he told me. So he turned it off, disconnected the generator, and (I am not making this up, I swear)… he couldn’t get it started again.

Holy Christ, I prayed, I don’t mean to question your Divine Wisdom, but why did you create this man? He has all the makings of a wonderful newt, don’t you think?

It must have been about 4:30 when we finally got the tow truck charged up, and off we went. Got to my apartment, dropped the car off. George wanted to know how I was going to pay for this. Were I less anxious to see my bed, I would have explained that I was rather expecting not to pay much for this, as it was hardly worth paying for, but that seemed likely to be unsuccessful, so I handed him my Visa. “We’re gonna have to call that number in to the office, and I don’t want to run my battery down. Can I use your phone?”

Slumped over, a battered, beaten-down wreck of a man, I lead him into my apartment complex. My (attractive, but ditzy) neighbor of the time was just coming up, clad in the customary mid-summer outfit of the local co-eds. I nodded, too weak to smile at this point, and led George into my apartment. Having not yet managed to close the door, George, wearing this big shit-eating grin, said loudly “day-umn, you live next to a set of tits like that?” At this point, my neighbor slammed her door shut, loudly. I foresaw trouble brewing, but eventually managed to get rid of the idiot, flopped in my bed, and fell asleep, reassured that if ever I suffered from a severe blow to the head which reduced me to a babbling moron, at least I could still drive a tow truck.

Hey, g8rguy, no fair posting a better story than mine in my thread!! :smiley:

<note to self: assure the Perfect Child[sup]TM[/sup] that she doesn’t want to go to college in Gainesville>

Sorry! Won’t happen again, I swear! Largely because I don’t have any other good stories to tell… :slight_smile:

Just to be different–my short towing story is a GOOD one. My beloved Saturn died on the way home from work. I already had an appointment with the service department at the dealership, and I had a friend with a cell phone following me home, so I called to let them know that I wouldn’t be making it on time. They referred me to a wrecker service.

I called the wrecker, and was told that there would be a two-hour wait. I didn’t want to wait in the 96-degree heat in the car at the side of the highway for 2 hours. They said “leave the keys, go home, we’ll get it.” I didn’t want to leave my key in my car. They said (quite sensibly) “well, it’s not like someone is going to drive off with it, you know.” So, I did, although the dispatcher could tell that I was unhappy with deserting my car.

An hour later, they called me at home to let me know that they had spotted my car from the opposite side of the highway. 15 minutes later, they called to tell me that it was safely loaded. 25 minutes later, they called to let me know that it had arrived at the service department safely, and in their opinion, it was the alternator causing the problem.

There are nice people out there.

Dang FCM, is the Beetle going to be fixed in time for the big trip? (Yes, I am back from Jaxtown and my car made it through there without needing to be towed. :smiley: ) Hope everything goes well, else, you might be stuck with… err… be fortunate enough to have… The Perfect Child [sup]TM[/sup] home all summer.

Well, I just got off the phone with the service dept. Someone put gasoline into the diesel tank when she fueled up on Tuesday evening. :eek: They’re going to have to remove, drain, and purge the tank and the fuel lines, replace the fuel filter, and put fresh new diesel in. Someone is about to learn an expensive lesson.

Oh yeah, and I was wrong about the belt - it was present and intact. Turns out it doesn’t run over the top of the fan, it runs under it. I’ve got an excuse - it was dark and I was just feeling my way around the front of the engine.

At least it’s a relatively simple problem. I was envisioning some mysterious internal failure that would take forever to find and cost a fortune to fix. All part of my personal philosophy - plan for the worst - you can only be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, that’s the semi-happy ending to this tale. Unless they find something else after they do the fuel tank thing.