Car breaks down on side of road. You call for help. Then what?

My van broke down while I was traveling on a rural, 2-lane road yesterday evening at around 10:00 PM. The engine died. It was ***very ***cold out. I called my wife to pick me up. She said she would be there in about a half an hour.

So I was sitting there in the driver’s seat, and I saw a truck pass me. He turned his truck around and slowly drove up to my window. We rolled down our windows. He asked if I was O.K. I told him my wife was picking me up in a half an hour. He stared at me for about 10 seconds, and then said “O.K.” and drove off. Very creepy.

So then I was getting nervous. It was late at night, it’s very cold out, I’m stuck in my van, and I am unarmed. I did not want every person who drove pass me to stop and ask if I needed help; not only would it be a waste of time (since I didn’t need help), but I felt it would put me in danger. So I laid down on the floor of the van so no one could see me. I heard a vehicle drive by about every five minutes. No one stopped, which was my goal.

So here’s my question: what would you do in the same circumstance? Would you sit in the driver’s seat? Or would you lay down on the floor so no one passing by could see you, as I did?

While, I can appreciate your concern over wasting other people’s time who might stop to offer assistance when you already have help on the way, it does seem a bit odd that your bigger concern appeared to be that people were out looking to take advantage of someone stranded on the road. Truly how often does that happen? There are a much higher % of good people in the world, who just want to help, than those that are out to get you.

It’s a shame that people tend to think the worst of others first.

I would normally agree. And perhaps I was being paranoid. But a) it was a rural road, and there were no homes around, and b) the first guy who stopped really creeped me out. He was not normal; he stared at me (without saying a word) for what seemed like eternity.

Maybe he thought you were creepy and was trying to decide whether to believe your story or not. :wink:

I have been in this situation too many times to count. I have never not one time had anyone offer to help me in any way even the time when I was sitting on the side of the road while my engine was steaming and I was crying. . .with a little child beside me.

My first thought was that he was trying to decide if Crafter_Man was stealing wifi or looking for a kid to abduct. I’m surprised the police didn’t show up. :wink:

Really? Where do you live? The couple of times I’ve had a flat, someone has stopped to help within 20 seconds or so.

If I was in the OPs situation, I would have turned on the radio and sat in the driver’s seat until my husband arrived. If someone terribly creepy looking stopped to help, maybe I’d have locked the doors.

Maybe you should look into getting a more reliable vehicle.

I would keep my cell phone in my hand while talking to anyone who was offering to help me, and tell them “No thanks - they are on the way.”


I am very fortunate in that (1) I have only been in this situation a few times and (2) A total stranger always helped me out.

Once my car died for no apparent reason in the middle of a busy interesection at rush hour. I had both my young children with me. For a few minutes a lot of folks zipped on by and honked at me loudly until a man kindly pushed the car to the side of the road for me.

Another time I was on my way home from an emergency visit to the pediatrician late at night (obviously with a sick child) and the car ran out of gas. Yeah, should have checked it. My bad. Our other car was not running at all. This was well before cell phones. A man stopped and offered to help. I asked him to please just call my home phone number. He hesitated and said he would certainly do that if I preferred, but would be glad to give me a ride to the gas station about a mile away. I definitely hesititate. Look, he says, I’m safe. He pointed out his own wife and kids in the car, and the EMS tags on his van. We piled in, drive to the gas station and back, and he refused to even be paid back for the gas!

Sometimes people can’t afford a “more reliable vehicle”.
I have been in this situation and I’ve slid down in the seat rather than lay in the floor. But yeah, if help is on the way I don’t really want people bothering to stop.

It would only take one time for things to turn out badly, IFKWIM. Better safe than sorry.

Something similar happened to me in my station wagon while I was on my way to work. I called my wife on my cell phone, then got out of the car, leaned against it, and chain smoked cigarettes until she arrived.

I woulda fixed the van and drove home.

Unless I’ve got some real serious shit I’m on the way to doing, I’ll generally stop and help people. I get them going again about a 1/3 of the time.

For $500 you can get a vehicle that will get you from place to place reliably. It may not have the rims you want, the stereo you want, the tinted windows, etc. etc. But it will get you there and back without breaking down. It’s all about what your priorities are.

Too each is own. I don’t live my life assuming that remote possibilities are likely to happen. If that were the case, I’d never leave the house.

I don’t insure with Allstate. I don’t like Allstate. I heard them advertising for their auto club a few months ago. They would like everybody to sign up and pay of course. However, the ad said that anyone who called their number would receive their preferred rate and get up front in line for a needed tow service. The number was Call 1-800-ALLSTATE (1-800-255-7828). I’m going to try it if I get in a pinch because towing can be a racket.

The first time my old car left me stranded, I went and bought a new one. However, prior to that time, the car really hadn’t given me trouble. I’d given it regular maintenance and everything. Didn’t help as I was sitting on the side off the road.

While doing so, I had a couple people stop to help. I kept my window rolled up all but a smidge, and my cell phone in hand while I told them help was on the way. I didn’t hide on the floor, mostly because I didn’t think of it. I did, however, remember scenes from countless horror movies I’d seen over the years involving single women in broken down cars. Good times!

Where? When I was shopping around for used cars in college, there was nothing reliable for under a grand. These days it’s even more.

Of course, I can’t see the guy, but my thought as to why he stared at you was that he was mulling over in his mind whether or not that was too long to sit in a freezing car and whether he should still offer to have you sit in his running truck while waiting. Ultimately he decided that it was probably okay and left.

About 10 years ago, I got a call at about 2 in the morning from my roommate’s fiance. He was working third shift at the time but she didn’t know who else to call. I lived in DeKalb, IL at the time and she had been driving back to DeKalb from the Chicago suburbs when her car had broken down. At this point, this 22 year old girl hitched a ride with a semi driver all the way from Aurora to the DeKalb Oasis (roughly 35 miles)! I couldn’t believe it. She called to have me drive out and pick her up, which I did. I still couldn’t believe what she’d done and that she was alone at a huge truck stop at 2 in the morning. It was a few degrees below zero F that night.

Gosh, I’ve been the guy that helps, when it was needed. And it’s not known whether or not it’s needed until I’ve asked. To think that I might have been labeled a creep is somewhat disconcerting.

Those of that are a bit handy and were around before cell phones still feel the urge to help if we can.

The last decade or more, though, we usually get told that the auto-club etc. has been called.

Then an hour later on the way home, we see them still sitting in the car blocking traffic. Dude! We could have at a minimum pushed it out of traffic.

Now I don’t stop if I see the cell phone.

Motorcyclists are pretty good about helping each other. Failure to do so is a sure sign of a poser. If you are stopped along the road, it is polite to keep an eye on traffic and give a thumbs up to the passing bikes that will stop to offer help if you don’t.