The following is an account of one of the most non-life threatening stressful experiences of my life earlier this week.
[9:00 am] I park in this exact spot so that I could escort CJ to school. Although I am to the side of the road, my car isn’t entirely to the side because of the giant pile of snow to my right. I leave my hazard lights blinking and take CJ up the steps and wait for his 9:10am entry.
[9:11 am] I return to my car with the intention of getting groceries at Trader Joe’s. I put my key in the ignition and turn the key and I get a click-click-click sound with flickering lights on the dashboard. Uh-oh. I make sure everything is shut down and try again. Car is not starting…no bueno. I try five more times and although the radio and inside lights work, the engine isn’t starting. I text Grace and the adventure begins.
[9:15 am] I open my trunk and get the jumper cables out and I then scan the street to see who I can flag down to help jump-start me. After a few moments I spot a hipster (like myself, lol) sitting in his Acura across the street. I go up to his window and ask if he can help jumpstart my CR-V and he happily obliges. His name is Andrew and he drives up to me and we use my jumper cables because he doesn’t have any. We hook everything up and nothing. We read both of our manuals, rewire and re-clamp everything and nothing. We let his engine run for 15 minutes and nothing. The battery was obviously dead, but the jump simply wasn’t working. He suggests maybe the battery is still under warranty and to call Hillside Honda. I thank Andrew for trying and offer to buy him a cup of coffee, but he declined. A really nice guy.
[9:41 am] I contact Hillside Honda’s Parts & Services department and I’m told that the battery had a 3-year warranty which I missed by three months. Great. I was quoted $178 for a new battery and installation, and it would be extra for the tow. I said no thanks and decided to call Geico.
[9:44 am] Geico says I’m covered for a free tow and battery installation and will just have to pay for the new battery. So this is when my dilemma began: Do I ask for a tow or have the tow truck come to me and simply replace the battery because I was expecting CJ to get out of school at 11:30 am? I knew there wasn’t enough time for a tow and battery replacement so I asked Geico to contact a towing company that could come and just install the battery where I was at so that I could still be there to pick up CJ. After a few moments, Geico tells me that C&R Towing LTD can come to me and do the battery install with a $163 quote. I say fine and Geico contacts C&R while texting me the information.
[10:20 am] C&R contacts me, quotes me the same price, and says they’ll have a guy out to me within 90 minutes. Sure. Let the waiting game begin. I contact Grace and her mom who is watching EJ and update them on the situation.
[11:30 am] As I predicted correctly, the tow truck did not come in time for CJ’s pick up, so I leave my car and walk up to the school to receive CJ and tell him our car is broken and that a tow truck will come and fix it. CJ was very cool about it and goes through the car manual with suggestions for various fixes. It was actually pretty fun and refreshing to have CJ with me. I appreciated his lightheartedness which lifted my spirit.
[11:34 am] I call C&R for an update and the guy says they’re still waiting to receive the battery. What?! All this time I thought they were on their way because they’re listed as being only 13 minutes away in Richmond Hills from where I was. The dude says another hour or so. Great.
[11:36 am] I make the quick decision to call my dad and have him pick up CJ from where I was and take him to his house while I wait for the battery. My dad was very helpful and came quickly. I transferred CJ’s car seat to his car and my dad took him to his house to feed him lunch, and then I text and call Grace and my mother-in-law to tell them where CJ was.
[12:33 pm] I text my college buddy who lives four blocks away from where I was stranded so that I could rest and charge my phone since I knew he had an iPhone, but unfortunately he was in Brooklyn.
[12:56 pm] Grace texts me: “Sorry…but I’m glad it’s happening to you and not me.” Not helping, but she’s right. She’s not as patient as I am.
[1:01 pm] I call C&R again for an update and they say they have the battery and are just waiting for the tow truck guy to return. I’m quoted another hour.
[1:20 pm] I leave my car and cross the street to the pizzeria and tell them I’m waiting for a tow and ask to use their restroom which they oblige. A long stream of pee ensues.
[1:45 pm] My dad calls for an update. CJ had salmon for lunch. Thanks Pops!
[1:58 pm] I call C&R for another update and I’m told the tow truck guy picked up the battery and first has to deliver a lien, [another towed car] before coming to me. Another hour. At this point my panic begins to set in because I don’t trust C&R, my weak iPhone battery is down to 20% (and I did my best to not surf the internet or check Facebook or my email to conserve power), the day is waning, and I start to doubt my initial decision. Should I have called my dad earlier to pick up CJ so that I could get a faster tow to Hillside Honda? Will my iPhone have enough power to keep in contact with C&R? Will I have to leave my car overnight and finish this the next day? I start stressing and get out of my car to get some fresh air. Keep in mind that all this time I was sitting in silence because I was afraid the radio would completely drain the car battery. I was really patient up to this point as I’m okay with sitting in my car for extended periods of time, but this was ridiculous.
[2:13 pm] Grace calls me and I give her a really quick and direct update so that I could conserve my iPhone battery (I think there’s an obvious battery theme here). At this point I give up and start praying really hard. Of course I was praying this entire time, but a dead car battery isn’t a big deal relative to the rest of the world, and CJ was safe, so everything was fine. I was praying, but not that hard because I knew things would turn out fine. It was just a simple inconvenience…that was turning into a bigger inconvenience. It was fine, but I wasn’t anymore. This is when I broke down and started to experience the loneliness and doubt. I told God that all I wanted to do was go home and see my wife and kids. I know, very melodramatic, but being stranded on a busy street while doubting one’s decisions and experiencing abandonment is not so easy. I really thought C&R wasn’t going to come. I got out of the car again and kept looking down Queens Blvd for any sign of a tow truck while telling God that all I wanted was for someone to help me. I kept saying, “help me help me help me help me!” Nothing. I had to keep telling myself God is and will take care of me and that everything will be fine and that it’ll make for a great story. Not so easy, but sure.
[2:48 pm] My freak out continues as I begin to see some of the same parents who dropped off their children in the morning to return to pick up their kids from full-day school. My iPhone battery is at 11% and I call C&R one last time and tell them that my phone is dying and I’ve been waiting for almost six hours. I’m told the guy went to drop off a car in Ozone Park. Ozone Park?! That’s far along Woodhaven and I know for a fact that there’s always traffic in the afternoon along Woodhaven during this time as you go further South. Another hour.
[2:56 pm] After a long internal debate, I call Geico and tell them I’ve been waiting for close to six hours and that I want a different tow company to tow me to Hillside Honda. They said sure, but it will take another two more hours. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! They said they can call C&R to ask for an update and I said forget it because they’re probably already annoyed at me for calling so frequently. The Geico person says, “okay, have a nice day.” Wow…very messed up!
[3:10 pm] I’m freaking out that no one will help me and that I should have either got my car towed to Hillside Honda in the first place or walked home to get my extra cell phone battery because my phone is about to die. Surprisingly, earlier in the morning I had the bright idea of writing down the phone numbers for C&R, Geico, my mother-in-law, and Grace (yes, I have failed miserably in not memorizing her number) for when I would reach this point. I really wanted to save money because this battery was going to cost $163, but I was breaking and needed a break. So I walked back over to the pizzeria and ordered a plain slice and a can of coke. I walk over to the window and situate myself between a big Dominican guy who was probably doing deliveries and a cop. I had forgotten that I noticed a cop pull up in his squad car for a bite to eat. I decided why not and told the delivery guy that I’ve been waiting six hours for a tow truck because my car battery was dead, and sure enough the cop chimed in and asked if I tried jump-starting it. I told him I tried and he said my cables could be bad. I knew the delivery guy hadn’t made any deliveries all day and he was just standing around with his mini-van out in front, so I asked him if he could try jump-starting me. He hesitated and I stopped him and told him I understood he was working and not to bother. The cop overheard and said that if he had time after he was done eating he might help. Because I foolishly still had an ounce of hope for this non-existent tow truck, I took my slice and coke and told the cop that I’d be in my car if he had the time.
[3:25 pm] I scarf down that slice like it was air and see the cop come out. He doesn’t look at me and instead heads straight for his car. Oh well. Then I turn around and I see the cop talking to his partner and pointing to me. Yes! This was huge because I know police officers aren’t supposed to do this at all. I text Grace: “Cops jumping me.” They pull up in front of me and use my cables because they don’t have any. The cop comments that my cables are thin and that when he put them on there wasn’t a spark. We try anyway and my car rumbles ever so slightly during ignition with no success. We let it charge for a few minutes and try again. Nothing. The cop then tells me to ask the delivery guy for his cables and he brings cables that are definitely thicker than mine. We charge it and try and get a little more rumble than before. Now the cop is confident that it’ll work. We give it a few more minutes, turn the ignition…and we have life! It worked! All this time I could have been jump-started if I just had better cables. The cop tells me to call the towing company to ask where they are and I tell him my phone is dead and he quickly lends me his phone. I break out my handwritten list of phone numbers and tell C&R that I got my car to start and they tell me they’re 8 blocks away. The cop and I agree that I rather as well get the battery now as opposed to driving over to an Auto Zone and wait longer for a new battery. I really wanted to stick it to C&R and tell them to forget it, but that would have made my six-hour wait pointless. I thank the cop and ask if he wanted more pizza and also ask the delivery guy if he wanted anything too, but they both happily decline and everyone departs ways.
[4:04 pm] I pull my car forward and closer to the curb while keeping the engine on to charge the battery. I was so happy and felt relaxed for once. Within five minutes the tow truck guy pulls up. I was half betting that the guy probably brought out the wrong battery, but he seemed very nice and he quickly installed the new battery while teaching me a few things about car batteries, alternators, and how to know the difference when one is failing. Car was fixed and I headed over to my dad’s house to pick CJ up and went home without any more hiccups.
It was not a good day, but I’m really thankful for my family helping out when I was in need, and for meeting three great guys who didn’t have to, but made things much more bearable for me. I learned four things: I was right in that God is faithful as He certainly cares for me even during the mundanes of life, the presence of someone else during distress is priceless, sitting in a car all day will make anyone go crazy, and to have really thick and reliable jumper cables in the back of my car.