Broke Down

I don't have a ton of phobias but one of them is car trouble. I have only owned two cars in my life, a Honda Civic and a Toyota Prius. Both purchased new and both chosen because of their reputations for reliability, and likelihood of not having to be repaired. I'm nothing if not pragmatic when it comes to cars. No need for fancy bells and whistles. I just want a car that will work, every day, day after day, without having to "go into the shop." That's why I pretty much avoid any fancy cars not made in Asia. Too many horror stories. And by horror story, I mean anyone who has ever said, "I had to take my car to a mechanic" for anything other than an oil change or routine maintenance, I politely ask what type of car it is, and then mentally note it as a car I will never purchase for fear I too may have to take that car to the mechanic one day.

If they made cars that guaranteed you'd never get a flat tire, I'd buy one of those. I told you, it's not logic. It's a phobia. 

Knowing what you now know, you can just imagine the dread that filled me last week when my car suddenly slowed from 65, yes, I was actually driving the speed limit, to 50. All the lights on the instrument panel lit up like the Bay Bridge. The exclamation point light, the VSC light, the check oil light, the wiggly lines light. I put on my emergency lights and just willed my car to keep driving the next 1.5 miles to my exit. 

We made it. Then when my car slowed on the off ramp, it decided to shut off completely. I have never been in a car that would not go. I religiously fill my gas tank. I get regular oil changes. I check the air pressure in my tires. But now my car is stopped, and after turning it off and on twice, it is still dead. On the off ramp of a busy freeway during morning rush hour. First one car inches by me then a second, then a third, then there's this dude at my window. His tow truck is behind my car. 

At this point I'm like, what? What good fortune. A dude with a tow truck behind me at this exact moment?

Turns out he's with 511 Freeway Aid, a service that "links...MTC, CHP, and Caltrans - with a program to rapidly deploy appropriate roadside services and get motorists moving again as soon as possible."

He can tow me, for free, to the nearest safe place. At that point, I try to start my car one last time, and lo and behold, it starts. The lights are still on but my Pri Pri can actually go. Incred. So I don't need his services after all.

Long story short, I got to work and had my car towed to the dealer. They 're-coded' a couple of things in the system, drove it 5 miles and said it's fine. Unless it stops again. Then it's a fuel delivery problem and it's going to be extremely expensive.


But in the meantime, I had to spread the gospel about the 511 Freeway Aid. It's free but technically I pay for this service, as does every other California taxpayer. You just call 511 and say "freeway aid" and someone comes and changes your tire, jumps your battery or tows you off the highway. They will even give you a free gallon of gas. 

It only works free during peak commute hours, and it's not for an emergency--you should call 911 if there's an accident or you're in imminent danger in the middle of the freeway.

Finally, something about California driving we can appreciate.