Life's a reach and then you gybe.
So there I was on Tuesday morning, driving to the lake with the beautiful Tillerwoman by my side, my fast shiny Laser on the trailer behind us, thinking back to the post I wrote earlier about how much sailing I was doing lately, and looking forward to the long-distance race around the reservoir and the picnic and barbecue to follow, feeling mellow and self-satisfied and in the slow living fast sailing groove... when all of a sudden there's a kind of jingling noise from the back of the car.
I stop and pull over off the highway. Hmmm. It's not one of the safety chains dangling on the road. Oh no - much worse than that. The single leaf spring on one side of the trailer has snapped. The tire is already shredding the plastic fender to smithereens. And we're stuck. Like any good sailor my thoughts immediately turn to duct tape. No. Don't think duct tape is going to cut it this time. Other options? Abandon the trailer by the side of the road, drive home, fetch another trailer to pick up the boat, come back again with the second trailer to carry the first trailer? Complicated.
So I phone AAA. For the non-Americans reading this, AAA is the nationwide roadside emergency recovery service in the USA. I've been paying over $100 a year for their Plus Enhanced Super Duper Get-You-Home-Fast service or whatever it's called and never had to use them before. Now's the time to get my money's worth.
While I'm waiting for AAA to answer, a state trooper pulls up behind us and hails us on his car's loud-hailer, "Do you need any assistance?"
Not having a loud hailer as part of my car's standard equipment, I start to walk back to him to engage in a person-to-person as opposed to car-to-car conversation, when he suddenly turns on his flashing blue lights, hails, "I'll be back," and disappears in hot pursuit of some transgressing vehicle that he has spotted.
In a surprisingly short time, no longer than a couple of aeons, AAA answers the phone and a nice lady asks how she can help me.
"I'm in New Jersey on route 78 westbound at mile 24 and I'm towing a boat trailer and the leaf spring has broken so we're disabled."
"Which state is that in?"
Uh oh. Now we're really in trouble. I wonder for a while if I'm talking to some call center in India.
"Um, actually New Jersey IS a state."
"Oh. I'm in Michigan. I wonder why you got through to me."
So she's not in Mumbai. I marvel at the wonder of an American (she sounds American anyway) who doesn't recognize the names of all fifty states. Don't they all learn the state capitals too in fifth grade? OK, I can forgive someone for thinking that West Virginia is only a country song. But New Jersey? Come on people. It's July 4th. Much of the Revolutionary War was fought here. The Statue of Liberty is here. (Check a chart of New York Harbor if you don't believe me.) Simon and Garfunkel had a song about counting the cars here. In any case I'm dependent on this geographically challenged lady for my recovery.
After another couple of aeons and much polite chit chat about my accent and where I'm from and so on and so on, my new friend in Michigan manages to locate New Jersey on a map and even finds the road I'm on.
"So what city are you in?"
"I'm not in a city - I'm in the middle of nowhere at mile 24 on route 78."
Michigan Mary finally deduces to her satisfaction that I'm actually in the "City of Lebanon." OK, if it makes her happy. As long as she doesn't send the tow vehicle to the "State of Beirut." She then asks if it's OK if she puts me on hold while she transfers me to one of her colleagues in New Jersey. Fine.
So there I am waiting by the side of the road for a lifetime or two listening to the AAA recorded Michigan Muzak until Nancy from New Jersey comes on the line. I explain my predicament and then she tells me that AAA only covers car breakdowns not trailers, so I'm not covered. But she can give me the number of a local towing service if it's OK if she puts me on hold while she looks for it.
So there I am still waiting by the side of the road, while a couple of galaxies form and die, listening to the New Jersey AAA recorded messages telling me about what a great service they provide and how I can book a cruise or a trip to Europe or get my toenails cleaned through them. (I may have imagined that last bit). But apparently paying for a tow vehicle to recover a broken trailer is not part of the service that I've paid two thousand bucks for over the last few years. Nor apparently is finding that phone number of the tow service before a significant percent of the life of the solar system has elapsed.
I'm still on hold with Nancy and the recorded messages about rotating your tires and flossing your teeth or whatever when the state trooper comes back. With the phone in one ear I explain my predicament. "Oh, I can get you a tow service," he says. He goes back to his car, makes the call, returns and says the towing service will be here "momentarily". I hang up with AAA in the middle of a recorded message about life insurance for pets and thank him profusely.
And he was right. A truck arrives in a few minutes and we quickly winch the boat and trailer on to the flatbed and we're on our way home. It wasn't free. It wasn't cheap. But it was fast and friendly and efficient.
I never thought I'd say it but I love the New Jersey State Police. What service!
And AAA sucks.
How was your Independence Day? Better than mine I hope.