June 13th, 2008

I Hate It When a Plan Goes to Pieces

So I ended up parking the car at the terminal after missing fleetfootmike on my first pass through arrivals. By the time I walked into the terminal, he was safely outside. We then went back to the parking lot, picked up lunch at Portillo's, and headed home.

After the obligatory tour of the premises and introduction of guitars, we piled into the car and off to Gand, where I picked up the one additional cable that I needed to finish wiring the studio so I can record scratch tracks by myself (and where Mike manfully resisted buying anything at all), then off to Target so Mike could replace the various liquids and gels that had been confiscated by airport security for the sin of being in the wrong piece of luggage. (That would be the unchecked one.)

Then we went to Sweet Baby Ray's to meet daisy_knotwise and the kids for dinner. Since none of our cars can conveniently carry more than two adults right now, swinging by the house with my car wasn't really an option. Dinner was quite pleasant and when I returned the call that chaoticgoodchic had left on the answering machine at home, it turned out that she, janmagic, and the Bohnhoffs were going to join us at the restaurant, although they had a substantial drive to get there. Katie decided to riot, so Gretchen took her home, leaving me and Mike with Julie to wait for everyone else.

They eventually arrived, the new arrivals were introduced to Julie, and we decided that we'd head home and they'd come by later to look at the studio and visit for a bit. Out to car we went.

And the car refused to start. In fact, the hazard lights started flashing, as did many lights on the dashboard, including the climate control system. It looked to me like the computer system in the car had lost its little mind.

So I called AAA and informed them that a tow was almost certainly going to be required and that I had an all-wheel-drive car, so a flatbed was going to be required. I called Gretchen to come back and get Mike and Julie (who had retreated inside to visit while I fought with the car). In the meantime, I tried disconnecting the battery, playing with fuses, and other games that might convince the computer to reset itself. No joy.

Gretchen arrived and took Mike and Julie away. Eventually the tow truck came. The standard tow truck that can't tow an AWD car. He apologized and tried jumping the car anyway which -- no surprise! -- refused to start. Since his company had just sent its flatbed far, far away (probably for a much more lucrative tow), he suggested that I call AAA again.

I decided to call the Ford Roadside Assistance number instead. Of course, my initial warranty had expired. Of course, I had bought the extended warranty, partly because I generally do and partly because it was the first model year for the car. They just wanted my VIN number to look it up by. I suggested that this was a rather hard number to read in the dark. They eventually managed to look it up and figure out that I had the appropriate Ford ESP plan and that they could tow my car.

So they contacted a towing company. I asked the rep to tell them I wanted it towed to Golf Mill Ford, which is the closest Ford dealer to my house. The towing company said they couldn't do that, because the lot there isn't secure, but they could tow it to Elmhurst Ford, where it would be ok. Fine. I can work with that. But I really didn't want to wait for a second tow truck, so I asked if I had to wait with the car. The rep finally said that they'd agreed that I could just leave the car key under the floor mat, so I did and called Gretchen to come pick me up.

I spent some short time around the house showing guitars to Jeff (Mike having already given him the studio tour) when the cellphone rang. The Ford people called to explain that the tow truck driver had refused to pick up the car without me there, because it had a scratch on the driver's side door.

I was less than pleased. There is no scratch on the driver's side door. I suggested that the driver was, perhaps, drunk. The rep acknowledged that there was some likelihood that the driver was at the end of his shift and didn't want to bother with picking up the car. Of course, that didn't help the situation.

So now they recruited a new towing company and asked if I could go back over there and meet them. Sure. Fine.

The fellow showed up with a flatbed about the time I got there. He couldn't get the car out of park -- no power by this time and it might not have worked without starting the car anyway, but he poured soap solution on the ramp and dragged it up. Hopefully, this didn't cause any damage. And then he set off for Elmhurst Ford and I set off for home.

Shortly thereafter, the towing company called. Elmhurst Ford was locked up tight. Did I have the number that I'd called for Ford? Well, yes, but I'd have to get it off the cellphone. Call me back in just a minute. I looked up the number and, when they didn't call back immediately, I rang them back with it. They called back a few minutes later to report that wasn't the number for Ford, that was the number for some other motor club. This was interesting, as it was certainly the number that I'd called.

Ok, the number that I called was in the user's manual. Could they get that from the glove compartment? They'd try.

They called back a few minutes later and were explaining how if they couldn't get hold of Ford, they'd have to store the car overnight, because they couldn't get into the dealership lot. While I was talking to him, I heard the driver call in on a speakerphone with the number from the manual, which was the number that I'd given them before. This didn't surprise me. I told him that was really the number for Ford, so I didn't know why he'd gotten someone else instead.

I then walked in and dialed the number from my home phone and got Ford. Maybe he misdialed. Repeatedly.

The towing company called back again and said that Elmhurst Lincoln-Mercury was just down the street and had after hours dropoff, so they could leave the car there. This was fine by me.

Shortly after that, Ford called and said that the towing company had called and that the Lincoln-Mercury lot was locked. I explained to the Ford guy that they had just told me the Lincoln-Mercury lot was open, although the Ford lot was locked. They would need to store the car for the night at the towing facility.

At this point, I recapitulated the story of towing company #1 that had said they would have to take the car to Elmhurst, because they would be able to drop the car off there. Mind you, they hadn't actually towed the car. And he looked up the records for the night's fiasco. And became very apologetic.

So the car is in the storage facility at the towing company tonight. And tomorrow morning, they will take it to Elmhurst Lincoln-Mercury, who I will need to call first thing to explain what they're supposed to do with this very incapacitated Ford Five Hundred.

This means that we no longer have room to get Mike to the con, so he's catching a ride with Sue. The gear that was supposed to go to Dave I. for the con went with my Guild, Jan, and the Bohnhoffs.

And if I'm lucky, I'll get a loaner car, because I have a feeling that mine is going to be in the shop for a while. If not, I can always work from home.

I had a plan.

Plan B

I crawled out of bed at 7 AM to call the service department at Elmhurst Lincoln-Mercury. The fellow that I spoke to said that the car was not there yet -- did I know the name of the towing company? I didn't, but as a result of the numerous calls last night, I had their number in my cellphone which I switched on, retrieved the number from, and passed along to the service guy.

He called them, verified that they had the car, and that they'd get it there by 10 AM or so. Neither of us were particularly impressed by that. He then wanted the VIN to look up my extended warranty. Of course, insurance cards and vehicle registration were in the glove compartment, but some rooting around in my files found a service receipt with the VIN.

He's verified that I have coverage, that I'm entitled to a rental car, and that we can make this work. He'll call me once he has the car; I'll head down there later to pick up the rental, assuming that he's not able to fix it trivially. I don't expect a trivial fix, given the way the car was behaving last night.

fleetfootmike is still adjusting to the time change and was quite awake, so I have introduced him to the tea kettle, tea, and cinnamon raisin toast, which he was awake enough not to butter with the garlic butter from the refrigerator. I'm going back to bed; Mike is working on a song. :)

More later.

Plan Q

The towing company, having been contacted by Elmhurst Lincoln-Mercury to confirm that the car was being brought there, has dropped the car off at Elmhurst Ford. Elmhurst Ford is now calling the towing company to get the car to the place where it is supposed to be, as well as Elmhurst Lincoln-Mercury to let them know why the car is not there.

Meme a Little Meme of Me

And this version, courtesy of catalana, slightly retitled:

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a memory of you and me. It can be anything you want -- good or bad. When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people remember about you.

Note: I regard all of this as optional. So if you choose not to post something, that's cool. Or if you don't want to do it in your journal, that's cool too. But it looks like a fun way to distract myself while packing a zillion boxes waiting to find out what happens to my car next.

Test Drive

The car is now at Elmhurst Lincoln-Mercury and I have a Ford Fusion which I'm thinking of as an extended test drive. It would probably work, but we'll see how I feel as the weekend goes by. :)