I'm not usually one to whine about things other than homelessness, but Triple-A sucks. Tonight, in my moment of need, the piece of plastic in my wallet that's supposed to offer some measure of security turned out to be about as useful in the moment as my Safeway membership.
It's dark. It's raining. Visibility sucks. I have two four year-olds in pajamas and coats in the backseat. I'm giving my friend a ride downtown to her hotel in my trusty '92 Toyota Corolla. 167,249 miles and going strong. On 205th in Edmonds, heading toward I-5, the road suddenly curves and I don't see it. I hit the curb and my right front tire blows out. We thump our way into an apartment complex car port and I look to see what I'm dealing with. There's a hole in the thing the size of my thumb.
I open the trunk and dig to the bottom. There's a spare, sort of. And a jack. No tire iron. A guy pulls up in a Lexus and stares. I walk up and ask if I'm in his space. The answer's yes, but he thinks he has a tire iron. He does. The jack works. The bolts go off and back on. My friend has packed the trunk. We're good. The guy gets to park.
But there's a problem. The spare is one of those fucking little band of rubber things that are only designed to get you to where you can get a real tire (what is the point of this?) and it felt kind of squishy when I was putting it on. The car pulls hard to the right. The braking is weird. It doesn't feel safe.
I forget about I-5. My idea is to go to a gas station somewhere along Aurora and get either a tire or more air in the spare. As we drive it becomes apparent that all the gas stations that are open have beef jerky but no tires. I get down to the AM/PM at 85th and try the air. Not much happens.
Well, alright. Time to call Triple-A. I proudly take the card from my wallet. My wife gets us a AAA membership every year because her mom is the sort of person who gives a window breaker — the tool you would need if you ever find yourself in an automobile that has hurtled off a bridge into freezing water and you need to make a calm escape — to you for your birthday. In ten years, I've never used it. Tonight was the night.
I forgot my cell phone, so we used Barbara's Blackberry. It rings the AAA in Washington, DC, because that's where her phone number is. After several minutes' confusion over whether I'm actually a member, although I hold a clearly valid membership card in my hand, I get transferred to Seattle AAA. I listen to 10 minutes of hold announcements about how fucking wonderful their service is and how much they care.
Twin A is asleep in the back. Twin B is chatting away, assessing the merits of large tires and small tires, and concluding that what we need is a medium tire. By then, we've decided to move to a Taco Bell parking lot, because Twin B's been saying she's hungry. She gets a cheese quezedila and she's happy. The lady from AAA comes on and asks if we're somewhere dangerous. I say we're in a Taco Bell parking lot. I have a flat and my spare is no good.
"Then you need a tow to a service facility."
No, I need a tire.
"We can't bring you a tire. We can only tow you to a service facility."
I can drive to get a tire if you can tell me where one is open.
"Oh, they're all closed."
So this is your "roadside service?" You're going to fucking tow me to a closed gas station? How can you be so useless? You're Triple-A!
"I don't know where you got the idea that we do tire installation!"
She actually said this. I don't know where you got the idea we do tire installation. Triple-A. Amazing.
Barbara took a cab downtown and I drove home at twenty-five miles an hour. It was fine. Tomorrow is another day, and one of Aurora Ave's forty-million tire merchants is sure to be open.