There was a point in time when my car was acting up in big ways, and a series of unfortunate, unrelated events left me feeling uneasy about its reliability. Among other occurrences, I had been rear-ended and somehow my Grand Am managed to escape with no damages. I should have sold the heap immediately after this stroke of good luck, because what happened soon after, to put it mildly, made me never want to ride in a Pontiac again.
On my way home for another lame college spring break, there was a rather long traffic jam on the highway. Some background information: the Service Engine Soon light had been on for about a week, and fixing it was the focal point of my break. Riveting, I know.
What happened next was truly awesome. During the stop-and-go traffic, the ABS light came on. Seconds later, the battery light came on. I wasn't sure what all of this meant, but I knew it wasn't good. Traffic started to pick up, and I stepped on the accelerator. The airbag light came on. Next, the radio died. Then the power windows. All my gauges - speedometer, gas and the like - flatlined and fell.
At this point there was an eminent wave of destruction swelling around my car, forcing it into what appeared to be self-destruct mode. Finally, the entire car called it an early day and shut off entirely. There was no chance to pull over, so I was sitting in the middle of the left lane of the highway. Now I was the reason for the traffic jam.
I would estimate there was about two miles of traffic behind me. Low balling it. My life was put even more at risk when the jackass behind me passed me on the left shoulder while giving me the finger. Yes! He didn't choose to merge into the right lane of traffic to pass me. Wasn't having it, apparently. He was going left come hell or high water. As you might know, what the lead car does in a traffic jam can set a horrifying precedent. Traffic jams are notorious for conformity. I now had cars whizzing past me on my right, and to my left was a stream of pissed off people driving through the muddy median. Most honked their horns, and more fingers were raised. Yes, people. This was my intention: to park my car on the highway. Get over yourselves.
I couldn't get out of my car because I would've gotten run over. After taking a moment to myself, sitting in my shaking car, I elected to call 911.
"Yeah, hi, um... god, I don't know how to say this. My car just died on the highway. I'm holding up a lot of traffic in the left lane.
"OK, sir, let me patch you through to a towing company."
"Hi, this is 911, we've got a broken-down car on the shoulder of the highway at mile marker 110."
"Um, excuse me."
"I'm not on the shoulder."
"Oh. Well that's what you said."
"No I didn't. I didn't say that."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah I'm sure! I am sitting in the left lane here, blocking a couple miles of traffic! You'd better come quick!"
"Oh my god. I am so sorry."
All I could do was wait for the tow truck. I stared out my rear-view mirror at the sea of cars behind me. Many drivers didn't notice my car sitting there or observe the stream of traffic bulging around me. I was almost rear-ended several different times.
Then a red semi truck pulled off the right shoulder. Out of the truck came a large burly man who resembled Santa Claus. I beheld my savior. Claus jumped into a small gap in traffic with both arms raised and waving. Tires screeched, and I could smell the burning rubber. That Claus.
He ran over, opened the door and told me to put the car in neutral. In one effortless motion, Claus pushed my car into the median. He scampered back across traffic and got into his truck. This was all very surreal. He may as well have had a sack of toys slung over his shoulder.
Now that I was out of the car, everyone could put a face with the person who had been causing the delay. Tons of death stares. People are dicks.
Then the tow truck arrived. John. John started laughing and said he heard about me on the radio. I didn't know what this meant. He said he was listening to the radio before the 911 call came in, and a woman called the station and told the listeners on air that there was a crazy man with a death wish just sitting in his black Grand Am, blocking the left lane of the highway. This was not amusing.
For $250, we got the car hooked up to his truck. Then we drove. Fast.
I'm not sure how fast you think tow trucks go, or can go, but previously I had thought that all trucks in general stayed in the right lane and went about 50 mph. Not John. We were soon in the left lane doing 80 mph. That's 80 mph in a town truck, towing another car (my piece of crap car), passing other cars. I've never seen more confused faces in my life. Jaws dropped once they saw the truck passing them, and upon seeing we were also towing another vehicle, they blinked and shook their heads in disapproval.
I had to say something to break the ice, so I went with, "Wow, John... I've got to be honest with you. I really didn't think tow trucks went this fast." John admitted he had a proverbial lead foot that had gotten him into trouble many, many times before. He called the 50 mph truck speed limit "lame."
At our peak, we actually passed another tow truck that wasn't even towing anything. I saw the driver mouth "god damn it" as he eyed the mass of metal passing him.
Cool beans, huh? Not quite. Though we made it home in record-setting fashion, my car was seriously broken, and so was my trust in Pontiac.