The AA to the rescue
I have been a member of the AA (the motoring organisation, that is!) for goodness knows how many years, but have never made much use of it, and never really believed that it would actually help me out in a crisis. It was different in my childhood, when my Dad wore a metal AA badge on his Morris Minor ('traveller version"), and AA men in brown uniform and on motor bikes (a bit like the one in the picture) would salute as we drove past. I really did believe those guys would zoom to the rescue -- but not this new call-centre, business model version of the AA.
Anyway, the son is about to return to the UK (he is miraculously in the air from Cairo as I write) and the little car he drives turned out to be completely dead when I went to see if it would start (it was not just dead, it was apparently beyond resuscitation... the ignition light didnt even come on). The truth was it hadnt been driven for ages, and indeed had for several weeks been blocked in by the builders' skip, so it couldnt have been given a little run around, even if I had wanted to.
So there was no option but to try the AA (and to take advantage of my Complimentary Home Start).
The Call Centre did, I must concede, work fine and I explained the problem, being a little economical with the truth (it hadnt been driven for two weeks, I said .. well, true, but it hadnt actually been started for 6 plus.. and now it was dead as a door nail).
The lady was extremely charming. Yes, they would help -- but I would have to understand that they would be giving priority to roadside breakdowns. It could be 24 hours before they got to me.
She was obviously used to people getting ratty when she imparted this estimate, and was even more charming when I said that I quite understood that there were those who needed their services much more urgently than I did (she didnt know quite how short a leg I had to stand on). I graciously put the phone down, thanking her profusely, and started to negotiate with the husband about how to make sure we weren't out when the AA finally got round to us.
These negotiations were still going on, when the phone rang. It was Richard from the AA, who was 5 minutes away, come to start the car.
Richard arrived, and turned out to be a gratifyingly old-fashioned AA man (had worked for them for 28 years, and seen a change or two..). As I veered towards a slightly franker story, he fixed the battery up to a charger, waited a few minutes, concluded that it wasnt going to be revivable, and it would be best to replace the thing (and he had a new one in the car). All this was done within 20 minutes, while he told me some fascinating stories of life on the breakdown frontline (I didnt know that supermarket diesel didnt have the same strength anti-freeze in it as regular garage diesel, and so froze in these temperatures...)
So in well under an hour I had a drivable car, thanks to the AA and thanks to Richard of Littleport (if anyone from the AA is reading this, pass on my thanks please).
Now it is back down to coping with the remains of the snow. The daughter is due back from Sudan on Christmas Eve, Heathrow permitting, and I still have the wrapping paper to buy. Meanwhile our ever-ready Human Resources department has issued us with an "Adverse Weather Policy", five pages of it. We are all being urged not to put ourselves to "unnecessary or inordinate risk" in attempting to attend our place of work (phew, that's a relief). Amongst the options presented to me in this capacious document, I think I shall be taking the "working from home" route (having first contacted my line manager, and with all the provisos that my work will be "closely monitored to ensure that it is productive".....if only a line manager could ensure that, I'd like one of those!).
Whatever happened to common sense?