Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities...

Well, actually they are unincorporated areas, not part of the cities (Madison and Daphne). And really this tale primarily focuses on travel between the two, although part will occur at the second.

We moved.

We moved from Madison, AL (which is here - if you go to street view, you can take a peek at the 1967 Mustang GT that my uncle bought brand new off the showroom floor in November of 1966, and gave to me on my 30th birthday on December 20, 2001; note: the Mustang's no longer at that address, so don't bother trying to steal it; in fact, very little is there, so don't bother with any of that, either; and there probably isn't enough wiring to make it worthwhile to attempt to steal it for scrap copper, and we'll be in and out periodically until the house sells) to Daphne, AL (near mobile; here, to be exact, and this is where all our stuff is currently located, mostly in boxes; this is where we're located now, too).

On Friday night I drove up to Madison; on Saturday morning I picked up a 26' U-Haul truck (note that it's really equivalent to a 24' truck, since the main cargo portion is 23' 5"). Saturday we loaded it - but didn't finish; stayed in a hotel Saturday night (since our beds were no longer in the house); and finished loading Sunday. Didn't get started down until around 3:00 (I'd hoped to leave bright and early Sunday morning, but obviously underestimated the loading process). About 9:45, somewhere around mile marker 40 or 41 on I-65 south (it's about where the image changes color in the Google maps satellite photo, or at least it was when I last looked), there was a "BANG" and suddenly the truck started driving funny - yep, a blowout. Pulled to the side of the interstate, got out, verified the flat. Called the U-Haul 1-800 number, explained I'd had a flat ("blow out or flat?" "blow out") on the interstate, and was promply put on hold. A little while later a lady came on the phone...
u-haul lady: "What's the trouble?"
me: "Had a blowout on the left rear."
u-haul lady: "Ok... is that on the front or the back?"
me: "uh... the back rear" (ok, I just said, "the back")
u-haul lady: "Ok... that's the passenger side?"
me: "are you really asking that? do you not know what left rear means?" "it's the driver's side"
u-haul lady: "Ok... where are you located?"
me: "I'm on I-65 south in Alabama, around mile marker 40."
u-haul lady: "No, I mean what city and state?"
me: "you mean a mile marker isn't specific enough?" "I don't have any idea, I'm moving! I know where I came from, I know where I'm going, but I don't know where I am!" "I don't know - I'm in Alabama, on I-65 south near mile marker 40; don't know what city; can you not look it up based on the mile marker?"
u-haul lady: "I really need to know what city so I'll know where to send the mechanic; what city did you last pass?"
... I spent the next 5-10 minutes with her looking over her Mapquest to try to pinpoint my position, as she was unable to find specific roads I knew were nearby...
u-haul lady: "Ok... I'm going to call the mechanic and they will call you back."
About a half hour later the "mechanic" calls - I think this was someone in a corporate office somewhere (the "wingfoot" place)...
mechanic rep lady: "I'm going to send a guy to change your tire, he's coming from Mobile, so it will take him a couple of hours to get there; if he's not there in two hours, give us a call back or call the U-Haul hotline again, but the wingfoot man is usually Johnny on the spot."
... I'm near mile marker 40; that means it's no more than 40 miles from Mobile - according to Google Maps, about 39 minutes away. Why two hours? And I have my two youngest boys with me, and there are no seats in the other two vans caravaning with us since we have them loaded with stuff as well. Eventually my wife makes it to our new place, unloads enough cargo & passengers, and returns to pick up the boys, since it's really late and we're sitting on the side of the interstate and it's only 30-45 minutes away...
Two hours and five minutes later I call them back, since the repair guy hasn't shown up. She says, "Let me call him and I'll call you back." Ten minutes later she calls and says, "I can't get hold of him, but I left a message - I'll call you back as soon as he returns my call."

Great, thanks.

A while later she calls and says she has the repair manager on the line... he says, "The truck I'd dispatched to you broke down on the way to the shop... I have another truck en route that will arrive in 30 minutes."

Wait, on the way to the shop? Shouldn't this have been taken care of earlier, and shouldn't you have let me know?

Almost an hour later the repair guy arrives... with one tire. (This was about 1:40 am, or 4 hours after I'd called to report the blowout.) Both, of course, are flat... but they never asked me to check that, and I couldn't very well see it in the dark on the side of the interstate anyway. During the interim, waiting on the guy, I'd looked through the U-Haul emergency procedures, which said to assemble and properly place the warning triangles, directios are on the passenger visor. Um, no triangles, no directions there, nothing. And apparently the guy was supposed to have given me a tour of the truck's features before I left with it, discussing this sort of thing... what I got was, here's your key, there's the truck. (Incidentally, the truck was not nearly as difficult to drive as I'd imagined it would be, and the lower loading deck height of the U-Haul was certainly a plus; but it did not manage the 7 MPG it was supposed to get - I'm estimating it was more like 4 MPG.) But back to the tire(s) - both were flat, he brought one replacement. You'd figure they would send two knowing that it was a back tire that was blown out, and the likelihood of damage to the second tire on that side; if they didn't need the second tire, return it to inventory.

Anyway, he set it up with a single tire and an empty wheel (I was impressed by the ability of the guy to literally change a tire on the side of the road - that is, remove the old one from the rim and put a new one on), had me drive to the next exit (37, which I was planning to take to go to my new home anyway, he wanted to get me off the interstate to make it a little safer to change the second tire), and wait at an ex-gas station that had been levelled and was now a concrete slab across from a BP. Which was closed... so I couldn't use the restroom inside or get something to drink. So I sat, alone, with my U-Haul in a dark, empty lot at 2 o'clock in the morning. A policeman pulled by, circled around the BP a couple of times, stopped with his headlights shining on me (as I was sitting on the front bumper of the truck), and then slowly drove away. A while later he returned and pulled in to ask what was going on (I figure the first time he was giving me a chance to move on in case I was simply loitering), and (after I told him) said to give them a call if I needed anything. A while later a (different, I think) cop drove by, shined his bright spotlight on me for a while, then pulled into the BP, stopped with his headlights aimed in my direction, and then went on. He returned after the repair guy finally got back and was changing the second tire, stopped to ask what was going on, and then left. So, four visits from cops during the two hours I was off on that ex-gas station slab.

The mechanic returned around 3:40, and I was on the road again around 3:55. Now it's been about 21 hours since I got up, after having spent the whole previous day loading the truck and half of the current day, and I have to drive the remaining 30-40 minutes to my new place. And not just drive, but drive a 26' U-Haul truck. Alone.

Yes, I eventually made it home, and even managed to back it in the driveway (on my third attempt, which was from a different direction than the first two attempts). I got a drink (had been thirsty all this time) and went to bed around 5 AM (about 2 hours short of 24 hours since I'd gotten up). Over 6 hours from the time I called U-Haul's hotline for help until I was back on the road; the last half hour of the trip taking nearly 7 hours altogether.

Slept for about 5 hours (till around 10 AM), then woke and got up to help unload the U-Haul. My dad had come to help, and he, my wife, and my kids were unloading things. I jumped in to start helping and promptly turned my ankle really badly while taking a 35" CRT television down the U-Haul ramp (no, I didn't spill the TV, which was on a dolly). Continued to help unload things despite my injury until my wife made me sit so she could take a look. This was the ankle I'd broken in half in 9th grade (jumping down a flight of stairs at church: my friend and I were having a contest to see who could jump down the most steps - at 11, the entire flight, I won, yet lost as well, breaking my ankle in the process; I'd just successfully made it from the 10th step; I ended up spending six weeks - during school - with a plaster cast from my toes to halfway up my thigh - what fun). Anyway, it was swollen about an inch or so... she made me stop and put on her old air cast (sort of a splint kind of thing). I still helped unload until my dad basically refused to let me help anymore (despite his own frequent back problems). It's still swollen and sore, maybe not as much, though. Maybe I should go to the doctor... nah...

Anyway, there you go - a tale of two cities (or, more accurately, a tale of a move between and unloading at one of two incorporated areas outside two city limits). Sorry, but it's late - I'm not going to proof-read this one before publishing... feel free to comment on my grammatical and typographical mistakes.

Still no comments (like which one you like better) on my recent music, eh? Later, all...


Christy said...

I hate that happened.

Tony M said...

The blowout, the sprained ankle, or the mere fact that we moved? :)

Laudio said...

What a whiner-baby!


Actually, you persevered far more than I would've, I think. I'll bet I would have left the U-Haul on the side of the road and gone home with my wife and kids after convinving myself that insurance would cover replacement of the priceless heirlooms inside.

Tony M said...

In retrospect, the PODS option seems like a much better deal... :)

I don't recall if I mentioned, but I think one of the tires was flat when I picked up the truck, causing the other to overheat (as it was carrying the entire load) and blow out.

Laudio said...

No, you hadn't complained about that.

Heh heh. Sorry -- again, I admire your restraint. It sounds like you didn't have any negative words for the mechanic or the U-Haul dispatcher.

Did you??

And by the way, has this story been sent to U-Haul customer service? They need to know, if for no other reason than to streamline the process for other victims... err... customers.

Hence said...

I swore I'd NEVER use U-Haul again for a long-distance move after our horror-trip out here. We haven't moved again, yet, but I still swear I won't. I wrote up my horror story, too, and there are a lot more circulating out there.

Go Budget, Ryder and the rest!

Christy said...