The morning Marigold broke down
Marigold is my footloose blue (according to her paperwork) Fiat 500 and we've been together now for over a year. We spend quite a bit of time together, given that I work from home one day a week but on the other four days I spend nearly an hour each way driving to and from the office. She is a young car, I hope I look after her well, but I knew it was inevitable that one day she would go wrong.
It was a Tuesday morning, just before 7am (I leave home very early in order to beat the worst of the motorway traffic, and usually my plan works), just about getting light, and I was minutes away from the office. I was on one of the main roads in the city, which leads to the city centre, the university, and the hospital, as well as being one of the direct routes off one motorway and on to another, so it's quite a busy road, as you can imagine. I was about five cars back from a set of traffic lights, waiting for them to go green. I had the handbrake on, gear stick in neutral and was happily singing away to Heart radio.
Then the radio went off (please imagine one of those dooooooooo sounds as something slowly turns itself off), followed by all the lights on my control panel. Slight panic. I turned the keys in the ignition, turned them on again, but no power. Nothing. I couldn't even turn my hazard lights on. Cue greater panic. The lights had turned green, cars around me were moving, but I wasn't going anywhere. The beeping from other cars wasn't helping either. I stopped panicking (sensible Amy took over), managed to turn my hazards on and make them stay on, got my phone out of my bag on the passenger seat and got out of my car.
Just as well I did get my phone out of my bag (don't know why I didn't take the whole thing) as the door locked behind me and I couldn't open it. Or the passenger door. All my 'what to do in an emergency' info is in my glove compartment. Which was in a locked car.
So I did what any person would do, and phoned my mum. She got into my email account, got all my details in rapid quick time and I phoned the breakdown people. I cannot fault them - they asked me questions quickly and professionally, reassured me, worked out where I was and told me someone would be with me within 60-90mins. It wasn't raining, it wasn't too cold, no one was hurt.
A man on a motorbike stopped and asked if I was okay - I said I was, and that help was coming.
Then a second man on a motorbike stopped. My car was in the left lane, and rather than go around my car, as everyone else was doing, he walked his bike between my car and me on the pavement, so he knew I could hear what he was saying as he pushed up his visor. I should look after my car better! This shook me - it was gloomy, chilly, I felt vulnerable enough standing by the road with a broken down vehicle in people's way, and here was a stranger shouting at me. (For the record, my car had new tyres, passed its MOT just the month before, and had a 12,000 mile service the month before that.) I really hope that if that man has a daughter, or girlfriend, or indeed any relatives feeling vulnerable, that no person ever shouts at them like that.
I didn't like standing there. Whilst there was still a right lane, so cars could get round me without getting in the way of oncoming traffic, I clearly was slowing people down. I wanted to look like I was doing something, but what could I do other than wait?
After half an hour or so, two men went past in a white van. The passenger yelled at me to move my car. Hang on, why don't you help? It has no power, I can't get back in it, and even if I could the handbrake is on and on my own I can't steer and push a car with no power up a steep kerb out of the way. Would you like to help? Oh no, you've driven off. If I had felt my car breaking down when I was moving, I would have tried to pull over as far as possible. But as it stopped working whilst I was stationary, what did you expect me to do with it?
The breakdown man arrived within 90mins (he'd phoned to say he was stuck in traffic, which I'd suspected given where I was) and he was friendly and efficient. He got into my car within seconds and soon had the bonnet open and was peering at things. I was concerned that I'd done something, that it was indeed my fault I'd broken down. He tested the battery and found that it wasn't just flat, it was dead. Completely and utterly dead. At this point Ben arrived (yes, I'd phoned him too, and he'd driven over to meet me) and he helped me and the breakdown man get my car off the road. The battery needed replacing, so I authorised a large payment and the breakdown man went back to the garage to collect a new one. Apparently this is relatively common in Fiats with stop-start technology - the batteries can die with absolutely no warning, and I was reassured it wasn't my fault. Ha! I wanted the irritating men I'd encountered earlier to come back so I could tell them, and also give them all the insults and witty retorts I'd thought of by now, but hadn't been quick enough to do so at the time.
Marigold was soon mended, I hugged the breakdown man (he was friendly, professional, reassuring and just what I needed) and then Ben followed me to work to check all was okay.
So really, my first (hopefully last) breakdown wasn't that major in the grand scheme of things - no one was hurt, the repair was quick and not too expensive, I wasn't stranded on a dark country road in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle lane of a motorway. But I do wish those other road users hadn't spoken to me like that - there was absolutely no need for it and they didn't exactly help. They've probably forgotten this ever happened, but I haven't. I think it's a timely reminder that the little things people do and say throughout the day, both positive and negative, to friends and strangers, really can stick around for quite a while, and of this we should be mindful.