Breaking down is hard to do, but there is help out there

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On Monday, the luck of the Irish was with me. I picked  up my son in Lakeside to take him down to his grandfather’s house at the beach. He is a care provider and helps take care of family. Travelling down the SR-125 we reached SR-54, so I began to roll down my window for a bit of cooler ocean breeze to find out that it would not budge. My son and tried the other windows and they did not work either. I looked at my control panel to find that everything was dead. I had no idea how fast I was going, but the car was still running.

On Monday, the luck of the Irish was with me. I picked  up my son in Lakeside to take him down to his grandfather’s house at the beach. He is a care provider and helps take care of family. Travelling down the SR-125 we reached SR-54, so I began to roll down my window for a bit of cooler ocean breeze to find out that it would not budge. My son and tried the other windows and they did not work either. I looked at my control panel to find that everything was dead. I had no idea how fast I was going, but the car was still running.

As I debated, trying to get to the house or pull over, the engine began hesitating and we decided we should get off the road. And not a moment too soon. With a choice to pull over to the left of the highway or get off at the Briarwood exit in Bonita, I chose to take the exit. As I drove off the highway, I lost control of steering and was barely able to get the car off to the side about halfway up the off ramp. One of those inconvenient nerve-wrecking moments in life.

We immediately pulled out my orange safety reflectors and popped the hood to see if we could figure out what was wrong, but within a few minutes I was on the phone with my insurance company to get a tow.

Within 10 minutes, a city truck pulled up behind us that I did not recognize and a young man got out in a yellow reflector vest and asked if I needed assistance. Antonio (the only name I have) works with the Free Motorist Assistance Program. Though from my vantage point, I could see the oncoming traffic, it was obvious that they were not seeing me and slowing down quickly as they came up the curve. And that was Antonio’s concern. After trying to jump my car, a short discussion and then finding out that my tow truck would not be there for another 30 minutes, he called a tow truck to come and move me off the ramp to a safer location.

The State Transportation Fund, the San Diego Association of Governments and additional help from the California Highway Patrol, runs this program. They can help by providing a gallon of gas, a jump-start, water for your radiator, a free tow or even help change a flat tire. And all you need to do it use one of the many yellow call boxes on the freeway or dial 511 and say “roadside assistance.”

Being that I have never used the system, I knew nothing about it and wondered how many people out there were as oblivious to this program as I was.

Antonio was more than helpful. He was courteous, kind and did everything he could to make a stressful situation a little bit easier. But he made it much easier by taking on responsibility, offering me help and educating me on this program. Antonio stayed with us until my tow truck arrived and we were safely on our way to the shop.

There are many things in life when help comes to you when you need it the most. I did not call this service, but this traveling freeway service patrol found me. Now I know. In the future, I will dial 511 and there are more than 1,200 call boxes throughout the urban and rural state highways in the county. I believe this service is invaluable, mainly because when your car breaks down you have to make quick decisions. Next time, I will call this service first as they are able to help trouble shoot and perhaps in many situations, take care of the problem right then and there.

I spend so much time at work doing my best to pay close attention to every little detail, that many times the most common things miss my perception. I have seen these call boxes on the highways for years, but never paid much attention to them. For one, I think of travelers in trouble when I see them and second, I carry full insurance with towing, so I never thought they really applied to me. However, on Monday, I learned that the Free Motorist Assistance program is there to help everyone.

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