Saturday, March 22, 2014

Carl's Automobile Assistance

On Thursday, last, my phone rang. I saw from the picture that it was Joe calling and I answered, a little surprised at the call. I was waiting upstairs as Joe was getting the MV1 ready for us to leave Halifax and head to Fredericton. Usually, when it's time for me to get into the van, Joe comes upstairs and gets the last of the stuff, and I go along with him. I answered the phone to be told that the ramp on the MV1 had stopped working. It was impossible to get it to go back in, and it was impossible because of how it was situated to use it go go up into the van in the power chair.

I went downstairs and took a look. There the van sat. It's door wide open, the ramp down, and no amount of struggle would get it to either click into place or retract into the vehicle. The bellmen at the hotel, nice to a one, came over and tried, along with Joe to get it working again. No joy. We struggled with what to do. Finally I called CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) of which we are members, and spoke to someone there. None of the tow truck operators knew about ramps, I was told, but I kept pressing, maybe they'd see something we don't see. Maybe they can make a suggestion. The vehicle couldn't be towed with a six foot ramp dragging along the ground off the passenger side.

They agreed to send someone.

The someone was a guy named Carl. He explained that he was usually the dispatcher but when none of those he called thought they'd be able to help, he decided that since he had worked with ramps in the past, he'd take a look. He immediately could see the problem, we could see the problem too - the ramp was stuck, but he could see the problem that caused the ramp to be stuck. That gave us faint hope. He got his overalls on, he got down on the ground and he went to work. Eventually he said that he couldn't fix that problem. He suggested taking the ramp off. I called the rental company and got permission to do so. The ramp came off. But we still couldn't close the door. The thingy that didn't allow the ramp to retract was sticking out,still refusing to retract.

Carl was not to be bested by this. He set about disassembling and carefully placing the parts into a bag the mechanism that was working. A long while later, he was done. Now we just had to get me and my chair into the vehicle. Carl and Joe held on to the ramp and I was instructed to go up it quickly and get over the lip left at the top. I was terrified it would come crashing down. It didn't. I was in. Then my manual was in. Then the ramp was placed inside the vehicle and strapped against the back seat with seat belts.

We were off.

At Fredericton, winter had hit with a vengeance, we couldn't find a sidewalk to get close to so I could try to step down and out of the vehicle. Eventually, I held on to the side of the ramp which was high, and the window sill of the door and lowered one foot and then the other, and got out. How I was to get back in was a constant worry. But I was here, I was in my manual, I would be able to meet my commitment to lecture the next day and a half. Many phone calls had been made and there was a repair shop willing to try and repair the ramp, a part was being sent by the fastest courier that could be found, it would arrive the next morning. Joe took the MV1 to the garage, came home to the hotel, and collapsed.

We were talking, much of the time that we were in Halifax, trying to figure out how we'd get to Fredericton, and in that chatter we kept saying 'Why did this have to happen, now, why couldn't we have at least got to the hotel in Fredericton, or better, why couldn't this have happened when we got home.' Halifax was the worst place for it to have happened.

I realize now, I was wrong.

Halifax was the perfect place for it to have happened. Even though we were wildly stressed and incredibly panicked by the whole thing.

Halifax was perfect because Carl was working at CAA that day, and Carl took the call.

When I thanked him, he said, 'I just wasn't going to leave you stuck like that.' He was a modest guy, who went way and above the call of duty. This wasn't a typical call, it wasn't a typical need, therefore it needed to be fixed by someone who wasn't a typical guy. It mattered to Carl that we got on our way. He stayed calm, he worked hard, he came up with a new solution every time the last one didn't work.

The MV1 is back in working order, though we won't trust the ramp again, and we simply want to get home. But if all goes well, we should be back on track with our plans for travel.

I don't know if Carl will ever read this but if he does, I want him to know that his skill, his manner and his sheer determination to help speaks well of his character. We thank you and we thank CAA for helping us out when we were really and truly in need of it.

Here's to CAA Halifax, their guy Carl and to a road trip continued.


Anonymous said...

It would be great if you could dash off a quick email to upper management at CAA and point them to your story. Carl deserves not only your readerships's plaudits, but his employer should know just how valuable an employee Carl is!

Carl, you are an everyday hero!


Deb said...

Agree with Sue. People who above and beyond the call of duty are rarely pointed out to their employers and it means a lot when they are. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree Carl went above and beyond his particular duty as dispatcher.

But the thing is YOU, as a paying member of the CAA, SHOULD be able to expect that THEY do their job as a company. You can't be the only van on the road. You are invariably polite. And the company that takes your money for roadside assistance knows your needs.

This was an extraordinary story. It shouldn't be.

Some other day it will be someone's daughter or grandfather alone in the van, driving him or herself, and the same thing will happen. It shouldn't be a huge surprise to those paid to deal with it.

And yes, mention that, too, when you send a note to praise Carl. The company should be making his job possible, too.


PS The rental company needs a reminder, too, to do a much better job of sending this kind of van out with a customer. They need to be PREPARED for the occasional failure, and ready to remedy it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Carl the everyday hero!

We need more of those in this world.


Kristine said...

Nice work, Carl. :)

This is why I never want to own a vehicle with a ramp that retracts under the floor. It's great when it works, but what do you do when it doesn't? My ramp lifts and folds, so it stands upright inside. It's had its fair share of issues over the years (and then some!), but on its worst day, we turn off the electronics and somebody manually folds and unfolds it. Huge annoyance, but not a crisis.

wheeliecrone said...

Every once in awhile, just when I've almost given up - a Carl appears in my life. Isn't it wonderful that there are people who go above and beyond their "duty"? People who do everything that they possibly can (and more) to solve a problem that needs to be solved.
Let's have a long, loud cheer for the Carls of this world -
Hip, hip hooray!

Pam said...

I'm wondering if the inability of the ramp to retract had to do with the battery (powering the ramp) discharging. If there is an on switch for the ramp being left on (or rather if there isn't a ramp battery disconnect switch), then there could be a parasitic load from the ramp, steadily discharging the battery.
This happened with my motorhome retractable stairs, that one day refused to retract~ I had forgotten to turn the power stairs switch to off, so there was a continual load on the battery (like leaving a car light on). The other way is to use a trickle charger, but this is usually only necessary if the van/rv is being left for a period of time.
Anyways, that's my best guess.

Anonymous said...

Just to respond to an earlier posters comments that you should expect that level of service from CAA as a paying member. CAA is a roadside service company that helps people by boosting, unlocking, winching and towing members vehicles. They are not there to do just anything you need help with which is why the drivers were apprehensive to get involved in something they had no experience with. For this reason I feel Carl really did go over and above by going out there to at least have a look and because he took that step he ended up being able to help. That truly is good service and unfortunately a rare thing these days. My expereince with CAA has not be as exciting but they have alyways been there for me any time I've needed them. Good going Carl.