They say when it rains it pours. Well as luck would have it owning a car comes with a complete assortment of all kinds of troubles. When you drive there is always the chance your turn signal light may go out just as a passing police cruiser signals you to pull over. If you are not wearing your seat belt again there is the almost certainty that a ticket you can least afford will be issued. This may be the least of your problems with owing a car especially if it is of European make. Like “Murphy’s Law” things seem to happen at the worst possible time. Now, if you are like me, a proud card carrying member of AARP one would assume that their motor club would be the logical choice above all other motor clubs to ensure a timely response in case of any roadside mishap. Ah contraire! Not so fast.
Recently, on a routine recent errand only to come back to where I parked the car, put the groceries in the trunk, climbed into the front seat and turned the ignition switch on to find out that now the car won’t start. A few more times, same result. Out of the blue without any warning at all I was stuck in the Wal-Mart parking lot some three miles from home. Not that I mind walking those three miles to the store but this time I had to pick up a few more items that would have make the trek to and from a little tedious so I drove not knowing that my car upon returning wouldn’t start. As luck would have it there was no On Star or any built in feature to automatically signal for help installed in this car so I still had to walk home because I forgot my cell phone which I found out later wasn’t charged anyway. Leaving this car in the Wal-Mart parking lot I wearily stumbled back home to immediately phone the AARP Roadside assistance hotline. Now to my surprise trying to get through to a live operator was taking a very long time. After going through the maze of automated response lines I finally reached a “real” live person on the other line. After explaining what I could best describe as a stalled car finally to acknowledge that all I needed was to have someone come and try to jump start it. Boy, was I in for the long haul.
Walking back to Wal-Mart and waiting some additional 40 minutes someone approached in what looked like a pizza delivery car with Pop-A- Lock tag attached to the roof of their car. To my dismay this was no mechanic only some local individual who uses his car to carry a portable jump start devise that looked like it wouldn’t even start a mo-ped let alone an automobile. To my additional surprise this person didn’t know the make up of my car. the battery is located under the back seat. It took me to explain where it was and how to attach the jumper cables. Some roadside assistance! After some attempts at starting with the jumper cables finally attached the car still wouldn’t start. It turned out that the battery was the least of the problems associated with this 1996 Audi.
To further diminish the capabilities of the AARP Roadside assistance program this so-called “wizard” from the Jump Start Academy wouldn’t even offer to call for a tow truck to take this car to my local “real life” mechanic some 5 miles away. Again, I was stranded in the Wal-Mart parking lot now having to walk home again to again call the AARP Roadside Assistance hotline for a tow truck. After going through the maze of automated response lines and again having to walk back to the Wal-Mart parking lot not only am I getting an aerobic workout today but my frustration with this road side assistance program is hitting home. When I switched from AAA to save a few dollars to AARP little did I realize that the antiquated way AARP has operated in just my situation only increases the notion that so many more senior citizens my be experiencing the same scenarios.
After four trips to the parking lot some total of 12 miles and about six hours later a tow truck finally arrived. To my dismay it really was a tow truck. The driver even tried jumper cables again with the same result. Luckily my auto mechanic was just about five miles away, the distance limit for the AARP Roadside Assistance program would allow without having to pay a sum of money I wasn’t expecting and really couldn’t afford any way. As my feet started to ache just a little from all that walking and waiting I was arriving at Chris’s Auto Shop. This is where my car, now in the hands of my mechanic, would under go a routine check up to figure out the root cause of why this car wouldn’t start. As it turned out the trouble with the Audi was a computer glitch that needed specialized components to the tune of over $300 to install and fix.
The bottom line, if saving money is your goal especially in today’s economic climate, for anyone who is dependent on their automobile the AARP Roadside Assistance offered by AARP may save you some 25 or 30 dollars a year. But if you are like me that money spent and saved didn’t equate to the amount of time wasted and the frustration spent on a program that by it’s affiliation with AARP is supposed to fulfill the promise of swift and accurate responses in times of need was in my case sadly lacking. In comparison with AAA the AARP really has a lot of catching up to do. I would hope that as more and more people join AARP that their roadside program grows and is more effective to meet the needs of this nations aging population that are very dependent on their cars.