The sun is shining and the patch of sky I could see through my window while working on the most dastardly home-admin tasks imaginable is a beautiful shade of blue. Just before I’d finished the critical tasks, the call of the outdoors became too strong and I determined to escape to my happy place, about 15 mins drive away, where the heather would be turning purple all along the winding edge of the Lang Craigs.
I called Tina and , on the spur of the moment, she joined me too and we set off along the great Western road, the sun blazing directly ahead. About 5 miles from home, in the middle of a roundabout on the A82’s dual carriageway section, our plans came to an abrupt halt.
With the screaming of metal on metal and the scorched smoke of burnt brakes we screeched to a stop in the middle of the roundabout in Drumchapel.
At first I thought it was another car that was making the noise and then, when it stopped and, after a moment, the horns started blaring all around me, I realised that it was me. The car was immobilised and no amount of revving the engine could persuade the car to move an inch forward or back.
I panicked and rang 999. “What service do you require” asked the woman at emergency HQ and that was when I realised I hadn’t even thought – “erm police please” I said and added in a stream of consciousness, “But there’s no danger to life here actually – I’m just sitting in a car in the middle of a roundabout”
I had just started to explain the situation and try to describe where I was when a police van came up behind us, put its lights on and pulled up just in front of my stranded car. “Wow that was quick” I said to the woman in emergency HQ “how did you know where I am?”
By this time Tina had managed evacuate the car safely and with Hugo the dog had trotted up to the van to explain the situation. I, meanwhile, had rung off the 999 call thanking them for their help.
It turned out that they weren’t the police at all “we just do the railways, we don’t do roads” said the man, who looked indistinguishable from a proper police man. They were passing on their way to some other incident.
The traffic had now slowed down to look at the spectacle and it was safe for me to clamber out of the car in the centre lane of the roundabout. The police van and its flashing lights had the opposite effect on some though who couldn’t help themselves revving their engine, hooting their horns and spinning their wheels as they passed – I imagined my teenager rolling her eyes and saying ”Glasgow Bams” in a weary tone of voice. Each of the policemen got into the car in turn and tried to move it. Unsurprisingly to me, it stayed exactly where it was.
I started calling my breakdown people. I knew I had some breakdown people, but couldn’t quite remember who they were. At one point their phone number had been written on a piece of paper and Sellotaped to the dashboard – or that might have been a previous car…. whatever…. It certainly wasn’t there now.
It was definitely something to do with my bank so I searched up ‘Bank of Scotland breakdown cover’ on the internet and called the first number I saw. After a while on hold, during which another set of police arrived, this time the bone fide police, and parked their miniscule car directly behind mine on the roundabout, and having given all my personal details to the call handler, almost down to the scale of my first pet, we established that I had called the RBS breakdown cover rather than Bank of Scotland. With obsequious apologies and thanks I rang off.
After a few minutes establishing that the first set of police had called the second set to deal with my problem then driven off, I called BoS breakdown and had a very similar conversation. No I didn’t know my membership number sorry, no I didn’t have my bank details handy sorry, I said apologetically just as a slew of cars jostled past hooting their horns. It wasn’t until I had opened up the banking app on my phone “I hope its OK if I put you on hold” (I’ve always wanted to say that to a call handler LOL! …) to look up my account details, that it dawned on me that my breakdown assistance was actually with the Coop bank and not BoS after all. By this time the police were losing their patience and they called the police pick up people just as I had managed to find the correct number to call.
We waited at the road side chatting about the joys of Glasgow policing of teenagers in parks – Balloch was on their beat and they related their tales of teens congregating in pandemic unfriendly hordes, while I wondered what my kids did on their regular trips to Balloch. Every now and again one of the police would get back in my car and just check to see whether it could be moved. It couldn’t. As we awaited the pickup vehicle one of the policemen retreated to the car to eat his dinner – the MacDonald’s that they had bought immediately before being summoned to my aid.
After 20 minutes there was no sign of the pickup vehicle but some further police had shown up – ah ha these were the roads police. They parked their large landrover thing in the middle of the roundabout along with the tiny police car and came over to get an update. We were just getting started when another of the screeching, wheel spinning, boy racers sped through the roundabout, revved past the two police cars and then stopped abruptly when a nearby pedestrian crossing light turned red and a family started crossing the road. “Aye-Aye?” exclaimed one of the roads police – “Let’s go” said the other as they waved the guy into the next layby and spent the next fifteen minutes booking him at length and in great detail (I presume).
After at least a further 20 minutes of waiting in which Tina got picked up, the rescue vehicle arrived with a driver that looked remarkably like the Anonymous mask man in matching top and bottoms fleecy fluorescent yellow suit (hood up). He was devastatingly efficient. The enormous truck was parked up, ramp extended and he was hammering plastic nylon wedges (sparks flying off the road) in under my back tyres all in a matter of seconds.
Next thing I knew, the car was on the rescue vehicle and I was issued with instructions – it would be at the depot just off the M74 at Polmadie, I would need to attend in person with cash to retrieve it. Hold on Hold on. – Aren’t we in a pandemic? – Aren’t you removing my means of transport to get to locations just off junctions of motorways? – Who on earth is taking cash only at times like this? – Look, can’t I pay you now by card or bank transfer (or even, for goodness sake, cash) and you just drop the car at my garage which just happens to be 4 miles along the road on your way back to the depot?
They were actually rather sympathetic and a lot of time was then spent on phone calls to ‘the boss’. The recovery guy tried first, then one of the policemen, then the recovery man again. No luck. My car was impounded. Can you at least give me a lift home (it’s also on the way). No can’t do that either.
So I’m left at a large roundabout between Drumchapel and Clydebank to make my way home. Look on the bright side Kat, it’s only 5 miles home. It could be worse – this could have happened on Rannoch Moor, and that would be a proper long walk home. But fortunately Tina very kindly came out to rescue me, and a very large glass of wine was waiting for me when I got home.
Of course that isn’t the end of the story because I’ve spent the whole day today intermittently phoning and then emailing the 911 Recovery centre in an attempt to work my way around the ‘come in person, come with cash’ rules. I sent photos of every document I own relating to the car, and my licence and insurance, and that seemed to go down Ok, and eventually they even sent me an invoice. By now the car had been in past 12pm and I had incurred a day of storage costs on top of my recovery costs. So it was a race against time to call the correct breakdown assistance company (it turned out to be RAC) and get the car collected before they shut at 4pm. That was when I hit the final and un-achievable hurdle. I could only get a pickup from RAC if I was there in person. I tried – but there was absolutely no way I could talk my way around this one. I had lost.
So tomorrow morning I will be heading off, again getting a lift from Tina, to Polmadie 911 depot to retrieve my car. Next time, perhaps it will be easier if I just stay away from cars and Tina and I just have a wee walk around Victoria Park …..