Americans are so nice

“Americans are so nice,” my mother said while Skyping with me on Saturday.  She was telling me how her car broke down, and she wanted me to write a blog post about it so she could send her friends the link instead of telling them the story herself.

That didn’t make any sense…  my mother is in California, I am in Switzerland.  And it’s HER story, not mine.  And she was telling me the story in Chinese and I was only half-paying attention so I’m not even sure I got all the facts right.  And something might get lost in translation between Chinese and English.  I told her to write it herself in Chinese, but she remarked that she couldn’t write well and it was too complicated to type Chinese characters on the computer.

So…  as the dutiful daughter, I have resigned to writing this post.  媽媽, this post is for you.  

It all started when her car (a ’95 Nissan Quest) ran out of coolant or something.  She asked my brother (who now lives in Massachusetts) to have it looked at while he was back visiting for Easter.  Apparently, he didn’t bother getting the car fixed because he said my father told him he wanted to buy a new car anyway.

Well, you can guess what happens next.  My father left on his annual trip to Taiwan, and as my mother was driving home alone after dropping him off at LAX, her car suddenly died on the 405.  For those that know the 405, it is the busiest and most congested freeway in the United States.  Not a good place for your car to break down.

I think she was also in the left lane, too–which is generally used by faster traffic–so even more dangerous.  My mother then fumbled around in the car, struggling to find the hazard button–even though she’s been driving this car for 18 years.  She eventually located it and turned on the blinking lights.

This is where I felt compelled to butt in on her story and told her she should learn how to use a cell phone.  My parents have finally figured out email (with my mother’s crowning achievement sending us all a virus last year), but they still refuse to carry cell phones.

“If you had a cell phone, then you could have called for help,” I said (in Chinese, of course…  our entire conversation was in Chinese…  except for the word “right”).  But she ignored my statement and continued on, “Americans are so nice.  Two men stopped their cars and pushed my car off the freeway to the right side.  Except I couldn’t understand them when they kept yelling, ‘Right…  RIGHT!  HARD RIGHT!!  HARDER!!!'”

Oh dear…  I had an image of the two good Samaritans struggling to push this giant clunker of a minivan in 80-degree heat while the little ol’ Asian lady just sat in the driver’s seat, forgetting to turn the wheel until the last minute.  :O

Then my mother asked one of the guys to call AAA on her behalf for emergency roadside assistance.  The man told her to stay in her car to be safe, ran back to his car, and was on the phone for a long time.  I was praying throughout this story that the guy did not get hit by oncoming traffic.  Anyway, I guess AAA said they would send out a tow truck, so I think the guys left, and my mother settled in to wait.

And wait she did.  I guess she waited for a while, and no one showed up except for the FSP.  She figured the guy was from the government because he was wearing a bright reflector vest that said Metro on it.  So the guy asked what was wrong, and my mother tried to tell him her story…  but I’m sure garbled in broken English, so the poor guy probably had no clue what she was babbling about…  something about two guys who stopped and pushed her car from one side of the freeway to the other.

Anyway, she did mention perhaps something wrong with the coolant, so they took a look under the hood and guessed maybe the car had overheated.  But FSP guy didn’t have any extra coolant, so he couldn’t help.  He asked if my mother had any water on her, so she poured the last bit of drinking water she had left in her bottle into the car.  Still no use.

At that point, the FSP offered to tow her car, but she said she had AAA, so would he mind calling AAA for her?  So he called AAA and said they would send a guy out.

I think the FSP guy left, and then this is where I can’t remember what happened next.  (Hey, I didn’t sleep well last night, and I had a long day at work today…)

I think another FSP driver showed up?  Or was it the cops?  In any event, there were two cop cars at some point in this story.  Maybe one of the cops even helped her call AAA again.  Oh wait.  I think one of the guys who stopped to help her during this story had asked my mother to try starting her car again.  Maybe it was the first FSP.  Or the second.  The car did start, but the temperature gauge immediately shot up to the red zone, so it wasn’t safe to drive.

Maybe one of the guys had extra or water or something.  So they poured it all in so the car would start.  Oh yeah, I think that was it.  And the cops were there at that point.  I think one of them asked if she could drive home, but she mentioned the exit where she had to get off the freeway, and “the young guy didn’t know, but the older police officer did”, and he said it was too far away and unsafe to drive home in case the car stopped again.

So the second FSP left and the cops offered to stay with my mother until the elusive AAA finally showed up.  This is where the second “Americans are so nice” statement came in.  Or maybe it was the third, because the FSP were also “nice Americans”.

So cops went back to their cars and hung out until AAA came.  It took a long time.  AAA finally arrived, had extra coolant, poured it all in, and my mother was able to drive home in one piece.  And that’s the end of the story.

So what were the lessons learned here?  I don’t know.  Maybe my dad should only take flights that leave during the day, so there’s still daylight in case my mother ever gets stranded again.  And AAA takes a long time to show up, but maybe they were stuck in traffic.  Oh, and my mother thinks Americans are really nice.

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