“Car-Alone” for more than seven hours

By David Marshall

After spending four days in Wellington at a board meeting and visiting MSD policy analysts, I was relieved to spend a whole day at home catching up with chores and spending time with my wife. I then took off for three days of conference in Tauranga, which included evening sessions, returning home around 10pm.

On the Friday I decided to skip the evening session and travel home to have dinner with my wife. However these plans started to unravel when I was halted by a stationary line of cars four km from home at 5.20pm.

No cars were travelling towards Tauranga, and it soon became apparent that there had been an accident further ahead.

I texted my wife and let her know that there appeared to have been an accident and that I may not be home for an hour.

Numerous ambulances and fire engines roared past over the next period, and the wait became longer – a detour would take over two hours, so I sat resigned to sitting out this inconvenience for a while.

Gradually different vehicles turned around and headed back towards Tauranga. I called some friends to see if I could turn around, have a coffee, and then come home when the traffic cleared, only to find that they were trapped in their car on the other side of the accident.

I listened to some soothing classical music, worked on my laptop, still sure that it would clear soon.

Three and a half hours later our President called me, and we had a conversation for about 20 minutes which helped pass the time. Now it was around 9.20pm and I had been in the queue for four hours, only advancing about 200m in that entire time.

Computer problem emerges

Fortunately, a large articulated truck manoeuvred for around 10 minutes to be able to turn around and escape the queue back towards Tauranga.

With a sigh of relief we all looked to make significant progress as we occupied the space the truck had occupied. I went to start my car, and instead of the engine firing the dashboard screen flashed multiple times and advised that I had a” Computer Problem” that needed specialist attention.

I took a breath and tried again – same result – even when I tried a third time after waiting another minute. So, in resignation I turned on my hazard lights to let those behind know I was unable to move.

In their enthusiasm to move forward in the queue I soon had an offer to push my car off onto the verge and this was accomplished quickly, although the right hand side two wheels were just onto the carriage way in this narrow section of SH2.

I kept my hazard lights on and called the AA to book help as soon as possible.

They advised me that there was no way that anyone could come at the moment, but I was booked in, and if I rang back when the road cleared, they would action my request.

An hour later, at 10.30pm the road finally cleared, and I called AA again – confident that the nearest AA service was less than five km away from where I was stopped.

I was advised that the AA vehicle would arrive between 15 and 60 minutes, after my call.

I was now parked alone with hazard lights on when other vehicles were approaching and around six kind people stopped to see if they could assist with jumper leads or other help.

I explained that it was a computer fault and that the AA were coming soon. At least half of those who stopped in this dark stretch of road to assist were women travelling alone, and half were Māori.

It made me reflect on whether I would stop in a similar situation to see if I could assist an unknown person sitting in the dark, just with their hazard lights on!

A police officer stopped to check on my situation and advised me to remain in the car.

After talking to one of the helpful ladies who stopped to assist, I discovered that my electric window only crawled back up, so I now sat in total silence, no radio, no use of the electrics, other than the hazard lights when a vehicle approached. By this time I was regretting not having made the decision around 6pm to make the 2+ hour detour to get home!

At 11.30pm I rang the AA as no help had arrived, and I had received no messages to confirm that any help was on its way.

I explained that my electrical system was drained, my mobile had little remaining charge, that I needed to stay with the car to operate the hazard lights and that some assistance would be appreciated!

I also asked that I be advised by text as to what would be happening. I was advised that they were having challenges finding a vehicle to attend to me, but the request had been upgraded to Urgent.

At 12.15am, with no responses, I called again and made a stronger plea for some urgency. I then received a text around 12.30am advising that a tow truck from Omokoroa would be on the scene within 20 minutes.

About the same time a women in a car did a U turn and parked in front of me. I wearily got out to speak with her – she had stopped nearly two hours earlier and was concerned that I was still stranded. I assured her that the tow truck was on its way.

My wife had volunteered to bring me some food, but as the tow truck was on its way I texted that I’d review the situation at 1am, if the tow truck had not arrived.

About 10 minutes later another vehicle did a U turn and parked up ahead of me – must be someone else who had seen me on the side of the road earlier!

By this time I was rather tired and famished and had been without any drinks since midday.

I walked to the parked vehicle and the lady lowered the window and offered me some water in a metal drink bottle. I thanked her very much and told her that the tow truck was due any minute so I would be fine.

Then, to my surprise she held out a filled roll and asked if I would like to have one or two I thanked her very much for her kindness and explained that the tow truck was due to arrive and that my wife had some food for me at home. At this, she responded “But I am your wife!”

Now, in my defence, it was a dark night, nearly 1am, I was tired, and my wife’s car had a dark weather shield along the top of the window, so standing on the side of the road I could only see the bottom half of her face as she passed out the food through the open window.

Well, some experiences in life are to teach us lessons, and there were a few in this one!

The tow truck arrived 10 minutes later, and all was resolved, although not without a few additional challenges over the next couple of days.

Fortunately, no new computer was required and the whole system re-set when the battery was charged so no long-term adverse consequences or repair costs.

Your humbled Zone 3 Representative

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