After the “catastrophic failure” that mysteriously led Heart Internet to lose all of my websites on Friday afternoon, I had thought all of our bad luck for the year had been used up in one go.
But no. Of COURSE not.
On Sunday, we had dinner with my parents. On the way home, we were driving along the motorway when the car suddenly gave a little judder, almost as if something had just dropped off it. We drove on for a few seconds, and then, “Something just broke in the car,” said Terry. “I thought I felt something,” I replied. “What was it?” At this point I was thinking it had to be something minor, because obviously the car was still going, and we were still travelling along the motorway at a fair old speed.
“Well,” said Terry, “It has no power. At all.”
It was what you might call a “catastrophic failure”. Another one.
By this point we were approaching the slip road we would normally take to exit the motorway, so Terry took the exit, got the car stopped and the hazard lights on. I was shaking like a leaf, having imagined us careering wildly through town, unable to stop our amazing runaway car, but I was trying to stay calm. We have AA membership (That’s the Automobile Association, by the way, not Alcoholics Anonymous. Although, the way things are going…), so we would simply call them on my phone, and within minutes a cheerful man in a bright yellow coat would appear to miraculously fix the car and bring us home, just like on TV. He would probably make us a nice cup of tea, while he was at it.
Because when I pulled my iPhone out of my bag and looked at it, the words NO SERVICE were sitting at the top of the screen like a skull and crossbones, and the phone, it would not work.
OF COURSE NOT.
I think it’s fair to say I panicked a bit at this point. There we were, sitting on a motorway slip road at 10pm on a Sunday night with a car we couldn’t drive and and a phone we couldn’t use. Oh, and a small white dog.
Of course, there are emergency phones all along the motorway at one mile intervals, but after a bit of thought, we worked out that we were actually closer to the petrol station at the bottom of the slip road than we were to the nearest emergency phone, which could be a mile away (or possibly more given that we had left the motorway and would have to walk back to it, and then along it, to get to the phone. It’s a really long slip road.) So we sat and quietly panicked. Terry was all for flagging down a passing car. I’ve seen far too many horror movies that start with a young couple hitching a lift with a stranger to even countenance this suggestion, and so it was that we found ourselves walking along the deserted road in the middle of the night, hoping to reach civilisation before we were killed by either a passing car, or the homicidal maniac who was almost certain to stop and offer us a lift.
I, naturally, was wearing ridiculous shoes. Terry was carrying Rubin under his arm. It was freezing. And dark. So, when a car suddenly pulled up alongside us after ten minutes of walking, I just thought, “Oh good, that’s the homicidal maniac. I hope he kills us relatively painlessly.”
Luckily for us, it was not a homicidal maniac. It was, in fact, a very nice man who kindly drove us the rest of the way to the petrol station without once trying to disembowel us, or even torture us slightly. It would’ve taken us ages to walk, but was only a couple of minutes in the car. Nevertheless, I spent those two minutes with my hand on the door handle, ready to open it and throw myself out at the slightest hint of trouble. Happily, though, we arrived at the petrol station without further incident. And, once there, we discovered that, hey! They had no public telephone!
OF COURSE NOT.
Once again, however, we were lucky (if you can call us that), and one of the employees let Terry use his phone, while I stood outside in the cold, clutching Rubin and shaking with cold and panic. I’ve done a lot of shaking since Friday. It’s been just as much fun as it sounds. He called the AA, and then called a taxi, which arrived mercifully quickly. The taxi, Terry said, would take Rubin and I home, and would then take Terry back to the scene of the crime car to wait for the AA, who would be along in around 30 minutes.
Or so they said.
We managed to execute stage one of the plan successfully. The taxi brought us home, and Terry came in to pick up his phone, before heading back to the car. I sat down to wait. And wait. And wait. And PANIC. And start a vigil, involving much pacing of the floor and wringing of the hands as I waited for Terry to either return safely home, or call and tell me he was at least still alive.
He called just before midnight. And told me that the AA had just contacted him, and had said the bad weather conditions across the country meant they were being inundated with calls, and would now not be able to get to him for THREE HOURS. During those three hours, Terry would have to remain in the car, with no heat, no light, and nothing to do. If he abandoned the car, this would be illegal, and the police would remove it and then fine us a lot of money. There was no option but for him to sit in the car for three hours. The car has automatic transmission- it can’t be easily towed, so none of our friends or family could have gone out to help him, and because of the location of the car and the terrible weather conditions (not to mention the fact that it was now midnight), it would’ve been dangerous for them to even try. I couldn’t go out and wait with him because Terry had my car keys in his pocket at the time. So he just had to sit there and wait.
Did I mention he’d had almost no sleep on Friday, because he was up most of the night trying to rescue the websites Heart Internet had lost? And that we’d gone to a Halloween party on Saturday night, not getting home until late, and getting up just a few hours later to once again begin the task of restoring the websites? So neither of us had slept much all weekend, we’d had a horrible shock on Friday, followed by hours and hours of stress, and were still pretty freaked out by what had happened to the websites. We were both absolutely shattered, basically, and were coming home to try and get some sleep before getting up to once again begin the task of trying to rescue our business. And now Terry was stuck in the middle of nowhere, and would be there for up to three hours.
I’m not ashamed to admit that when I hung up the phone, I sat down and cried. After everything that’s happened this week, the thought of Terry sitting on his own in that car for hours on end was just the last straw. Poor, poor Terry. He’s worked so hard to get things back to normal following The Incident. As well as our own websites, we also host dozens of websites for Terry’s clients, and, of course, all of those had been lost, and with Heart Internet unable to do anything to help, Terry had to restore every single one of them from our own backups (which THANK GOD we had, otherwise we’d be in even more of a mess than we are.) Then he’d had to start the business of restoring our own sites. We still have hours of work on that ahead of us, and will be basically working around the clock for the next few weeks just to keep our heads above water. A good night’s sleep wouldn’t have made all of this miraculously better, but I think I can safely say that sitting in a freezing cold car until 3am has made it all seem a hell of a lot worse.
It also seems likely that the car’s failure truly was catastrophic, in that it’s likely to cost much more to fix than the car is actually worth. So there’s that, too, but to be honest, we don’t even really have time to think about that at the moment, much less work out what we can do about it.
Oh, and just to make matters worse, as soon as I got home and I was able to get online, I discovered that all I had to do to get my phone to work again was reset the damn thing. When I did that, it worked perfectly.