There are times in life when one feels less than adequate. In fact, there are times when you feel downright foolish. As we get older, we think we’ve seen it all but we haven’t. Many of us have experienced a time when we have felt violated — a friend’s apartment is robbed; someone is held up at gunpoint. These people have faced much worse than Roselle and I recently did. We are incredibly relieved that it wasn’t worse. Nevertheless, you lose sleep and you wonder just how you could have been so dumb; so stupid; so inept.
Here’s the story. I recently bought a 2016 Prius. We had stopped in New York City one Friday and were on our way to see our daughter, Sarah, her life partner, Dan, and their baby, Noah, in Lambertville, New Jersey. Of course we had to get out of New York on a Friday afternoon around two o’clock. Sarah had suggested the GW Bridge but that was counter-intuitive so I headed toward the Lincoln Tunnel, taking West End Avenue which was a total, and I mean total, mistake. As Pete and Arlo would have sung, “…inch by inch.” As we were getting closer to the tunnel, around 62nd Street, we heard a man yell, “You car’s on fire!” As we pulled forward, a tall man in work clothes yelled, “Your car’s on fire” a second time.
We stopped, of course, and the man announced that this was our lucky day — he was a car mechanic on his way to a different job. He authoritatively told me to pop the hood and announced that he saw the problem. It seems I had hit a pot hole and the clamps on the engine block had come loose. He assured us he could fix it on the spot.
He told me that the car had overheated and directed me to buy a gallon of water in a nearby grocery store. That took forever since the store was really busy. When I returned, he assured us that he had fixed the problem. He told us to make sure that we checked the radiator and held out his hand saying that his boss at the car repair place told him to collect $386. I told him we didn’t have it. He said that we could give him a credit card. I didn’t like that idea so I gave him the cash that I had gotten for the trip. He said that none of that money was for him so I gave him a twenty dollar tip. He made several faces and asked for a hundred. I gave him another twenty and we were off to New Jersey. With the benefit of hindsight, some of you will say we should have called AAA or the Toyota roadside assistance people but we were VERY anxious to get to New Jersey and we were already running late.
As soon as we go through the Lincoln Tunnel we realized that we had been scammed. The guy had someone else on the corner who had seen the Massachusetts plates, realized we were out-of-towners and yelled, “Fire.” Surely there will be someone reading this who will believe that I got what I deserved and that I am a fool. Granted, such a person would have a point. And as the always wonderful Roselle points out, the scammer could have gotten behind the wheel and driven away with the car and the dog and it would have been worse. Nevertheless, I lost a lot of sleep. The guy may well be on the same corner pulling the same scam on another sap.
We tried to call the police but try Googling, “Report a crime in NYC” and see what you get. Perhaps that’s why crime stats in New York keep going down. In any case, I feel like dirt. Don’t let it happen to you.