San Diego 2004
The Cab Ride
We arrived at the Candy Cane Inn at about 4:30pm on July 23 after about seven hours of driving ... including nearly two hours of stop and go through the mass of humanity and vehicles known as LA. We were going to Disneyland on Saturday July 24, and were going to spend the next week in San Diego. We parked at the registration area and checked in. When I tried to start the Sienna, it played dead. After repeated attempts at starting it finally coughed up a CD out of the CD player and a few lights blinked on pitifully. I knew the battery was original, and the vehicle is 5 years old, so it didn't surprise me too much to see that one long hot drive had killed the battery. I had my tools and my socket set - carrying them on a trip usually prevents their necessity, but this time that trick hadn't worked.
The front desk called maintenance to come give me a jump start. The Sienna immediately started with a jump - first problem solved. I asked the Eduardo the maintenance guy where to find the nearest car parts store to buy a new battery - preferable a Kragen (motto: Kragen - home of the wrong part), since when the new battery died years from now it'll be easier for me to find a Kragen than anything else, assuming it dies near home in the Bay Area. I got out my map and Eduardo got out his reading glasses. Eduardo was really friendly and helpful, but after a few minutes I determined that maps and directions weren't his strong point. I eventually learned that there were two Pep Boys about 2-3 miles away, and a Kragen 'much further' away, although the map indicated the Kragen was only one mile further.
By now it was 5pm. We had reservations at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel for 6:20, and I though the odds of me finding an auto parts store, getting the old battery out, buying a new battery, installing it, and returning to the hotel in time for dinner were almost zero. The front desk called Goofy and he was able to see us at 7:40, which should give me plenty of time.
I took off west on Katella towards Euclid. The Kragen was supposed to be about 3 miles north on Euclid. I approached Euclid and got in the right turn lane... and the van died. Batteries aren't supposed to die driving down the road! The light was red, and here I sat, first vehicle in the right turn lane, dead. It wouldn't even pretend to think about starting again. I got out, turned to the poor folks stuck in back of me, waved my arms frantically in the universal language that meant 'my minivan's dead, please don't honk or rear end me, I've got enough problems right now.' For some reason I then tried to turn on the hazard lights. I couldn't find them for the longest time. I realized the futility of trying to turn on hazard lights with a dead battery, but quite frankly there wasn't too much else to do at that point and I needed something to keep be from loosing what little was left of my cool. After a minute or two I found the switch, which of course did nothing. You have a dead battery, fool!
At that moment two young twentysomething Hispanic men walked up to the intersection and hit the crosswalk button. One of them was a big football player type. I got out of the car, told them my car was dead, and begged them to help me push it out of the street. They asked where, and I indicated anywhere was better than the middle of this intersection. They quickly obliged and started pushing.
The light was red again, and traffic from the oncoming lane had a green left turn arrow. My new best friends pushed me through the red light, and I cranked the wheel hard through the turn, figuring the oncoming traffic could darn well figure out how to miss this slow moving vehicle. The Sienna pushed much easier than I ever imaged - I think its cause the I had a football player type pushing. We heaved it down the street, and I turned it up and over the curb, then back again to miss the parked cars, then finally into two spots in front of a cafe. I got out, told them my name, thanked them profusely, and shook hands with my new best friends Anthony and what's-his-name.
The cafe was closed - it was apparently only open for breakfast and lunch. Another problem solved - no one would care that I was parked across two of their spaces. I briefly considered trying to jump started it again before deciding there was no reason to believe I was going to get anywhere with this vehicle until it had a new battery, and I didn't need to get stuck in rush hour traffic again. I got out the tool chest, removed the battery, removed the surf board from the roof rack and placed it in the van, and figured out how to lock the minivan without the aid of the wireless remote which, of course, requires a working battery in the vehicle. Now all I needed was a taxi to take me to the nearest auto parts store, wait for me while I bought the battery, and bring me back.
The store next to the cafe had lots of posters... and rock t-shirts.... and smoking accessories... yes, I'd found a headshop. Headfirst Posters, home of over 6,000 posters. I asked the friendly young man behind the counter to call a taxi for me, and he readily obliged. After he got through to Anaheim Taxi he turned to me and said 'they want a phone number'. I helpfully replied 'Give them your number'. After another moment on the phone he again turned to me and said 'they want a name'. I again helpfully replied 'Give them your name'. He hung up at the end of the conversation and indicated my taxi was on its way.
In about 15 minutes I heard a horn honk and saw a yellow cab out front. I went outside, approached the driver's side window, and immediately noticed something you don't normally find in a taxi, especially on such a hot summer day. There was a young woman passed out in the passenger seat of this cab.
I didn't quite know how to play the 'dude, did you know there's a girl passed out in your passenger seat?' line, so I decided it was best to completely ignore her and pretend she wasn't there. I told the driver I had a dead car battery and asked him to back up next to the minivan so I could put it in his trunk. As he backed up his cab, my next thoughts were:
"I thought family friendly Anaheim, home of Disneyland, would typically have fewer girls passed out in the front seats of taxicabs than other towns"
"I wonder how more more 'normal' people, like, say, my mom and dad, or a family with young kids, would react to seeing a passed out girl in their cab... 'Mommy, mommy, is she dead?!'"
Anyway, the driver backed up and hit the button to open his trunk. I was afraid to look in the truck, but fortunately there were no dead bodies in it. I put the battery in the trunk, then got in the cab. There was no overwhelming odor, so either the girl was still alive, or she hadn't been dead too long. I then noticed something else unusual about this cab. It had a DVD player mounted right behind the steering wheel, blocking half the dashboard, and the driver was watching one of those cheesy Indian movies while he was driving (India the subcontinent, not Indian getting shot by cowboys). Moreover, the driver was watching an Indian movie and he wasn't even Indian. Perhaps he was spending his spare time behind the wheel trying to better himself and learn the language of our new overlords.
The driver asked where I was going. I indicated I was headed to an auto parts store like a Kragen, but I was certainly open to suggestion. He asked if Pep Boys would work, and I said sure. He then pointed across the intersection to huge Pep Boys sign, looming over the gas station on the opposite corner of Katrella and Euclid between the palm trees. In my defense I must point out several things here:
1) Eduardo told me the nearest Pep Boys was at least two miles away - this was only one mile away, and he hadn't told me there was a Pep Boys in this direction as we had stared at the map.
2) The friendly dude in the head shop knew I needed an auto parts place, but he hadn't told me about the Pep Boys across the street, either.
3) The huge Pep Boys sign was not visible from the air conditioned head shop where I'd spent most of my time waiting - it was blocked by the corner of the strip mall.
I indicated Pep Boys would be fine and within two minutes we were there. I asked the driver 'how much'. In most taxicabs the meter tells you how much. This cab's meter did not appear to give a monetary value to the fare. The driver looked at me with a fairly menacing look. By this time I realized that he'd probably had either not enough or too much of whatever controlled substance had resulted in his friend in the front seat to take a nap at 5pm on a Friday. I offered him $5, and he agreed to take it. I didn't want to insult him, but I sure wasn't going to offer to pay $10 for a cab ride across the street with a girl passed out in the front seat either.
The rest of the story is much more straightforward. They tested the battery at Pep Boys - it really was bad, which was no surprise. Fortunately the new battery had a handle, so I was able to lug the battery across the parking lot and across the intersection without too much difficulty. I had the replacement installed within a few minutes.
On the drive back to the hotel that feeling of relaxed euphoria hit me that said 'you're on vacation'. I started to think it was a good thing the battery had died - sometimes it takes days for that feeling to hit, and by then you're vacation's half over.
We even got to eat at Goofy's Kitchen.
The Cab Ride