The C in CAA is starting to stand for coercion.

Today is a Monday. I know this is true. Because when I woke up it was to the clatter and thumps of panic in the kitchen, hubby had spilled an entire litre of milk inside the fridge. When I went to drive the kids to school my car was dead**. When I went to walk them to school it was pouring and windy out. When we got to school after walking 1.7K, kid1 remembered he was supposed to have a red shirt for a picture. So I slogged home in the rain, carrying two umbrellas and even heavier guilt that I wasn’t going to walk right back to school again with a red shirt. I got in, got on dry jammies, and went back to bed, planning to call CAA for a boost when I woke up.

I have only ever called CAA for boosts or flat tires. I think they do other things, but I just haven’t (slam hand on wood) ever needed to know what, exactly. After sleeping for three hours, I croaked out my address and gladly (because Twitter rocks, thanks @Clippo) knew I could get boosted inside my garage. They were here in 20 minutes during which their auto-teller called me twice to say they were coming soon. That was slightly irritating as their final instruction to me was to stay off the phone in case the driver had to reach me. But whatever.

I met the CAA man in my cozy jammies and hoodie. I sound and look like death. We head to the garage, he proceeds to inform me he needs to test my battery. I smugly tell him it’s dead, no worries. He says that they now test all batteries and can sell me a new one on the spot for $300. I foggily register that I called for a boost but now am feeling pressured. “Just boost the car,” I say. He clucks, tsks, and says the battery is the original, my car is an ’04. Most batteries are only good for five years. He helpfully adds mine is two years older than that. I mentally unravel like fishing line with a shark on it.

I’m a woman. It’s obvious when you look at me I am a female of the species. Stereo-typically I am not expected to know much about cars. Or tools, home repairs, sports, or outdoor pursuits. However I know a bit about cars. I know lots about home repairs, sports and the outdoors. And I know a tool when I see one and I was not about to be sold a car battery for $300 when a boost was all I needed.

“Just boost it, thanks. I’ll let it run” I croaked. He dithered, said he didn’t even know if it will start, it’s so old. At this point I assessed the sentence I would get if I cranked him upside the head with my spade, hanging mere inches away. “Let’s see, ‘k?” I asked. He brought his porta-booster pack around, hooked on and voila the Matrix started. Hoorays and happy claps all around? Nope. I walk around the car to go inside, he walks to driver’s side and turns off the car! I stood there dumbly, while he went back under the hood and put his tester back on the battery. His concern for me driving with a seven-year old battery was heart warming. Or maybe that was my rage boiling up inside. He dropped an f-bomb from sheer consternation over the readings on his machine. “I don’t think it will start again, even after running for awhile” he said. I stepped off the cliffs of polite and into the seas of bitch.

“Boost it again. Leave it running. I will worry about the rest.” He looked at me, surprised. No question even with the hoarse voice we were done, here. Sick, tired, now extremely pissed, I wanted this to end. And I knew how. I lied and played my ace. “My husband won’t let me buy a new battery.” He quickly boosted my car and was gone in three minutes.

Somebody somewhere must have done a secret camera exposé or study on the different experiences men and women have navigating situations like this. I am no mechanic. I might truly need a new car battery. But I know coercion. And I pay CAA to give my car a boost when it needs it and to change my tires when they go flat. I don’t pay them to coerce me into a considerable expense during a time I could be considered vulnerable and while standing in my own garage. That puts them in the same class as drive-way sealer scams and people who defraud the elderly.

I’m done my rant now. I am going back to bed.

**A note about why my car died. Kid2 and I got home at 8:30 last night after a 4.5-hour drive from Waterloo to Kingston. She had a dance competition, I had a good friend’s surprise 40-th. I also had a combo chest-infection/sore throat and was down a few brain cells from Friday night. As we pulled in the garage, all kid2 wanted to do was get in the house and show her dad the bouquet of tulips my friend had given her after her dance. In she scurried while I sherpa’d the bags, mountains of garbage, and dance gear into the house. I turned on the interior light to dig under the seats for the last of the weekend trail. Found medals, old grapes, and a CD. Didn’t turn interior light off, went in to bed.

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3 Responses to The C in CAA is starting to stand for coercion.

  1. A good friend drives for CAA Niagara and has for 20 years. They’re the only club in Ontario NOT owned by Toronto. He told me things like this were coming down here when they took over. Disgusting to hear about in the 21st Century.

    • Julie says:

      Hey, thank you, I find this good to know. If its corporate policy it was not the driver’s idea or maybe even what he wanted to do. My plan is to see if they will exempt us from the “test” part of getting a boost. If they won’t we simply won’t renew. I don’t want to pay money to be sold stuff!

  2. Mallaisj says:

    Unbelievable, the nerve of that guy. Such a sad day for feminism that you had to play that “ace”. Glad it worked out in the end.

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