By Carl Blumenthal
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
I didn’t see it coming. Not a bus barreling through a red light, but our car breaking down after a Saturday night on the town.
My wife, Susan, and I had celebrated our 18th anniversary, with her sister, Rosemary, at an Indian restaurant on 3rd Avenue at 73rd Street in Bay Ridge. Afterwards, Susan and I headed south on 4th Avenue toward the 17th Street entrance to the Prospect Expressway, and our home off the Fort Hamilton Parkway exit.
When the various warning lights started flickering on the dash as we passed Green-Wood Cemetery, I became concerned, but not overly so. I believed it was just an electrical ghost in the machine; we could ride it out. However, when the headlights dimmed, I feared we wouldn’t make it. Our 2004 Subaru Forrester ground to a halt in the right turning lane to 17th Street, where we were sitting ducks for anyone wanting to get on the Prospect.
And guess what? Not only was I slow to understand the meltdown warning signs, but Susan and I are semi-Luddites in another way—we don’t own cell phones. While she went into the corner grocery store, Earth’s Basket, to call Allstate for a tow, I tried to route vehicles around ours, a dangerous proposition because even temporary parking isn’t allowed there. Eventually, I moved a sawhorse on the sidewalk of an adjacent construction site to the road in front of my car to prevent a collision.
Meanwhile, the store’s owners were nice enough to let my wife use their phone while she haggled with Allstate and their supposedly local contractor to arrange our rescue. (They refused to deliver the car to our mechanic, McGready’s, on Coney Island Avenue at Avenue U.)
Back on the street, a dozen people of all races, classes, and genders offered help, including a couple of local tow truck operators. In good faith, I could not accept their assistance because Allstate’s tower confirmed he was on his way. Had a passing NYPD squad car and tow truck stopped, I would have refused them too. .
After more than two hours of waiting for Allstate, Earth Basket’s principal owner, Sam Sarsour, offered to move his legally-parked car from in front of the store. With his and his brother’s help, as I steered our 3,500-pound Subaru, we pushed it to that spot. Sam wouldn’t accept any money, neither for the use of his phone nor for his labor.
On Monday morning I called our mechanic for the name of a reliable towing company. While I stood in the rain for only 30 minutes during rush hour until Citywide Towing arrived, Sam emerged from Earth’s Basket to confirm he closed at 1 a.m. Sunday; Allstate never showed.
I suppose all’s well that ends well! Citywide jumped our car, allowing me to maneuver it to the back of one of the company’s new flat-bed trucks. From there we went to McGready’s. As I belatedly suspected, a newly installed alternator had failed to deliver juice from the battery to the electrical system. Fortunately, it was under warranty.
Therefore, the moral of this tale is don’t depend in tight spots on the big guys. Rely on the little people, who know what it’s like to be at the mercy of impersonal forces. We, the real Brooklynites, have got to stick together.