Thursday, October 30, 2014 • 06:08
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Don´t worry, be happy


November 21, 2013
The Toyota Prius has been a popular car model for a number of years. The mileage is great. It's comfortable and easy to drive. I bought a new one early in 2010 and it has been trouble-free.

Until yesterday, that is.

Traveling west on Valley Center Road near California Bank and Trust the car flat-out stopped. No warning light, no warning period. It just stopped. In a second or two it moved itself into "park" and that was that. I tried first gear, then neutral and managed not to get rammed from behind by coasting the car to the bicycle lane.

Some years back I heard that "sudden stoppage" was a problem, albeit a rare one, with the Prius. I remember a lawsuit or two. I also recall Toyota Japan saying it had fixed the "glitch." Yesterday was an example of an unfixed and rather scary glitch, or so I thought.

Was I irate? No I wasn't. In a play on words, I changed gears and thought about a song I heard in church two days earlier — Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry, Be Happy. It sounded like a decent idea for my life, any life, at the time. Then presto, the first test came with the car stoppage two days later in front of the bank near Cole Grade Road.

Less than three minutes after the mishap, two people emerged from my right, one a familiar bank employee, and they pushed my car back 10 yards backward. It was out of necessity and kindness. I was blocking the exit point from the drive-up window. Moments earlier, a woman coming from that window stopped to ask if I needed help. How nice.

Calmly, I called Triple-A since I am a card-holder. A caring voiced responded. There are no towing companies in Valley Center so it took Sky Towing from Escondido about 40 minutes to arrive. During the interim I called my Toyota dealership in Temecula and was urged to come there, 30 miles away, because "we know you and your car."

Thirty miles meant an additional towing fee, which I deemed to be okay. I wasn't at all annoyed. I thought it would be fun to drive in a tow truck. I had never done that before.

The driver was Wally, real name Walim, who came here 14 years ago at age 10 from Armenia. Age 24, three children, lives in San Diego, commutes to Escondido for his job and used to drive a big rig, but was absent from his family for too many weeks in a row, so he opted for something local.

"I didn't want to come home after a three-week trip and one of my kids say, 'Who are you?'" Wally said with sincerity. He also said he works 40-plus hours per week, but would work more if that's what it took for his wife to remain at home and raise the kids. I knew I liked that guy right away.

Don't worry. Be happy.

I told the dealership that my car stopping cold on a busy street should not have happened. I could have been injured, and others, too. I wasn't combative, or mean-spirited. Result: Great service from the rep August (that's his first name), a rental car, and a quick call about necessary repairs two hours after I arrived home.

It seems as though the inverter went out, a key engine component to making the car run. Before telling me the replacement cost was $5,000, he said I was under warranty to 150,000 miles, and my car had less than half that. August knew my age. Had he mentioned cost first, there might have been silence on the phone until my wife revived me.

Don't worry. Be happy.

The next good news was that the dealership would pick up the towing cost and the cost of the rental car, even if for two days instead of one just in case the inverter was not shipped on time. It occurred to me that had I been a jerk about this maybe the good news might have amounted to something less.

At home, I again called Triple-A and talked to two very pleasant ladies who explained the procedure to take the tow charge off the credit card. We chatted for a while and both said I was a nice person to talk with. I said the feeling was mutual. Good service, cheery disposition. We ended saying goodbye Charlotte, goodbye Patricia, goodbye Doug.

In the end, it was a challenging day but far less stressful than it might have been. I learned, or re-learned, yet another valuable lesson. It's called attitude of gratitude.

You can guess where this leads to: Don't worry. Be happy. Amen.

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