At one time motorists belonged to the AA (Automobile Association) or the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) who would come to your aid when your vehicle ground to a halt at the side of the road. People were very partisan and proud to belong to one or the other. You would have a badge on your car to show which motoring organisation you belonged to. The uniformed crews would even salute their members’ vehicles as you sped past.
We were in the RAC and I proudly carried on this tradition recently; buying their European Breakdown Cover for my road trip to France.
Our destination was Provence, with its quaint towns, lavender fields, and spectacular scenery. Well that’s the gist of the sales pitch I used on my wife. There are also miles, (sorry, kilometres) of fabulous winding roads, cafe stops and mountain climbs for anyone who happens to have a bike smuggled under the back seat of their car. The most famous is the Mont Ventoux climb, 1100m to the top, steeped in Tour de France tradition and a route I have always wanted to ride.
After the obligatory markets, churches, and general touristy stuff, enough ‘brownie points’ had been acquired so that I could ride Ventoux. We drove to the starting point, a beautiful town called Sault. As we neared our destination however, my car dashboard lit up like a Christmas Tree. We parked in the town square next to the travelling Circus (and zoo) to study the car handbook.
The decision was made to switch off, have lunch (this is France and no great decision is taken before lunch!) and then reboot the engine. By then my car will have forgotten its problems and I would embark up the mountain. All would be well.
But it wasn’t. By then, dressed in tight lycra cycle shorts, and a bright yellow jersey I may have easily been mistaken for one of the travelling Circus performers. I was now overtaken by the moment. Severe disappointment loomed and I, overcome by a childish tantrum, wrenched a branch from a nearby Sycamore and proceeded to thrash my car with it, Basil Fawlty style. All of this was being closely observed by two acrobats, a Circus ringmaster, llamas, a goat, a small pony and assorted poultry.
As I stopped to catch my breath I caught a glimpse of the startled crowd. It seems that even seasoned circus performers had never witnessed such an outrageous display. My wife handed me a phone and the number for the RAC.
When Steve Rowe arrived at work that morning there is no way he could have envisaged that later that day he would be engaged in a meaningful conversation with a lycra-clad, overheated, frustrated cyclist customer who had just humiliated himself before an entire Circus (and Zoo).
Well done Steve. He managed understand what was going on and most importantly me. He sorted tow trucks, garages, taxis and I even got to ride my bike back to our accommodation from the garage. Every customer is unique; it’s just that some are more unique than others. RAC I salute you.