Tag Archives: slim jim

In Praise of Roadside Assistance


It had been a good day. There was no line at the post office. I paid for my lunch with a gift card I got for my birthday and used a coupon for a free birthday sundae. Then I locked my keys in the van,

I was at the Goodwill Clearance Center, my favorite place to shop.

I must have been distracted. I took the keys out of the ignition and put them on the dashboard. I got a text message, read it, replied. I put my ring in the glove box so I wouldn’t lose it. Then I jumped out of the van, locked the door, slammed it shut. I took two steps before I realized I wasn’t hearing the rattle of my key chain. Oh no!

I wheeled around, and there they were on the dash. Oh no! What to do?

I walked around the van and tried all the doors. Locked. I tried to push down both front windows. No luck. I checkedĀ  the other windows: all locked up.

One of the long, narrow side windows doesn’t have glass. The glass was busted out not long before I bought the van. That window is closed with plastic and cardboard. Could I pop out the plastic and cardboard and climb through the window? No. The last time I locked my keys in the van (in December) I pulled the screen off that window and popped out the plastic and determined there was no way I was going through.

(That time I had left the keys in the back of the van. I was able to reach in through the window and use my umbrella to knock the keys close enough to grab. I didn’t actually have to climb through the window. This time I’d have to go all the way through the window to get the keys from the front of the van. I imagined myself getting stuck trying to pass through that window, my legs dangling outside, stuck like a baby with shoulder dystocia.)

I didn’t have my phone with me. I’d left my phone in the van. I had to find a phone.

Thankfully, I did have my insurance card in my little zippered pouch. On the insurance card is the phone number for roadside assistance. I wasn’t sure if roadside assistance covered rescuing my keys from being locked in my van, but it seemed like my best bet.

I still had to find a phone. I went into the Goodwill Clearance Center. I asked the woman at the first register if I could use the phone, told her I’d locked my keys in my van. She couldn’t let me use the phone without the manager’s approval. Thankfully, the manager approved.

In less than half an hour, Mr. Hernandez had arrived and used his special tool ( a slim jim, I presume) to unlock my door. I grabbed my keys, and I was back to having a good day.

I think I pay $14 a year for roadside assistance. It’s tacked on to the insurance for my van. I use it about once a year, but there’s no limit to how often I can use it. It covers towing, changing flats, jumping dead batteries, and rescuing keys locked in the van. (I’ve used my roadside assistance to deal with all of those problems.) I recommend roadside assistance to everyone, especially van dwellers.