My Valentine’s Day Breakdown

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m posting my embarrassing story of my Valentine’s Day breakdown again. I hope you all have a day filled with laughter and love!

My Valentine’s Day Breakdown

Valentine’s Day blew in with storm clouds the year the breakdown happened.

In spite of the rainy morning that hinted things might be less than perfect that day, the promise of a cozy night with Mike had me cheerily oblivious. He was coming home from work early and I was looking forward to a romantic dinner.

Our “date” was just a few hours away when I headed out to finish some last-minute errands.

I made my way through the grocery store, carefully choosing the ingredients for dinner: pasta, fresh baked bread, ripe tomatoes, red bell peppers… My mouth watered at the thought of homemade pasta sauce, garlic bread, and salad.

My last stop after the store was our car insurance office. I grabbed some paperwork and hurried back to the parking lot, eager to get home and start cooking.

I climbed in my car, threw my purse on the seat, and started the engine. Music on, heater blasting, and a smile on my face, I drove down the hill toward the four-way intersection ahead.

The light turned red, and I stopped. And when it turned green and I put my foot on the gas, nothing happened.

I pushed the pedal again.

The engine got louder–almost like a leaf blower–but my car didn’t move.

The truck behind me loomed in my rearview mirror.

I reached to turn my hazard lights on, but my car was a new SUV and I wasn’t used to the dashboard. I scanned the buttons, trying to figure out which button was which.


I was holding up traffic and people were getting impatient.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I found the hazard lights then rolled down my window and tried to wave cars past. The traffic slowly adjusted to a new beat as everyone found their way around me.

Meanwhile, inside my car, I tried everything I could think of…

Keys in, keys out.

Engine on, engine off.

Turn the dials.

Push the buttons…

I couldn’t figure out why the engine worked, but my car wouldn’t move. I was frustrated that a new car could breakdown like that. And the ironic thing was, I sat there stalled in an intersection just a block away from the California State Automobile Association–our insurance company, but also the company we get roadside assistance from.

I debated: should I get out and walk to the office instead of calling a tow truck?

The rain had started to come down, so I decided to stay put and call instead. I reached to get my purse. It had fallen on the floor. I leaned over, dug through it, grabbed my wallet out to get the number, and called.

A tow truck would be there in forty-five minutes or so.

Silently, I said goodbye–goodbye to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, goodbye to being home when Mike got there early, and goodbye to the groceries in the back of my car… the cold cheese getting warm, the warm bread getting cold, and the vegetables wilting.

After a long wait, help finally arrived in the form of a blue and yellow AAA tow truck. A man got out and quickly ran through the rain to my car.

“What seems to be the trouble?” he asked, ducking his head inside the hood of his rain gear.

I told him what happened.

He nodded and asked, “Do you mind if I try starting it?”

“I’ve already tried it a bunch of times,” I insisted, wanting to save him the effort. “It’ll turn on, but it won’t go anywhere.”

“I’ll see what I can figure out,” he said. I got out of the driver’s side and he got in. He turned the engine on, then off, then on again. Just like I had already done.

He stepped on the gas. My car made a loud WHIRRRRR. Just like it had done with me.

Then he leaned over and fidgeted with something. I waited, cold and shivering, just wanting to get in the tow truck and get home.

Suddenly, my car moved forward.

“Did you fix it?!” I was relieved and instantly impressed.

He cleared his throat and smiled.

And in a gentle voice, he explained, “Your four-wheel drive lever on the floor was shifted into neutral, Ma’am. Your purse was sitting on it. It must’ve fallen and moved it. You’re good to go now.”

Blood rushed to my face.

I’d been sitting stuck in an intersection for an hour holding up traffic, thinking my car had broken down, and the whole time I had been IN NEUTRAL?

I thanked the man profusely and slid—no, ducked—back into my car. Then I sped away, sitting so low in my seat I could barely see over the steering wheel. About a block later, I sat up and called Mike.

We had good laugh when I told him what happened.

He couldn’t believe it.

(Or, actually, he could.)

But it all ended up working out fine.

The groceries weathered the hour, and our Valentine’s date turned out great in spite of the slight delay.

And the whole thing gave me a pretty funny story to tell. (Whenever we drive through that intersection, the kids still say, “Is this the place you broke down even though you didn’t really break down, Mom?”)


So what are you doing for Valentine’s Day? We have an indoor soccer game tonight – very romantic – so we celebrated last night with a nice dinner. Fun!


  1. Genny, I think I remember that!  Thank you for the laughs!  Happy Valentines Day!

  2. janmary, N Ireland

    Lovely funny story – and glad you can see the funny side of it!

    My husband cooked the two of us a lovely meal, which included salmon and strawberries (but not together!)

    1. How nice that he cooked for you! I love salmon and strawberries… but, yes, not together!

  3. How FUNNY! I had a similar thing happen to my car once…. it was one night after church, and I shifted my car into drive to pull foward out of my parking space. My car just VROOM VROOMED, but went nowhere. I tried again, VROOM VROOM! Since it was after church, a crowd of my friends was standing around as I was revving my engine over and over. A lightbulb went off, and I decided to try to reverse out of my parking spot, and the reverse WORKED! Because…. duh…. there was one of those big concrete block things in the front of my spot… hindering… my …. attempts… to drive forward. Man, was that embarrassing.

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