Ever been stuck on the Penang Bridge during peak hour? Well, I was this evening, driving home from campus after the Minister of Higher Education delivered the good news that USM has been selected for the APEX University programme. OK, some lecturers don't think its good news. I heard that lecturers in other universities have told USM lecturers they are quite happy not being at the APEX.
But I digress. I should have known better. In the morning while driving to campus, the car had sputtered a couple of times. What to do? I drive a 13 year-old car. Of course I send it for regular maintenance but if any part wants to die it will just die.
I was on the ramp coming from campus heading home when the car just sputtered a few times and just die. And I was obstructing traffic and vehicles had to squeeze slowly by. And I couldn't push the car to the side because it was on an upward incline. After a few minutes, a young man got out of his van and asked "Uncle mau tolak ke tepi?" (Uncle you want to push to the side). Man was I grateful. Then his partner came down and both helped to push my car to the side. I didn't even get to thank them. After a few tries, I got the car running again but for only about 50 metres. Fortunately, the space here was wider so I wasn't obstructing traffic anymore.
So, who do you call when you car breaks down on the bridge? The Mechanic? The emergency number? What the hell is that number? Something 1300 1300 something. I see it everyday! Well, I decided to call my wife. Yes, my wife. When my windscreen shattered, I also called my wife. She contacted our mechanic, he called me. He told me it was likely the fuel pump. He tried to call the insurance company which has a towing service. Bad news, the tow trucks are banned from the bridge during peak hour. I tried calling 1300 1300 13 but got some funny message. So I packed my backpack and started walking to get to the emergency phone. After 50 metres I turn around and saw a man zooming in on my parked car and pointing at it. One look at him and I knew he was a mechanic. All he had was a bag of tools. It seems he makes one round of the bridge every two hours during the evening. He said that on a bad day (good day for him lah) during heavy congestion, 7 or 8 cars break down on the bridge.
He asked me to start the car and in less than one minute figure out that it was the fuel pump. But don't worry, he can fix it to get me home. He warned me not to drive the car anymore after that until I get the pump changed. And don't use the air-con. I was a little skeptical but had no choice. He said it will cost RM60. Highway robbery, you think? Hmmn, it is the age of talent. And talent is expensive. He drained some petrol from his motorbike, mixed it with a little black engine oil. He then squeezed them into various parts of the engine. I was instructed to turn the ignition and he was under the hood making the engine roar. All done in less than 15 minutes. And I got home safely. So tomorrow, I got to take the public bus to campus.
BTW, the Penang Bridge Patrol showed up when the mechanic was almost done. They seems to know each other very well. Didn't even bother to ask me if I needed help. Oh well, they did park right behind my car to protect my butt. Thanks guys.
Oh, try to remember this no. 1300 1300 03.
I had to check the Penang Bridge blog for the correct number. All in I was stuck for about 30 - 40 minutes. I am pleased nobody rammed into me (I had my hazard lights blinking). Should I buy a new car? Hhmmm .... I am quite attached to my old faithful.
So you know what to do next time you car breaks down on Penang Bridge?