"Rescuing" a motorist "locked out" of his vehicle in the rain while all the time the driver's side window remained down is all in a day's work for Anton Busch.
That unfortunate motorist wasn't the first call for Busch, an Automobile Association patrol veteran, who recently allowed Fairfax journo Les Watkins to spend a day with him north of Auckland.
First up was a 19-year-old in distress near Kaukapaka as her electronic door-opener wasn't working and she couldn't get into her car.
Within minutes Busch discovers the opener is useless. The battery has died. But no worries, to the astonishment of the teenager, he unlocks the door with the attached key.
''Gosh, I didn't know that key fitted the door. I thought it was only for the ignition,'' she said.
There's no shortage of drivers who know little more than her about the vehicles they aim around our roads. They were among the 620,606 AA members who needed the organisation's roadside assistance last year.
Flat batteries were the most common cause - responsible for 43 per cent of calls for help - and fixable mechanical troubles came second with 13 per cent.
''Most days bring their share of surprises,'' Busch says.
''Just the other day I had a man who could hardly credit it when I told him the strange knocking noise was caused by his engine being out of oil.
''He reckoned that was impossible because it had been serviced a week or so earlier.''
In fact, the man added, he'd always had it serviced right on time.
''But the mileage indicator and the windscreen stickers told a very different story .The car had missed the last two services.''
It seems the driver had asked his wife to arrange them but her memory hadn't been too reliable.
''Modern cars can run for longer without being serviced but that doesn't mean they don't need to be done.''
The next call is to the Northern Motorway near Silverdale. A woman with three children passengers says her BMW is seriously overheating and she's afraid it may be about to catch fire.
This is too complicated for Busch to fix on the spot so transport to an approved garage is arranged.
Soon after there is an elderly woman near Puhoi who is worried about ''a funny bonking sound'' her car makes on every bend. Is the steering collapsing or something?
After a short test run, a small wooden box on a shelf under the dash is found to sliding at each sharpish turn and banging against the bodywork. Busch places it on a passenger seat. Problem solved.
Other common callouts are for lockouts.
''We get called out to about 700 lockouts a year and a fair number are odder than that one at Kaukapaka.
''Like a man, for instance, who'd locked himself out at Hatfields Beach and then got caught in a rainstorm.
''He had to ring us on a stranger's cellphone because his was in the car.''
The drenched man was embarrassed when Anton arrived and asked why he hadn't opened the door through the driver's window.
''Oh no! I didn't realise I'd left that open,'' he replied.
All in a day's work.
- Rodney Times
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