My Hummer recently caused me great embarrassment and shame. This is in addition to the great embarrassment and shame that you already get from merely owning a Hummer.
Here’s what happened: as I was shooting last week’s video, wherein I parked the Hummer in several very conspicuous places and then creepily listened to the conversations of the people who walked by, the Hummer broke down. It was at this moment that I knew I would become the laughingstock of South Philadelphia.
My first thought was that the battery was dead, because this happened once before. A few months ago, someone left a door unlatched all night, and the dome light drained the battery. So my friend Greg jumped it with his Corvette, and we were good to go. The Hummer had no further issues, and it continued living life at its normal pace: roughly the same speed as one of those oscillating floor fans that turns and sprays the room with air.
So I took a cab home, and I got my normal vehicle, which is a Range Rover, and also I got jumper cables, and I drove back to the broken down Hummer as quickly as I could. You can imagine the ensuing scene: I’m on a busy one-way Philadelphia street with dozens of pedestrians everywhere, and I’ve got one giant SUV parked nose-to-nose with another giant SUV that’s facing against traffic. The crowds quickly started to gather.
Problem the first came when I had to open the hood of the Hummer in order to set up the jumper cables. For those of you who have never seen a Hummer with its hood open, here’s how it works: when you open the hood, you’re basically lifting all the front bodywork off the vehicle. So not only are we sitting there with a giant yellow Hummer parked in a major pedestrian area, but it looks like Optimus Prime hasn’t quite finished going back to truck mode. At this point, people were taking pictures. Filming. Laughing. Pointing.
So we hooked up the jumper cables, and we quickly discovered that it wasn’t the battery that was causing the problems. The cables were powered, the Range Rover was on, and yet the Hummer was about as lifeless as a horror movie killer right before he wakes up and resumes slashing the ears off screaming women. It was at this moment when I knew we would be the laughingstock of the entire greater Philadelphia area, and possibly all the way down to at least central Delaware.
So I called Triple-A, which was sort of an ordeal in itself (“Sir, the make is AM General? And the model is Hummer? I’m sorry, sir, but Hummer is a make, not a model.”), and they sent out a tow truck, which promptly showed up 59 minutes into their promised one-hour arrival window. When the driver got out, you could see that he was very excited about towing a Hummer. “I’m gonna have a Hummer on my truck!” he said. “A Hummer!” Then he began whacking the starter with a giant hammer to see if that would solve the problem.
Oddly, it didn’t, so we began the arduous task of hoisting a Hummer on to the back of a flatbed tow truck on the Sunday afternoon of July 4th weekend in one of Philadelphia’s busiest pedestrian areas. This was probably the most embarrassing part of the whole event. The laughing. The pointing. The pictures. One guy, a complete stranger, walked up to me and said – I swear this is true – “So, Doug, this is what it’s really like to own a Hummer in the city?”
Once the Hummer was up on the truck, we had to figure out where it was going to go. This being a Sunday, none of the local dealerships were open. All we could do was tow the truck somewhere, and then on Monday morning I would have to call Triple-A again to have the truck towed again into the dealer. So we started thinking: me, my cameramen, and the tow truck driver, all brainstorming, and discussing, and Googling the best place to leave a Hummer overnight in Philadelphia. We settled on a Pep Boys parking lot next to a giant dumpster.
So we towed the Hummer there, and the next morning I went to collect it. Once again, I called Triple-A, and once again I went through the whole song and dance about the make and model (“Sir, who makes AM General?”). Once Triple-A got all my information, they told me it would be a two-hour wait for a tow truck. The truck arrived an hour and 58 minutes later.
I finally dropped off the Hummer at the dealership around 10:30 a.m. Monday morning, or roughly 20 hours, two tows, and probably dozens of mocking Instagram posts after the entire ordeal had started.
But it wouldn’t be done right away. Since I was coming in without an appointment, the dealer didn’t have time to look at the Hummer until Wednesday. When they finally called that afternoon, the news was good: the problem was traced to some minor issue with the starter, which could be fixed by Thursday morning for only a couple hundred bucks. I breathed a sigh of relief: a “minor issue” with the starter in my Ferrari would’ve cost as much as a kitchen remodel, and it would’ve taken six weeks for Mario and Luigi to ship all the parts from Italy.
Still, you have to appreciate the humor in this situation. Here’s a giant, trail-tackling, military-spec, off-road truck made to crush global enemies and small animals alike; a huge beast of a vehicle capable of crossing the worst war zones and traversing any level of off-road terrain. And a quick, simple issue involves a complete inability to start, two tows, and four full days of downtime.
Although this makes me sympathize with the military men and women who have to drive this vehicle every day in combat, they do have one advantage: at least they don’t get laughed at when they open up their hood.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.