When Tom McLaughlin’s 19-year-old son Scott and three pals set out from their homes in Pacifica in June 2006 for a reunion weekend in the Sierras, they never imagined they would get into such hot water—or, more accurately, into such a frigid lake. Tom tells the tale:
“My son and two of his high school buddies decided to take their friend Martin to a mountain cabin to celebrate Martin’s return from an Army tour of duty in Iraq. They drove up in Martin’s new Dodge truck.
“When they got there, they went to Pine Crest Lake and rented a boat. Now, I don’t know exactly what happened, but I can imagine: They were fooling around, the boat rocked, suddenly water is coming over the side, and boom—they’re all in the water.
“Pine Crest is at elevation—it’s ice water. Luckily, these kids are athletic and they swam to shore, but their wallets and the truck keys went to the bottom. Now it’s sunset, the boat rental office is closed, the temperature is dropping, they’re soaked, and they have no keys, no money, nothing. So my son Scott calls me collect from a phone booth in the parking lot and says, what do we do?
“I said, ‘I’ll call AAA.’ I got this amazing dispatcher, Deanna Winston. I told her, ‘All my son knows is that he’s at a public phone and there’s nothing else around.’
“She said, “Let me call the tow people in that area and see if they know where to go.’ She called me back in ten minutes and said, ‘The driver knows that phone booth. I’m sending him now.’ The driver got there, unlocked the truck, and towed it to the cabin. Martin’s parents drove extra keys up the next day.
“If it hadn’t been for a AAA dispatcher who had the compassion and interest to work with us, and if the AAA driver hadn’t been so knowledgeable and available, those cold, wet kids could have been in big trouble.
“If you need road service, it’s AAA. It’s a family tradition. My dad had AAA, and he embedded in me the idea that you need to have that coverage. You can be sure my son will get AAA too.”