so you want to rent a car, you say........
So it all started with a car rental company here that shall remain nameless for the purpose of this story. A big rental car company. Virginia wanted to rent a car for the business trip for several reasons. She didn't want to put the miles for this trip on our adventuremobile, also there was a hurricane coming and she wanted a big, heavy car to get us through potential wind and rain.
Anyone who knows Virginia at all knows that she plans ahead... a lot. Taking care of her family is her first priority, and when it comes to reservations and taking care of details ahead, she is unmatched. Nothing is left to chance. As soon as she knew she was going to be traveling, she reserved a car with this un-named rental company. She reserved a particular vehicle class and was assured her car would be ready for pick-up at 9:30 Thursday morning.
We took a ride over to the un-named rental car company and arrived a little after 9:30. I had a day off and was not yet quite awake... but it didn't matter, I was just there to show my license so that I could be a driver on the rental agreement. I leaned on the counter and yawned as Virginia took care of all the particulars. Only half listening, I was aware of our rental agent taking a call and saying "North Carolina" --- our destination. He hung up and said that the man due to arrive with the car was a little concerned about the condition of the tires on the car and wondered how far we were going.
I woke up. All the way.
He said that he would take a look at the tires when the car arrived, and went outside to do just that. He asked the man who had delivered the car if the problem with the tires was on the opposite side of the car, as the tires on the side he could see looked 'just fine' to him. He went to walk around the car, and I headed outside. He intercepted me and said the tires looked fine for the trip, there shouldn't be any problem. I walked to the car.
I was raised in a house full of men, once had a fiance who worked on cars, and then an x who tinkered with cars, and a son who loved cars. I might know a thing or two about cars.
I walked around the car and examined each tread.... all four well worn. I didn't even need to get a penny out of my pocket. I ran my hand along the extremely worn outer rim of two of the tires, looked the guy in the eyes and said, I am not driving this car. I went back inside. I said they needed to find another car, that we were not taking that car. They said they didn't have another car. I said they had to be kidding.
Perpetual Suzy Sunshine and always the good cop turned into bad cop... Virginia was left to take the agreeable good cop role in a sudden reversal, and handled it quite well. I was now a little.... irritated. With a little more provocation I could indeed become their worst nightmare. The assistant manager now said that he could not possibly put us in a car with bald tires. No $#!% Sherlock.
A man had just returned a little tiny kia (yes, I did not use a capital 'k' on purpose) an almost car, and our car rental agent from the un-named car rental agency suggested that we take that car. I said to Virginia that we didn't want a car that had just been out and besides, it was a MUCH smaller car. I said that they were trying to get us out the door and out of their hair with a lousy car, and that Virginia should get the vehicle class she reserved. I may have also said that I write letters to corporations when I am unhappy. Yep, I did.
People got on the phone, an assistant manager offered us a minivan, and the guy who'd just turned in the kia seemed rather bemused that we did not want his car. Go figure. No, we didn't want a minivan... we weren't taking a kia, and it seemed that no other branch of this illustrious company had a car either. My fine sleepy mood was all gone. Virginia suggested we cancel the reservation and take our car. I leveled my gaze on the assistant manager.
We had now been there for an hour, and several people were making calls, and the assistant manager was begging someone on the phone to give him a car. He thought he'd found a car, but it would take twenty minutes to get it there. He was so sorry. It was a luxury class vehicle that the assistant manager would give to us at the same rate because of all the trouble and waiting. They finally seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation.
We decided that I would wait there for the car, and Virginia would run an errand and go home to finish up last minute things. I (otherwise currently know as the handful) would wait for the car. In some impossible turn of events I (the peacemaker) was now in control of the situation and they recognized that I was not going away without a decent car. I might never go away at all.
As Virginia left I told her it would be fine.... that I would gnaw on their legs if they did not produce an acceptable car. They said they were certain that it would not be necessary for me to gnaw on their legs and re-doubled their efforts to make things right, looking a little clammy, pale, and sweaty now. Better late than never. They chatted me up and I waited. They were all excited about this car.... a 2009 Chrysler 300 with 700 miles on it. They couldn't wait to see it.
Finally another agent pulled into the lot and parked the shiny amalgam of polished red metal right in front of the door. They oohed and ahhed and we went outside to look at it. My buddy who didn't know bald tires when he saw them said, "Isn't it gorgeous?" I said it would be fine. He looked crestfallen at my lack of reaction. We looked the car over and I told him he would have to clean the center console as the spots on it would be unacceptable to Virginia... he ran to get cleaner. I dared not crack a smile.
The assistant manager gave me his manager's card and thanked me for my patience and understanding. I said that I was not at all understanding, and he said that I now understood how hard they tried. I said that I "understood" once they STARTED trying hard. He looked very sheepish. Papers signed and console cleaned, another car pulled into the lot... the same make and model we should have gotten in the first place. The assistant manager said not to worry, that I could still keep the 300. I laughed at him and said that yes, I would. I walked out the door still laughing.
Out the door and the agent installed me in the car, closing the door carefully. I started the car and it growled a deep, throaty growl.... and I smiled all the way home. A far cry from the kia, this rented adventuremobile would indeed be just fine. Virginia would laugh about this at odd moments for the entire trip.
Labels: archaeological dig, archaeology, car rental, drive, Exotic Car Wash, galleries, history, hurricane, hurricane Hanna, North Carolina, Old Salem, road trip, travel writing, Winston-Salem North Carolina