Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rental car hell

Just got back from my quick trip to Canada's largest metropolis. The trip is 200 km each way, which gave me ample time to ponder the lessons of renting a car in the new millenium:
  • The car they give you is never as nice as the car you actually want.
  • Your vehicle will lack certain key features.
  • You will wind your own windows (Wayne's World anyone?) adjust the passenger-side mirror with your fingers, and almost lock the keys in the car thanks to the state-of-the-art manual door locks.
  • The stereo will eat your carefully-burned CDs.
  • You will be reminded why you hate radio so much.
  • You will learn to appreciate the sounds of silence. Well, relative silence, anyway. It is, after all, a Chrysler Neon (SX 2.0, rattletrap, whatever.)
  • The gas pedal will feel as if it's attached to an industrial-sized spring that exerts twice as much back-pressure on your foot as it should.
  • Your car will have no cruise control.
  • Your leg will, as a result, start to throb about 20 minutes into the drive.
  • The brakes will squeal. Loudly.
  • You will wonder when they will fail.
  • You will keep your hand on the emergency brake lever, just in case.
  • The wheels will need an alignment. Badly.
  • Consequently, you will exceed 120 km/h at your own peril.
  • You will also enjoy inadvertent slamoming within, and sometimes outside, your lane.
  • You will eventually pull off the highway and take the regional highway the rest of the way home: the lower cruise speed dramatically improves your chances of getting home in one piece.
  • The ventilation system will have two settings: sub-arctic springtime cold, and Soviet-era gulag cold.
  • You will wonder why you left your mittens at home.
  • The fan will begin to howl like a banshee just after your leg goes numb from that crazily-sprung gas pedal.
  • Your fellow traffic-jammed motorists will stare in your direction, wondering where the banshee noise is coming from.
  • Yes, that is pity on their faces.
  • Funny smells will come from the vents, prompting the classic mind game where you try to figure out it it's coming from the outside, or from the inside.
  • That last stench was definitely an inside job.
  • The vehicle will consume fuel like a drunken sailor. The fuel guage will do its dive whether you're feathering it or kicking the bejeebers out of it.
  • So you take the bejeebers route. It's more fun that way.
  • The engine will almost stall at the most inopportune of times: in the middle of packed intersections, when slowing down to get off the highway, when the big semi grows ominously in the rearview mirror.
  • When idling - which you will do often because this is Toronto and it invented the all-day traffic jam - the engine will tick like an Iraqi roadside bomb.
  • You keep the door unlocked (manual, remember?) just in case you need to bail out quickly.
The good news is I somehow made it safe and sound and will be returning this lame excuse for a motorcar tomorrow morning. The trip was otherwise a huge success. Global VP of a really big company. Briefing. Informative discussion that should lead to more dialog. Yadda, yadda...all cool stuff in the life of an analyst.

I just wish I had a car that didn't make me fear for my life en route.

Your turn: I'll let you guess how the conversation at the car rental place will proceed. Anyone want to venture some choice dialog?


Anonymous said...

If you are not a Gold Card Carrying Member of this rental company, may I suggest they give you one free of charge to make sure you get a Luxury car the next time you need to avail them of service.

Agent: welcome to rent a wrek
Carmi: Wreck is right !! I'm a wreck because of YOUR wreck...
Agent: were you pleased with your car
Carmi: Um, no... as a matter of fact
Agent: please explain...
Carmi: See my Blog
Agent: may we offer you a free weekend
Carmi: Um, no... thank you
Agent: Will you be needing another rental anytime soon?
Carmi: um, not on your life, thank you very much, I think a credit is due me for mental and emotional stress
Agent: I'm sorry, we are not responsible for wear and tear on your body from our cars...
Carmi: Then who is?
Agent: please write customer service
Carmi: I think I may Do that...
I do work for the Free London Press and have a large readership...
Agent: does not look pleased, or is unfased by this revelation...
Carmi: leaves rental agency quietly and calmly...

Is that close???

Unknown said...

Carmi: That is a very accurate list. Forgive me for beginning to giggle when you describe the size of the gas pedal and the spring-loaded presure mechanism. By the time brake failure concerns were mentioned I was out of control! I am certain that the previous driver had pre-selected radio stations you hate and then there's the smell of that cheap incense spray that the "Make Ready" guys are instructed to use to give you "that new car smell". I guess by comparison I've been lucky with the "Econoboxes" I've rented. The main thing is to get home safely.

Great to hear that the meeting was successful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Carmi,

Cars are such an extenision of self, when I get in a strange one it's like learning to walk all over again. You still need mittens!

I posted a photo of tea and mentioned yours today.

Anonymous said...

Rental Car Clerk:
Did you have an enjoyable trip sir?

::holds up print out of this post while shooting death rays from eyes::

Rental Car Clerk:
Ummm, let me get the manager sir.

Gypsy said...

Sounds like you used Rent-A-Lemon.

Anonymous said...

Did you try offereng to *pay* for a nicer car? I bet they'd have given you one if so...

Rayna said...

Rather sounded like an extramarital affair.
Makes one appreciate the luxury of familiarity.

Take deep breaths Carmi!

Anonymous said...

While I commiserate with the perils of rental car uncertainty, I must admit I was nearly rolling on the floor with laughter. Especially since I just returned a rental after having my car in the shop for 2 days. The rental was dirty - outside and in. There was even a leftover piece of shredded cheese which had hardened in the center console. I had similar difficulties with the accelerator, causing a number of stuttered starts and hesitations in traffic. And something I consider a major insult in rental cars - the tank was on empty when I got it. As I pulled in to the nearest gas station, the warning chime sounded. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to have my own, comfortable car back again. :-P

Lynda said...

The whole thing reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where the rental car agency didn't "hold" the reservation - they just took it.

Anyway, I imagine your conversation at the return desk will either be interrupted by 1) a phone call or 2) break time.

Let us know!

Lisa said...

all I can say is I've driven THAT car! lol! Glad you survived!

jennypenny said...

Haha i remember renting a car a few years ago and pulling out of the rental place only to realize that the car was broken. It wouldn't turn! I walked back into the store in a huff and told them thier crappy car didn't work because it wouldn't turn. They looked at me like i was crazy and said "um, it doesn't have power steereing". Oops. Guess I am too young to have ever driven a car without power steering. I sure felt dumb. So at least take comfort in the fact that your car had power steering. (i hope)

Sandy said...

Ha! My first actual new car purchase was a Neon. That was the last time I let myself fall into the trap of buying a car because the headlights looked cute.

Hey, cut me a break, I was 21 and excited that I actually had the ability to pay for a car!

Sorry you had such a crummy time of it. Does it help to know you made me smile by recounting it?

Kara said...

This post is so funny because it's so true!

Unique Designs from Zazzle said...

Is "Soviet-era Gulag cold" any colder that "Post Soviet-era Gulag cold?"

I once got pulled over for going 98 mph in a rental car. It was such an upgrade from the vehicle I owned that I didn't realize I was going 98 mph until my passenger tapped me on the shoulder to show me the flashing lights next to me.

Somehow I talked my way out of a ticket and my passenger was ticketed for not wearing her seatbelt. HEH HEH

Anonymous said...

I have a playstation 3 and i just got resistance 2. I am wanting to figure how we can use both playstation accounts at the same time to play co-op online.