Thursday, July 21, 2016

When you Have to Leave the Dog at Home - Adventures in Rental Cars

 Economy Car - a small pellet shaped object that can carry you to the scene of the accident.

I've had some small "sub compact" cars in my day but this one was about the smallest I've had yet.  I fortunately asked for the bright red one, so at least I'd be visible even if I was no bigger than the red dot on a 7-Up can.  I couldn't help but utter "it's so small" to which the young man stated "it has NINE air bags".  I looked at him and said "honey, you could put the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in this vehicle with me and I still wouldn't feel safe".  But I did thank him for getting the red one.

It looked brand new and was sparkling clean.  Legroom was more than required for a hamster; the cockpit ergonomics weren't bad and the a.c. had the car cooled before I even left the parking garage.  But then I went to accelerate. The only way I can describe the sound is this:  picture the Cast of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" suddenly miniaturized by some magic shrink ray until they were all six inches tall.  Now picture Leatherface firing up his little chainsaw.  That's the sound the engine made.
It's a Toyota. something. Yanni? Yetti?  Something like that and it was my wheels on my last trip for Squirrel Headquarters..  I had arrived at my hotel. I'm amazed, not only that a human being can cover hundreds of miles in a couple of hours but that I did some of that in a car that was about the size of a 9 mm cartridge.  Then I got a start the next morning. I went out to the hotel parking lot and my car was GONE!  I was in a panic as auto thefts in the area were high, then I noticed that the Mini Cooper parked next to it was blocking my view.

I have rented a LOT Of vehicles over the years. Over the last ten years I had to rent when I went to see Dad as his driving skills weren't good enough where I felt he was safe on the the freeway which is occupied by "Crazy Oregon Drivers" until you cross the Oregon state line wherein it's occupied by "Crazy Washington Drivers".  Plus he's a far distance from the international airport. Up until a couple of years ago when the keys were taken away, he did really good around town and always offered to come get me.
But I did not want him trying to merge with giant semi's and teenagers. There wasn't any other option. All of his friends were gone and none of the other family lived close enough to fetch me. The rental is an expense, but a necessary one, no matter how often I go there. But I went for a big vehicle, as there is nothing more unsettling then looking up at the undercarriage of a log truck, some of the logs secured by what looks like dental floss, on a rain-slicked highway.

The rental place I go to out West always has some chipper person who asks "what brings you here?"  I know they're just trying to be friendly, most people getting to them worn out after flying long distances. That would render anyone cranky, especially a particular redhead, whose suitcase went MIA, who now envisions buying something to wear at the only store by Dad's, a Big Box Mart with a ladies department full of outfits the size of tank parachutes.
So on that particular trip, I wasn't in a particularly good mood, and besides, they just saw me two weeks ago, and weeks before that, one of dozens of trips. They know me by name, they know where my Dad lives and that I'm here to visit him as he's 90 something and in poor health (and refuses to live with family).  They also know that I don't need a map to the house or the cemetery.  And still they ask what brings me here. Same clerk, every single time.

The next time they asked, even though I was just there a couple weeks ago,  I gave them a little smile which can be either friendly or scary depending on if you're the good guy or the bad guy and responded with-

"Contract hitI'll be needing something with a large trunk."

The agent, as usual, didn't miss a beat, saying "that's nice, you want to upgrade to a full size then?"
I've had some interesting car experiences over the years, from the time I got a free upgrade to a full-size pickup truck to an assortment of cars the size of gym lockers that accelerated at the speed of rust. There was one "loaner" car that had likely traveled with Lewis and Clark and was given to my copilot and I to drive to our lodging. The next morning, there was a hard frost. There was also no ice scraper. Fortunately, that side trim that was flapping in the breeze was easy to remove and made a dandy scraper (honestly, it just fell off!). And we won't mention certain third world places where you want to check the car's interior for things that sting, spit or bite (Ack! Windshield Viper!)

There's no telling what city will give you what car.  I've rented a car from airports that you that were so new and shiny you could practically eat off the tarmac and got an asthmatic clunker that smelled like an ashtray and I've been into some fairly outdated  terminals where I have expected to get run over by goats as I went to baggage claim and get a bright shiny full-size sedan, actually made in America.
This last squirrel trip, I fared a little better, the car at least being brand new and spotlessly clean. But I'd hoped for an upgrade. Sometimes the compact is actually a normal sized car, depending on what the rental car company has on hand by the time I roll in.

But not on my return to this city where I am convinced the car rental agencies there have a special little "LB" wing of the garage where they keep the gutless wonders. I am also certain they keep them parked nose down on a ramp so that my special LB edition rental car can simply roll down to the check out area and appear to have an engine in it, until it is past those spikes in the pavement that prevent me from bringing it back.
I remember the first time I rented on other than my own dime, and as directed, got the "economy" car. It was clean, bright, all four doors open as if the clowns had to get out in a hurry. I gulped and asked the rental agent "what kind of car IS that?". I swear the agent said it was a "Hyundai Accident". Perhaps that was "Accent". On second thought, I think the first was correct. But Dad's second car (his first being a 1984 Chevy Truck) was a larger Hyundai and he loved it for zipping around town on errands. So with a blue sky, a tailwind and a gathering where all I had to do all week is stand up in front of people and sound intelligent, I was determined to enjoy the drive.

As I accelerated onto the ramp for the freeway, trying to edge in front of this semi that looked JUST like the one in Dual. I remembered all the talk about how the human body can actually FEEL acceleration. I've pulled some G's in a swept wing jet.  I know what it's like. And this car, well this car could do that. Right? As I floored it, watching the semi truck come up rapidly on my car, the entire body of which would fit UNDER his bumper, I realized that I could actually feel a physical force, that of my body aging as the car slooooowly went from 35 to 60.

After watching everyone blow past me with the look, I wanted to get a sign for the back window that said I own a 4 wheel drive TRUCK, THIS is a rental. I got it up to 72 on a long stretch though. But at that point, the transmission started making the sound like someone having a root canal and the whole frame started shaking like one of those paint mixers at Home Depot.
But I made it, only checking once to see if the floorboards rolled up so I could put my feet down, yell Yabba Dabba Doo! and pass someone.  Just like today, another trip, another spot of safety and rest along this life's journey.

On the blog I talk of perspective. Being thankful for all we have. And I am. I arrived here in one piece. I have gainful employment that challenges me and sends me out in the world to perhaps educate others, to meet with like minds. It's getting to meet friends in the cities I travel to, putting faces to the names of folks I've talked to for years, fellow women bloggers and their families. It's coming home to a husband and a furry black Lab rescue who is forever grateful for a permanent home.

It's freedom, of the road, of the mind, of the spirit. It's a 100 degrees and I am looking up at the bumper of a Volkswagen Beetle. But there is also Keebler fudge striped cookies melting on the seat next to me and a rough-hewn landscape out my window, the blur of trees as old as God, where sometimes above, a bird sings a plaintive and tremulous song that rises above the sound of the traffic. And if the brakes give out, I can simply turn on the air conditioner and coast to a stop.

Life is good. Wherever your road leads you.
-LBJ

7 comments:

  1. Some day I will have to tell you the epic tale of British rentals, in 1978, that my family experienced on vacation that year...

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  2. Any time i see one of those little smart cars, I just can't imagine driving one let alone on the highway!
    hugs
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

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  3. Today's version of a Geo Metro... Brings back terrible memories of 40 years of government rentals...

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  4. Hari OM
    Oh that was a fun read and reminded me of a couple of car tales of my own... always good value, eh? (I want that window sticker - folks here in the Bonny Land have apparently passed their tests without the need for using the indicting clicker...) YAM xx

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  5. Renting a car is always a throw of the dice! Every now and again it's a good one but usually not!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

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  6. We are used to small useless cars here in England, lol
    Thank you for your kind words about Dip.
    Lynne x

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  7. we all have to ride beancan-cars here for the high gas prices :o) but the highlight was a matchbox car my dad rent once...he ended scalped as he closed the sunroof :o(

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Welcome to The Book of Barkley. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on Abby the Senior rescue Lab,who we adopted in 2014.

Stop in and say hello. 100% of book sales are donated to animal rescue organizations across the U.S. and Canada and Search Dog Foundation. If you have a non-profit animal organization and would like autographed copies of any of my three books for auction fundraisers or a blog post featuring your organization please contact me at cliodna58@gmail.com