DEBRIS.COMgood for a laugh, or possibly an aneurysm

Friday, April 16th, 2004

commute from hell

I called on Wednesday to reserve a rental car. “Of course we’ll have a car for you!” she said. They always say that.

She asked what size car I’d like. “Small and inexpensive,” I replied, “with a CD player.” I always say that.

Thursday morning, when I got to the rental agency, the only car available was a full-sized cargo van. With no CD player. “We have several options,” said the clerk, but all of them involved me taking this enormous van. She offered to bring a replacement vehicle to my house.

“I have to leave at 11:00 AM for a meeting,” I said pointedly. “You’ll be there by then, right?”

Of course she would.

The van stunk. The predominant aromas were BO, unwashed stocking caps, and cigarette ash. By no small coincidence, these were also the predominant aromas of the family that had just returned the van. (I was in line behind them at the rental counter.)

I would have guessed that these smells were embedded in the upholstery, except that there wasn’t any upholstery — just two plastic seats in front and a bare metal shell. The van’s interior had been stripped. I’m not entirely sure it came from the factory that way. I think the stocking-cap people might have just furnished their trailer.

I called the agency at ten minutes past eleven. At least I didn’t have to explain why I was calling. “Simone brought you a car,” she said over what sounded like a cellphone, “but she got stuck in some gravel on your street.” Gravel? Stuck? The roads are all paved. There’s a quarry 20 miles away, but… no, not even Enterprise staffmembers can get that lost. “I have no idea what happened,” said the woman on the cellphone, sounding as exasperated as I felt, “but I’m on my way.”

There didn’t seem to be any point in waiting at home, so I drove the van up the hill to see if I could find a gravel pit with a rental car stuck inside. I didn’t find that… but I did see a king-cab, stretch-bed pickup, presumably with CD player, sitting perpendicular to the road with its back axle hanging off the pavement. Its frame rails rested on the edge of the asphalt. I can’t imagine how the driver got sideways in a truck so long on a street so narrow.

As I approached, a neighbor appeared and volunteered to help. I guess I’m still not used to living in a small community, for I was surprised, shocked really, to see him take a tow chain out of his truck and hook it to the frame of the beached luxury liner within 30 seconds of arriving. The sight of his little Mazda pickup trying to pull the ~5000lb Silverado back onto the road was a bit like watching an aircraft tow tractor pull a loaded jumbo-jet, but ultimately a lot less effective… those airport tow tractors have a towing capacity of 150,000+ lbs, whereas this Mazda could only tow about 30.

We were blocking traffic at this point. And I was late. I realized that I’d be driving the cargo van to my meeting, 40 miles south. I had no other choice. I squeezed the van through the available space and began to seriously lament the five CDs in my briefcase. I hate to drive without music.

Leonard Nimoy sings The Ballad of Bilbo BagginsDue to an email exchange with Karel just before my departure, I’d had occasion to watch a horrifying video of Leonard Nimoy singing the “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” and I had the unnerving chorus stuck on permanent repeat in my mind. For 40 miles. Argh.

The woman at Enterprise made the best of a crappy situation, though. I can’t blame her for getting unexpectedly stuck with the van, nor for her staff driving the replacement vehicle off the road. She handled it with as much grace as could be hoped for.

posted to channel: Personal
updated: 2004-04-19 06:44:10

follow recordinghacks

Search this site

Carbon neutral for 2007.