Most of the time when we travel our final destination is the city to which we arrive, and once there we usually rely on our feet or public transportation to get around. Every once in a while, however, our plans require us to rent a car, and it seems that my already questionable ability to operate an automobile takes a giant hit.
Let me first say that I already carry a great deal of distrust for car rental companies. Anytime I am forced to rent a car I am reminded of the Seinfeld episode where the company has run out of cars, and Jerry lectures the desk agent on the definition of a reservation. I always assume this same scenario will happen to me, mainly because I simply can't believe any company related to travel will truly honor a reservation with nothing more than my name and vehicle type. No deposit, no credit card, nothing...just a name. That skepticism aside, my issues when it comes to renting a car have really nothing to do with the agencies, but rather my own ineptitude to operate a vehicle which isn't my own.
My most recent experience with a rental car was on our trip to Austin last summer. I "reserved" a full-size vehicle with Dollar-Rent-A-Car and was pleased that there were no Seinfeld moments when we arrived. After signing the 14 required forms, a nice Nissan Altima was pulled around, and we set off for downtown Austin. As we made our way down the interstate, something didn't seem quite right. The engine was making way more noise than it should, almost as if it needed to change gears but couldn't for whatever reason. After several miles of trying to figure out this phenomenon, I innocently asked "I wonder what this D3 and D4 means?" Turns out, it means a lot...
Once we arrived to our hotel, I was presented with problem #2....how to turn off the car. See, the Altima was outfitted with the super cool "Push to Start" keyless feature, but this guy could not get the hang of this elementary level operation. Every time I would put the car in park I would instinctively go to turn the ignition off and think "What the heck, where's the key?" After a while, I thought I was getting the hang of it and grabbed the key from its holding spot, only to get out of the car with it still running. Needless to say, I'll never own a keyless operation car.
Sadly, this was not the only example of rental car ineptitude in my travels. We traveled to Ohio last year for a wedding, and on the drive to our destination we decided to stop at a rest area on the Turnpike for lunch. After a satisfying visit to Sbarro Pizza, we made our way back to the car to continue the trek. There was just one problem...
"Which car is ours?"
"Um...I have no idea."
My wife and I had both managed to get in our rental car at the airport without noticing anything about what we were driving. Make, model, color...no clue. I thought it was a gold Ford of some sort, and we walked up to a car that fit that general description. Nope...not ours. Turns out it was the silver Chevy Malibu several spaces over. Note to self: Take a look at the car before you drive away.
To those that know me, these stories will come of little surprise because I am a bit of a space cadet, especially when it comes to driving. Thankfully, none of our upcoming adventures will require us to rent a car, which should give me plenty of time to stockpile some common sense which I'll cash in at the Hertz counter.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~