Saturday, August 29, 2009

I have a goal, something I hope to do once before I die. It has nothing to do with professional accomplishment or finding true love or having loving, wonderful children--I've been immensely fortunate to have those things in my life.

No, just once I want to arrive at a rental car counter and get the small, compact or subcompact car I actually reserved two or three months in advance. Invariably I hear that all the small cars--the ones I reserved--are gone BUT they have good news for me. There is a wonderful mid-sized car to which they've upgraded me for not a dollar more than the small car I should have had. I have heard this all over the US and also in New Zealand and Wales, both of which have narrow roads in their countryside and small towns, roads frequently contained by solid rock walls on both sides.

Also invariably, these cars have bodies and rear windows so designed and shaped that from the driver's seat you can't see any part of the hood or the trunk, in other words I wind up in an unfamiliar vehicle, larger than I wanted, with no idea where my corners are, or how long my front and back are. I faced this problem most recently in Portland where the excellent and spacious Mark Spencer Hotel had an underground garage planned and built in an era of smaller and narrower vehicles, a garage with tight turns, a forest of columns, steep ramps and lots of SUVs sticking well forward from the other spaces.

To my credit, I have never returned a rental car with so much as a scratch on it, but driving these larger cars has always involved a bit of tension at the very least. I'm a Jeep guy. A Jeep is a box, a squared off, big-windowed box whose hood doesn't fall away into invisibility, whose back bumper is in a wholly predictable place directly below the back window. It's a practical, non-glamorous workhorse that's reliable, nimble, comfortable on cross-country trips, able to carry everything I need, a friend.

I write this today because the day before we flew out of Manchester Airport, I drove the Jeep home from a trip out for errands, parked it at the house, turned it off--and it would not start again. It sits at home, quite dead, awaiting my return on Monday. I'm sure it's something relatively simple, at least I tell myself that. The battery isn't dead because all the lights and other electrical functions work. We'll see when I get home. It recently passed 200,000 miles acting as if it was still a young vehicle--with luck, it will be with me many, many more.


We arived in Los Angeles yesterday and ny younger daughter picked us up at LAX and drove us back to her West Hollywood apartment. It turns out to be in a very gay neighborhood, attractive and filled with good restaurants. We had Nouveau Tex-Mex last night (shrimp enchiladas, swiss chard tacos). Today we head out to the Getty Villa and one of the local museums.

I remember that Jeep!

Also had the same problem in a rental car agency in New Zealand - ended up with a full size Camry for a drive from the ferry port at the North side of the South Island all the way to Queenstown. Lots of one lane bridges - not what I wanted.

Also ended up with a GMC SuperTanker in Boulder some years ago. Sat about 10 people, required two parking spaces, and got about 8 miles to the gallon. Just what you need to get one person from the hotel to the office and back.
Will, I think you're thinking of my first Jeep. I got this one in 1999, after I'd left BB&N. I average about 20,000 miles a year given all my trips to New York City and other places for opera performances.
Wow, it has been a while...
it annoys me a little that you came this close to me and i missed you.

next time, maybe.
First Portland, now LA. You are becoming quite the traveler. I can sympathize with your frustration over rental agencies not having the care you RESERVED.
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