Barely back from wedding festivities in Germany, I left DC again on Wednesday for another set of nuptials. This time with my younger brother, Mark, as the groom, and the setting Boise, Idaho.
The trip out went as planned – I flew from DC to Chicago, then on to Boise, where I rented a car, checked into a hotel, and met up with my family in the morning. But going “as planned” is not exactly the same as going “smoothly.” Honestly, I felt like I was in one of those slapstick disaster cartoons where everything that could go wrong almost does.
It started in the airport parking lot, which was completely full. After half an hour of driving through every level of the garage in advancing stages of panic, I asked the attendant at the exit gate if there were any other parking options. She gruffly mentioned some secret “super economy” parking lot and then charged me five dollars because I’d been in the garage for longer than 10 minutes (no matter that I hadn’t actually been able to park in said garage). Thankfully, the lot did, in fact, have free spaces. As I rode the shuttle to the terminal, I congratulated myself on being safely on my way.
Then my flight was canceled. No fanfare, just a friendly little email from United directing me to come back tomorrow morning. I had no intention of letting all that parking anxiety go to waste, so I marched up to the ticketing counter to see what could be done. At first nothing could be done (there was much hand-wringing and sympathy behind the counter) but then I activated a (mostly) friendly version of the god-mother gene and, lo and behold, within minutes I was booked on the next flight to Chicago, departing in an hour. Yay! Problem solved. (Ashley and Ammon weren’t so lucky with their flights from New York – their flights were canceled, too, and they ended up having to schlep themselves and two little kids all the way to Rochester in order to get on a series of connecting flights that routed them through Chicago and San Francisco before finally landing in Boise.)
The flights themselves were mediocre, at best. On the first flight I was sandwiched between two mustachioed gentlemen who congratulated me on joining them in the sardine tin. On the second flight I found myself in the very back of the plane, next to a vent that blew nothing but hot air that smelled of sewage. But as I always say, better a sweltering gag-inducing flight than no flight at all.
As fun as these adventures were, the best adventure came last, courtesy of our friends at the Budget car rental desk. Here’s how the exchange went:
[Scene: 12:30am. Budget is one of several rental agencies; the desks are grouped in a small semi-circle in one corner of the airport.]
Me: Hi, I have a reservation for a fuel-efficient compact car.
Bo: Great, I can give you a mini-van or a Lincoln SUV.
Me: Can you please clarify how either of those fits the category of “fuel-efficient compact car”?
Bo: Oh, they don’t. We don’t have any of those. I mean, seriously, why would you even want a small car? Just take the mini-van – it’ll cost the same, and it gets better mileage than the SUV.
Me: No way. There are several advantages to being single without children – never having to drive a mini-van is one of them.
Bo: Okay, then we’ll go with the SUV. It’ll just cost three times as much as the compact car you reserved. Can I see your driver’s license?
Me: Nope, I’m pretty sure this is an illegal racket – you can’t just lure customers into your shop by allowing them to make reservations that you have no intention of fulfilling and them force them to take more expensive cars.
[Turning to the other rental agency desks in the semi-circle.] Okay, anyone want to rent me a car? Who can give me a compact car and beat this guy’s price?
Avis guy: I can give you a Ford F150 pickup truck if you want.
Me: Dude, you need to work on the definition of “compact.” Anyone else?
Thrifty lady: I’ve got a four-door sedan; it’ll be less expensive than Budget’s Lincoln.
Me: Sold! Budget, you just lost a customer.
[I go over and start filling out the paper work. After a few minutes . . . ]
Bo: Wait! Wait, Mister Davis! I think you might have misunderstood me. There’s actually a special deal right now for the Lincoln! It just started. The car’s only, um, a third of what I originally told you. Now do you want it?
Me: [to the Thrifty lady] He’s beating your price – can you do better? [She shakes her head] Fine, Bo, I’ll take your freaking SUV. Sheesh. But don’t think for a minute that I’m forgiving you for not having the car I’d reserved in the first place.
Which is how I ended up with a posh set of wheels for the weekend. I may have destroyed the environment a little more than I’d intended — and I paid a lot more for gas than I’d hoped — but I admit the car was awesome.