Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lessons From A Rental Car

Reading the ever-smart Joe Brancatelli's thoughts about the Hertz Prestige Collection reminded me of the time when one too many rental car bells and whistles just about tanked my psyche. If memory serves me correctly (and sometimes it does), Enterprise (with only good intentions and excellent service this go-around) delivered the blow.

To set the story perspective, let me first give you a little history. My husband, Big George, is in love with his Buick LeSabre. (I've written about this "affair" before.) It’s a good car, a reliable car with great gas mileage and pickup. It’s also, in my mind, a Geezermobile and I, of course, am not yet a Geezerette, even though I am a very perky grandmother. When, exactly, I will fall into the Big G category, perhaps only the waiting rental car knows -- or at least thinks it does.

At the check-in counter I am informed they are out of the category (full-size) I requested, but they’re just sure I’ll be delighted with my FREE DOUBLE UPGRADE. “It’s loaded,” the guy says. I grab my bags and head toward the pickup facility in the parking garage while uttering prayers of thanksgiving that I don’t have to haul all my stuff on and off an outback rental car transport bus.

The smarty pants car is pulled up and waiting for me, driver’s side door open. “You sure got a nice upgrade,” the young man says. “It’s your lucky day!” He puts my bags in the gigantic trunk, points out a couple features, to which I half listen since I’m running late, then closes my door. What a gentlemen. Truly. He was pleasant, courteous and enthusiastic about his job.

As I pull out of the parking garage, MapQuest instructions in hand, I discover it’s started to rain. After a couple errant attempts, I finally get the windshield wipers and headlights turned on. By the time I reach the expressway, it’s pouring -- I mean it's a deluge -- and the wipers are flying, but nonetheless I settle into a medium-fast clip, crank up the radio and relax a little since I have quite a few miles to go before locating my exit.

This calm pocket of time gives me a chance to notice the beginning of my slippery slide into old age: a Cadillac logo. Don’t get me wrong: this is a nice, big, kick-butt fully loaded sedan, but in my mind, there is only one car that shouts OLD faster than a LeSabre and that is a gigantic Cadillac.

One way or the other, life’s ever-rushing days will mark you. I sigh. My husband will love this story when I call him tonight.

It’s at this point I notice some kind of flashing light out my side window. It’s pouring so hard I can’t tell what it is, but it’s steady and it appears to be attached to the car. What in the world? When the rain lets up a little, I finally locate the correct button to open my window. What to my horrified eyes should appear but (hear psycho music) . . . a flashing red arrow of lights built into my side view mirror alerting me that my blinker is on.

I AM DRIVING A GIGANTIC CADILLAC, WITH MY BLINKER ON! Need I say more about these implications?!

(Yes, George loved the story, way more than I did.)

On the flip side of the trip, George, unbidden, picks me up at the airport in my sexy little SUV rather than his LeSabre. This is one of the benefits of nearly four decades of marriage: the Geezer knows when his Geezerette (although he’d never dare call her that) has reached her threshold of tolerance.

So, Dear Mr. Brancatelli, although you might enjoy, and rightfully so, those ultra-kitschy accessory-laden Jazzmobiles, some of us prefer vehicles just a little less . . . um . . . knowledgeable than ourselves.

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