Car Talk

Really it’s more like car whine. Paul have been having transport issues to begin with, since we have been sharing my 2000 Taurus. His film shoots require location scouts, lots of food, prop, and equipment runs, and flexible scheduling; all of which leaves me feeling a little stranded at times when I want to run errands or meet friends. Then he called to say the car was unwell, and he was taking it in. The friendly guys at our Ford dealership estimates $4300 to install a new engine. But it might not need a whole new engine, it might just be a cylinder. For $500 (labor only), they can check and see, but then, if the news is bad and it is the engine, it will still cost be $4300 on top of that. I’m not sure what happens if the news is good, but I think our relationship with this particular car has soured in any case–we’re feeling done with American cars for awhile. I dream of a cute Honda Accord, maybe a little Toyota Tercel from the 90’s. Everyone says they just won’t die.

I went to Sarasota last weekend to visit my parents before they head up north, which was very pleasant. I rented a car to drive up, though, and the arrangements were a little more complicated than I had anticipated. Dollar Rent-a-Car is by far the cheapest deal in town, but when it comes to service, you get what you pay for:

May 19, 2006

Dear Dollar Man,

I recently reserved a standard size car (Dodge Stratus or similar) from your fine institution. Because I was running a little behind my 9pm pick-up time, I called the number that was listed on my reservation form as being the contact number for the airport location where I was picking up to let them know. When I called I was told not to worry, that I had a two-hour grace period. I arrived shortly after that, less than an hour after my pick-up time, before 10 pm. However when I arrived, I was told that because I was late the only car available was a minivan!

“Will a minivan be alright tonight ma’am?”
I thought, Um, no, I really have no desire to drive 300 miles in a monstrous car that seats nine and gets like six miles to the gallon. “Do you have anything else?”
“Well I’m giving away someone else’s car…”
Apparently that wasn’t a problem with mine.
“But we do have a Pacifica.”
I looked at the picture of the Pacifica. It’s a mini-van, only with the front-end shaped like an SUV. “I don’t understand, I just called you, and you told me you had a car.”
“That was the other location.”
Of course, because why would my confirmation list the number of the location where my car was? “Well maybe I could go to the other location,” I ventured.
“They’re closed.”
“What time do they close?”
Is it even worth it to ask why they picked up the phone at 9:15? “Can I take this and trade it in for a sedan on my way out of town tomorrow?”
“Sure, I’ll make a note here.”

I went out to the lot with my key ring indicating that my vehicle was in spot number 32, but when I arrived, I found a different vehicle occupied the spot. I eventually found mine across the lot in spot number 20. Nice. I got in and turned the key. Someone had left the radio turned up full volume. Extra-nice.

This morning, I thought it would be wisest to confirm that there was a car ready to trade with mine before driving to the location, so once again I called. That was twenty minutes ago. I am still on hold. I have written this entire letter with one hand, while holding the other the receiver to my ear with the other.
All the while I’ve been listening to your recorded advertisements. What’s the tagline? “If only all service could be this convenient and prompt.”
Yeah. If only.

Your customer,


2 thoughts on “Car Talk

  1. Hey Barry,Margaret Ellis here, back in cold old Alice. Nice to hear from you and I had been wondering how you were going, also curious about blogs and bloggers. I am off to bed now after working at Batchelor after a day at Arid to both of you will log on again someother time and read Margaret

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