Tag Archives: rental cars

Some of What I Did In Order to Eat Turkey

1 Dec

After a 6 hour flight to San Diego, we could have taken a $10 cab ride to our hotel, but I had a rental car to pick up. I found San Diego’s airport to be small and clusterf*cky. After retrieving our luggage, we walked over to the area where the shuttle buses took us to Thrifty’s location nearby. The bus took a circuitous route, first to Terminal 2, and then through wads of rain-soaked traffic to Thrifty’s confusing, difficult-to-reach lot off-site.

Upon arrival, there were about 6 groups of people waiting outside to retrieve cars. I walked in and was third in line. It was 8:30 PM PST, and there were three people behind the counter.

Then two.

Then one.

Then none.

They would rotate in and out without rhyme or reason. The one person who seemed to hang out behind the counter the longest was dealing with a very noisily surly family that had reserved a compact car but needed at least a minivan or SUV for them and all their shit. They insisted that they had called and spoken with the “owner” to change their reservation the day before, but no evidence of such call or change was forthcoming from either side of the ridiculously lengthy standoff.

The other employees took excruciatingly long to complete people’s check-in, and once all the insurances had been offered and rejected, after all the Garmins and fuel options had been explained, offered, and rejected, the clerk would disappear out to the lot for tens of minutes. There was at least one 10 minute span of time during which no customers were being attended-to by clerks behind the counter.

I tend not to be too vocal about my exasperation with untenably long customer service failures, but I was starting to mutter colorful curses in Croatian, so as not to offend people with a full-on “mother f*cker” or “how the f*ck complicated is it to rent someone a f*cking car” in public.

Meanwhile, my wife and kids (for whom it was significantly past bedtime) were waiting outside in the fresh air/rain, where periodically 737s and DC-9s would roar mere tens of feet overhead on their final approach to the runway, the end of which was located 1/2 block away.

Finally, the surly family that couldn’t fit their bedouin-camp’s worth of belongings and people into a Hyundai Sonata went outside to deliberate their next move, so my turn came around. I had booked the “wild car“, which guarantees a mid-size or better car for a compact price.

I was given a wheezy, smelly Ford Fusion with 30,000 miles on it, still dirty from sand and discarded Cheerios. It was dark and rainy out, and the lot was poorly lit, so I didn’t inspect it for damage before leaving. I loaded everyone and everything into its stained beige velour confines, and as I was leaving, I had to show my paperwork to some kid by the exit. I did so, and he asked for some form that I hadn’t seen. It was the “I inspected the car” form. I took it, scrawled “D/N INSPECT” on it, handed it back to him, and went on my merry way.

My last two car rental / travel experiences had been in the comparatively super-organized Fort Lauderdale airport, where Thrifty’s cars & counter are in an adjacent parking structure, convenient as can be. Also by comparison, Buffalo’s airport has state-of-the-art rental car facilities versus that of San Diego.

Despite its predilection to over-revving when accelerating to highway speeds, and its odor of smoke and feet, the Fusion got decent mileage, had a big trunk, and performed reasonably well. It enabled us to spend some time on the beach at Coronado, and checking out the views in La Jolla, Point Loma, and Sunset Cliffs.

San Diego itself has transormed itself from a sleepy border town into a world-class city, complete with thriving downtown entertainment districts, high-rise condos, a massive waterfront convention center, great shopping, a downtown ballfield, and an accessible waterfront with actual stuff to do. Hell, they even have a modern commuter rail system.

I will say, however, that 70 degrees and sunny year-round can get boring. There’s nothing like 30 degrees, cloudy, snowy, & windy to make you truly appreciate it when we do get 70 and sunny. Also, while we do have the aforementioned cold, snow, and wind, we do not have persistent drought, frequent massive fires, or earthquakes. And last I checked, there was no massive drug war going on in Niagara Falls or Fort Erie, Ontario.