traveling back from the west coast on friday turned into a comedy of errors and showed me how lacking my patience skills can be.
it started out normally, noon on the west coast, a flight to newark ATC delayed by 2 hours. I’m familiar enough with newark to know that ATC delays affect planes serially, and the subsequent flight to Portland is often delayed (as I figure, small planes have lower priority, and the traffic controllers leave them to fly last.) however, upon arriving at newark around 10pm, found that the plane to Portland had taken off late, but an hour prior.
at that point I was frustrated with airports and just wanted to drive home. I was glad to give up standing in line searching for a refund or voucher and just get the bags and try to find a rental car. The first couple car agencies I called couldn’t help, either wouldn’t rent a vehicle with one way travel, or didn’t have a portland location. Finally, waiting in line at Budget, I was a able to make a reservation on the phone. It was getting near midnight, and I was concerned that if I waited too long in line without confirming they had cars and would rent to me, I’d run out of time to talk to other agencies.
[ an aside about rental car agencies: I rent cars pretty frequently now, I guess, maybe a few a month (mostly because PWM is inconvenient.) Something is WRONG with the whole car rental system. It takes them 15 minutes to complete a simple reservation like mine: I decline all insurance, I pay with a major credit card, I have one driver with a license, older than 25, always want the cheapest smallest car with no frills, etc….but I’ll frequently observe people working on the reservation with the rental agents for much longer than that. If you disrupt any of the above variables, things, it seems, get complicated fast. I can not understand how this might be to the rental agency’s benefit- in every other industry (except maybe luxury), serving the customer faster is more profitable. And it’s the same slow design at EVERY rental agency. I suspect one of the problems might be with the insurance scare tactics/ scams. I felt susceptible to it even at one of the recent rents, as the agent described what could happen if you don’t get insurance. And I’ve been instructed, very specifically by our corporate travel advisor- use the AMEX, decline all insurance options. I wonder if there is an opportunity for the car rental equivalent of an MVNO – like Virgin or Helio- a Mobile Virtual Car Rental Agency that could offer better cheaper service, no insurance scams, and nationwide coverage. ]
[I could follow this by a whole post on other insurance scams, best buy protection coverage comes to mind. as well as apple care, etc. ]
[ when I read, I prefer paranthesese to footnotes. ergo.]
[I rented a toyota corrola one of these recent rents. It was the best car I’ve driven, and if I were to acquire a practical car, that would be it.]
returning to the time-linear post:
once I get to the rental desk at budget, the agent is able to pull up my reservation. Right before I start signing the declarations of insurance waiving, we notice that it’s been booked for 24 hours from newark to Portland, Oregon. Some quick math shows that the agent on the phone ignored my enunciation of Portland, MAINE, and let me book a car with the assumption that I’d drive it 125mph for 24 hours straight in order to return on time.
On the road, getting north of NYC turns out to be a breeze at midnight, though I see miles of stopped traffic in the other direction. I don’t want to drive all night, and a GPS search for Marriott hotels turns one up right off the highway a few miles ahead. In person, it’s a La Quinta, and I will never stay in one of those again.
An aside about hotels: I have found that every single Marriott brand hotel I’ve stayed in has an equally non-creepy, clean, and pleasant environment. Some are newer than others, but I’ve never had a bad experience. No other national chain has that reputation in my mind. My favorite Marriott brand is the residence inn for their full kitchens (don’t like eating out)- but all of them, even the cheapest, are clean and safe feeling.
This La Quinta off exit 7 in Stamford, CT was disgusting. A tall building, with balconies outside of every room, it looked pleasant enough. Inside, the smell of cigarette smoke was pervasive even in the lobby. And while those balconies were real, there were no doors onto them, and the windows DID NOT OPEN. It’s very spooky to be in a dirty hotel on the eighth floor with a window that won’t even open for fresh air. No place nearby to purchase springwater, and the coke machine chose to eat my change so it cost $4 for 32 oz of dasani (which is tapwater. brought to you by coke.) The hotel was full of young people who seemed to be mid party or transient. A shower in the morning caused the in room alarm to go off (heat detection, I think.)
But you’d think driving north on a saturday morning would be no problem? I’m guessing, since it was the first sunny weekend in a long time, everyone else decided to go to Maine also. The drive was 10-20mph most of the way. I dealt with it by pulling off the highway every half hour and screaming.
this post was going to be about patience. maybe next time.