Saturday 12th of May, 2012.
“What are those things over there?” I said, as I alternated between putting my weight on each foot. “What things?”
“Them cash machine things.” I pointed to our right, beyond the manned rental desk to what looked like mini-mart ATM’s. “I dunno.” Ian replied.
As a member of the Hertz team was trying to encourage other visitors to use the terminals no one was taking up the offer and I saw an opportunity to go find out what this shiny new toy was. “Can we get our car using that machine?” I asked the attendant. “Yes sir.” “There’s no one at them, let’s go try it.” I said as I mosey’d on over to them. Thankfully Ian was following as I would have looked pretty stupid standing there with no reservation and no means to actually get anything out of it.
This next bit took the best part of 30 minutes. There’s a reason no one was using these infernal machines: They take forever. The attendant, whom you were connected to via webcam, was jovial and friendly and doing the best that she could; indeed she did take a shine to Ian, but after faffing around scanning this, confirming that, scanning some more and then with a final goodbye of “You’re European, you’re probably not used to American cars so I’ll give you a Japanese one” (If you are American, and you do ever work in the car rental industry I wish to give you a tip: We mostly drive German cars) we set off to find our vehicle. These words were the Yin to our seating allocation Yang that we received at Heathrow approximately 18 hours previously.
So by this time I was feeling mighty American. I’m not quite sure what the colloquial Californian greeting is, probably “Yo” or “Hey maaaan”, but as we entered the rental garage we nearly stopped and returned for another round with the rental machine because there, in all its glory, was BumbleBee.
We trudged passed, however, and resisted the urge to take out a Muscle Car – this was California after all, where they had legal marijuana and elected “The Terminator”. Besides, I wasn’t going to be the driver and I am definitely no Megan Fox.
Hold that thought. No, not of Megan Fox. Of driving a Chevy Camaro. All 6.2l V8, earth warming goodness of it. Imagine it. The throaty roar as you accelerate to the maximum allowable speed limit on those huge 4 and 5 lane interstates and highways before you can even get out of first gear.
Sounds epic, right?
Ha! Allow me to introduce to you, our “ride”. The glorious Nissan something-or-other. This thing came with complimentary SatNav, just in case you wanted to get lost in it, I am somehow certain, though, that if you came within a hundred miles of a scrap yard it would have the automotive equivalent of a panic attack and just shut down. And it had some wonderful quirks, as we found out over the course of the week. 4th, or may be it was 5th we never did work out how many gears it had, was slower than the gear which came before it – even downhill. It was definitely made for a European country though, and by European I mean somewhere with roundabouts because it could easily navigate the Champs-Elysées without actually having to touch the steering wheel the tracking was so bad. I think by the time I had stopped laughing Ian was about ready to invoke the ultimate punishment and make me drive, thankfully he took my threat to park outside the Marriot Marquis for the duration of SuiteWorld and tell everyone that this was the car the nice car rental lady gave us because she liked us quite seriously so he relented.
I would absolutely hate to see what she gives to people that she doesn’t like.
As I continued to chuckle we loaded our bags, plugged in the address of our apartment, sourced courtesy of AirBnB (a NetSuite customer, we like to keep it within the family) and set off North on US-101.
Saturday 12th of May, 2012.