Glamorous Laboratory Informatics Travel — “Great” Rental Car Experiences

Those of you who travel know there’s no glamour to it. When we speak to those who don’t travel, some seem to think it’s just such great fun trying different cars, hotels and getting frequent flyer points. This blog posting is for those of you who travel and many of you have probably had plenty of your own sad travel stories.

I traveled heavily in the first quarter of 2012. Quite often, I would end up with a Chevy Cruze as my rental car. Actually, I quite liked these cars, although not enough to trade one for my own car, old as it might now be by modern trade-in standards. Most of the time, these cars worked fine for me; however, I did have two outstanding problems so notable that they’re worth telling you about.

Sad story # 1: On a Thursday night, where the next day was my last day on-site and the day I’d return my rental car, I drove about ten miles from my hotel to eat supper. I took another consultant with me. The windshield wipers seemed to be a bit sluggish in dealing with the moderate rain we encountered, but not terrible. We parked the car and went in to eat. When we returned to the parking lot, the rain was heavy and had not just become heavy but had also turned to a mix of rain and sleet. We got in the car and started back to our hotel. It was pitch black — very dark even though we were on a main road, plus the precipitation was making visibility even lower. About halfway back to the hotel, the driver’s side wiper stopped working. We were somewhat in the middle of nowhere and not quite sure where to tell roadside assistance to get us and, on top of that, had had a previous bad experience with the rental company’s roadside assistance, making us wonder what the best course of action was. Traffic was light so we continued, but we me pulling over into occasional parking lots to manually wipe the windshield with the wiper and, with a lot of angst and fear, we made it back to the hotel but in a truly bad mental state.

Sad story # 2: On yet another rental week, I was not running late starting my day but not running as early as usual. I got into the customer’s parking lot and needed to get right into the building for a meeting that was to start within a fairly short amount of time. People who know me well think I’m never late, but I actually have been late a few times and this was almost one of those times. I went to pull the key out of the ignition of my Cruze and it wouldn’t come out. I do happen to know that if you don’t have your floor automatic shifter 100% into Park, that that can sometimes prevent the key from releasing. With this great automotive knowledge, I jiggled the shifter. Still, the key wouldn’t come out. Another related issue is that, if the steering wheel isn’t totally straight, the same thing can happen. Thus, I jiggled the steering wheel, but to no avail. I remained stuck in the parking lot. I was at a gated site but there was no way I was going to walk away from the rental car with the keys in the ignition even to prevent being late to an important meeting. I called the rental company’s roadside assistance. The told me to do the same things and I humored them by doing yet more of the same jiggling. We did this for awhile. They said they could hear me jiggling — I was jiggling that hard! Finally, they called someone else for more help, then came up with one, last thing to try: they told me to take the car out of Park and to SLAM it back as hard as possible. I did this several times with no luck, and they said they could really hear it! Then, I tried it one more time but I actually put my seat back further so I could get more leverage and weight into it. This caused lots of grunting and slamming. I did this noisily a few more times, and, finally a happy ending — the key came out. But the roadside assistance people said they weren’t even going to ask if I had been doing it hard-enough because I was so loud with my grunting and slamming. Even better, I made it on-time to my meeting. But people laugh when I tell this story and say things like, “Seriously?!” Yes, seriously…

Anyway, if you have a story to tell about the lack of glamour in your business travel, please add it as a comment. If you write directly to me, no-one else will see it.

This dispels the myth that business-oriented rental agencies take such great care of their cars that you’ll have almost no worries with them.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

3 responses on “Glamorous Laboratory Informatics Travel — “Great” Rental Car Experiences

  1. Too funny! I have had only one incident and it was recent when I filled up the car to return it to the airport and I could not get the gears to work right. I had it in 1st or second driving back to the airport as fast possible. The car was screaming loud and going slow and all I could think of was it bursting into flames as I pull into the Avis lot or at least the transmission falling off the car.

  2. The two Cruze rentals I mentioned were also from Avis. If I were to claim that every bad rental experience I’ve had has been through Avis, it’s probably just selective memory on my part, but would probably not be far from the truth, either.

  3. My worst experience was traveling home after a long week of consulting. Around midnight I rented a car in Albuquerque to get to my vacation home in Santa Fe. About an hour from anywhere, I hit a coyote as it ran across the interstate that had been built on its habitat. A few miles further, the engine stopped and I limped over to the side of the road. Luckily I was able to contact Hertz (cell phone coverage is spotty here) and they were able to locate a tow truck which delivered a replacement car to me and carted off my damaged car.

    About a month later I was presented with a bill for a replacement engine because I had not stopped immediately but continued to drive until the engine overheated!

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