The “fun” started when I landed in Manchester, N.H., and went to the rental counter to pick up my car. The nice young woman at the counter went about her business, processing my rental and then, holding my driver’s license, said, “Sir, did you know that your license has expired?” (In the category of Things I Wanted to Say But Didn’t: No, I didn’t know it had expired or I wouldn’t have tried to rent a car, knowing that would be wrong.) Instead, I took the license back to check myself because I NEVER let anything expire nor (almost ever) pay a bill late. Indeed, it had expired four days prior, on my birthday. I live in the District of Columbia, not known for its great customer service, and I had not received a notice that it was about to expire (as I was supposed to).
Fortunately, I was travelling with someone else to the meeting and she had a (valid) license and rented the car. I then got on the phone to my wife, who is good on the computer (she’s been to the end of the Internet and back) and asked her to see if she could renew my license online. I then went back about helping my friend find her way to our destination.
A few miles out from the airport, I heard a noise similar to that thumping you hear when you get a flat tire (a rarity these days, I know, but I’d had one just a few weeks before. See June 7th post.). We pulled over so I could check the tires (the extent of my mechanical abilities) and none were flat. So, we get back on the road and, after a minute or two, the noise returns, louder. We pull over. “Sounds like a belt,” my travelling companion and now driver, said. I didn’t know engines still had belts, so figured she must be right.
We then called the rental company’s “roadside assistance” number, expecting a tow track would appear in moments and/or a new car would be brought to me (I mean, this was an enterprising rental company, if you get my drift). Instead the woman on the phone, who clearly was not in New Hampshire but somewhere else in the United States, said to me you need to drive to the our nearest store and we’ll give you a new car. So much for picking me up. “Roadside assistance” apparently nowadays means, “call us from the side of the road and we’ll answer!”
Where, I said, is the nearest outlet? Since she was not of New Hampshire, she asked our location. Not being of New Hampshire either I made some calculations and guessed my location. There’s a shop in such and such a city, she said, and I said, no, that’s too far away (as if I really knew). She said there’s one in Bedford, I said that’s closer, good. She checked and said, “But they have no cars.” So, not a great candidate to trade vehicles.
Finally, I said we’d return to the airport, which we did. A smiling young man in a bright white shirt welcomed us and said “How can I help you?” I said we just rented this car 30 minutes ago and it’s making a loud noise and I want a new car. “Yes, sir,” he said, “we’ll get you in a new one!” At that, another not-so-smiling young man in a white shirt jumped into the car we had and drove out of the garage. I kept asking where my new car was and the first young man, smiling,
said “Yes, sir, we’ll get you a new one!” Before he got me a new one, the other young man returned with our original car and said, “did you have the back windows cracked open?” I said I didn’t really know, but doubt it since we had the air conditioning on. “Well,” the second not-so-smiling young man said, “the windows were cracked open and THAT was the noise you heard. The compression of the open window hits the doohickey of the whathickey and produces that noise.” I
said, if that’s the case, then it's worst designed car I’ve ever seen and I want a new car. “We’ll get you a new one!” the first, smiling, young man said! And, finally, they did and we drove off, again.
Talked to my wife who was able to get me a temporary license over the computer and, after talking to a public servant, because the computer would not accept the license number on my license as valid, even though it was a valid license number. That government servant told her that I was, indeed, notified my license was expiring via email, which is how the efficient city government does it nowadays. (No, I did not receive such an email because had I received it, you
know what I would have done? I would have RENEWED MY LICENSE).
Needless to say, when I got to my destination, that Macallan 12 tasted extra good.