Thursday, July 01, 2010

Extra Width

The day had arrived. The day that would be mixed with unbelievable giddiness and unfathomable oldness. The giddiness was heading out to Palm Springs for my birthday. The oldness would be traveling there driving a minivan. When you get old, you drive a minivan. Fortunately it was only a rental.

My oldest friend in the world (not old meaning age, but old meaning how long we've known each other - since we were 10), Rob, had arrived from New York a few days earlier. Now it was time to pick up a car that could fit the two kids, Lily, Rob, myself, plus the luggage. That's where the minivan comes in.

We had decided just the night before to rent a minivan. Lily wanted to skip the added expense of a rental car, but all of us couldn't fit in our Passat wagon with the child safety seats. So we made a plan to drive both the Passat and my Golf to the desert. It sounded like it could work. But there was also the possibility that one or both cars could break down in the desert, in weather forecast to be above 100 degrees. So I made a car rental reservation online, and we were all set.

At around 10 am, Rob, Judah and I drove the Golf to the car rental site to pick up our minivan. We didn't see any minivans in the lot. Only a few cargo vans. We went inside and I started the rental process with Brandé, handing over my driver's license and credit card. I started having visions of jumping into the swimming pool in Palm Springs. Brandé told me they didn't have any minivans.

This is the part of the story where, if I were Bruce Banner I'd be turning into The Hulk and smashing the crap out of the car rental place. Instead, I opted for questioning why they didn't call me, why they couldn't find a minivan by late morning, etc. Brandé asked if I could wait a few hours until they found one, and I told her to cancel the reservation.

She handed me back my cards, and then asked if I wanted the Escalade instead. Rob and I turned to look out the window and saw a huge black Cadillac Escalade being washed in the carport. "It's being washed now, but it'll be ready in a few minutes" Brandé told us. Rob and I chuckled. "Big Pimpin" said Rob. "It's the perfect birthday mobile, so what the hell, we'll take it" I said to Brandé.

Moments later we were standing around the Escalade going over every inch of the monstrosity looking for scratches and dings. Brandé changed from facilitator to hardened businesswoman in an instant. We knew that she wasn't going to let any scratches through when we got back, so we had to find as many as we could. If there were a magnifying glass there to scan the car, we'd use it. The scratches we did find turned out to be just smudges that would wipe off easily. And soon I was signing the papers to be responsible for the Escalade and driving off the lot.

As I turned onto my street, I noticed stares from the neighbors and got a few jabs about the ridiculous factor. We loaded up the rig and got onto the freeway. It was fun figuring out all the bells and whistles: the navigation system, the USB hookup for music, and the seats with air conditioning inside. It was a comfy ride, albeit a tad unwieldy.

When we arrived at the Viceroy Hotel in Palm Springs, handing keys over to a valet seemed a lot more dicey than usual. The act made me regret not paying for the loss/damage protection at the rental place. But each time we needed the car, the Escalade came back unblemished. I made sure to tip the valet well.

And after the birthday shenanigans were over and we arrived home safely from Palm Springs, we drove the Escalade and the Golf back to the car rental place. As I attempted to make the corner to enter the lot, another renter was driving out. The driver saw me and my huge car and drove very slowly and very closely to make it around the Escalade. "This is where the car gets dinged, right outside the rental joint" I thought. But the other car made it around. I carefully steered around the other cars and found a clearing for the behemoth. I put it in park and breathed a sigh of relief.

Brandé helped us again, and she thoroughly scanned the car for any new damage, but there was none. She asked if the trip was fun. She handed over the completed rental agreement and told me "Happy Birthday".

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