Hurtz Like Hell

Posted on March 22, 2014 under Storytelling with one comment




Those of us who live in a northern climate and travel in winter embark at our own peril.   Especially if an airline is involved.   You can almost count on interruptions, delays, missed flights and baggage gone wild.  You can expect lineups, tired passengers and agitated client service personnel.   Kind of makes you wonder why you bother with winter travel at all.

But when you have the “winter from hell” and you just have to chase down the sun somewhere, you are willing to put up with some inconveniences.

Once you reach your destination, especially if it’s Florida, you expect unparalleled service.  And if it’s Orlando, then prepare yourself to be serviced to death.  This city is no Mickey Mouse operation.

On a recent trip to Florida, my connections were so awesome, (a happy set of coincidences), that I arrived earlier than expected.  I actually got there before my bags, but the lovely folks at U.S. Airways delivered them to my resort while I slept.  The only downside of having literally no wait time between flights was that I arrived in Orlando starving.  With a full belly I am rational and pleasant.   Hungry and tired?   I don’t have the proper vocabulary.

Because I didn’t have to wait for baggage and it was still light out, I thought I would grab my rental and head to the resort, only 30 minutes away. The car rental area of the airport is massive and my car company was at the farthest end of the line.  When I got there, there was a small lineup, maybe 10 people, but even this was surprising as all the other companies seemed to be moving people through quite rapidly.  I sized up the situation.  I thought I’d better not tackle this chore on an empty stomach and risk strangling one of the agents.

When I returned later after gobbling down two re-heated slices of pizza (I could have had filet mignon and it wouldn’t have tasted any better), the line had multiplied.  Disney type lineups, if you’ve ever been there.  I had a reservation as part of a package deal so I had no other option.  I was sorely tempted to go one stall over.  A no frills company didn’t have a single customer.  The agent looked as lonely as the Maytag repair man.

There were 30 of us herded like cattle.  There were two agents.  Have you ever rented a car before?  You know that it can take 10-15 minutes to process the paperwork.  I knew I was in for a wait as I chatted with some of my stall mates.

There were two men being waited on when the ordeal kicked into high gear.  It was obvious that there was a problem.  A communication problem.  The consensus from those of us in the lineup was that they were Russian.  Someone recognized the language.  Maybe they were Crimean for all we knew.  Forty –five minutes and the lineup never moved.  Cri mea river.

The mood in the lineup was going from bad to worse.  Just how long were we there?  Well, Lifemates set up a booth and two strangers in the queue got to know each other well enough that they were engaged before they got to the head of the line.  An expectant mother delivered a baby and the youngster was able to crawl by the time her parents had keys in hand.

And then a miracle happened.  A third agent showed up.  There was slight, sarcastic applause.  The joy was short lived as one of the other agents took this as a signal to go on break.  This was Friday, March 14th.  The following day was March 15th.  Beware the Ides of March.

One hour and twenty minutes later, I was at the head of the line waiting for my chance to have a few words with the agent.  I slyly turned to my fellow “life mates” (cell mates?) and offered my spot in the line for $50.  Most failed to see the humour.

I took several very deep breaths and approached the counter.

I looked at the agent.  He looked at me.  I stifled a withering stare as I gazed at his name tag.  He didn’t even have a name.  He was a trainee.

I had plotted my strategy as I had had some time to ponder what to say.  Very firmly and slowly, I said, “I want my car and I want the keys”.  Translation: “If you try to upsell me with more insurance, fuel surcharges, or automatic passes through the toll highways, I will gouge your eyes out with my bare hands”.

He seemed to get the message.

While he processed the paperwork, I looked up on the marquee at the advertising.  One sign in particular caught my eye.  “Travelling at the speed of Hertz.”

It hurts all right.  Hurtz like hell.

It was pitch black as I eased onto the Interstate.


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