My uncle died last week and will be buried today. He lived with my aunt in an assisted living facility in central Florida. Their only daughter was always a favorite cousin to my sister and me. When we learned of our uncle’s passing, my sister and I arranged to meet at the Orlando airport Saturday night, rent a car, attend the memorial service today, and spend a few days with our cousin and aunt. It seemed like a simple enough plan, right? You be the judge.
As I was boarding my non-stop flight to from Nashville to Orlando, my sister phoned to tell me her flight out of Seattle had been delayed due to mechanical problems and she’d missed her connection in Phoenix. The airline had rerouted her from Phoenix to Denver. From Denver she’d go to Charlotte and from Charlotte finally to Orlando—to arrive thirteen hours after her initial arrival time.
No problem. I’m a seasoned traveler. I arranged a hotel near the airport before my flight took off (and only had to talk a minute (maybe two) after the flight attendant told me I had to turn off my phone.) I arrived, took a shuttle to my hotel, got settled, called Hubby, checked my e-mail and sacked out until about 4 a.m. when I woke up feeling guilty I was in a comfy bed while my sister was stuck on an airplane.
The next morning I took the airport shuttle back to the terminal and decided to try to get the rental car, even though it was in my sister’s name. Of course they didn’t want to give it to me, but I’m a Gold Club member—okay now we all know it was Hertz—and I eventually talked them into letting me have it. (I’m not sure whether they relented because of my persuasive arguments or if they were just tired of dealing with me, but regardless, I got the car.) When I saw it wasn’t much bigger than go cart, I went back and asked what it would cost for me (remember I’m a Gold Club Member) to upgrade to a full-size car. They said they’d give me a 50% discount, so I handed over my American Express (which, of course they didn’t need because they had it on file). I stowed my bag in the car and went back to the terminal to meet my sister.
As we were leaving the Hertz lot, we noticed we had less than ½ tank of gas and had the attendant note it on our contract. I plugged my cousin’s address into my phone’s GPS and it told me it’d take 17 hours to walk there which turned on our tickle boxes. We’d both been to our cousin’s home before so we decided to wing it. My sister kept me amused with her travel stories, my favorite that she was so tired she’d gone to her seat number instead of her gate number at one of her layovers—I figured I’d be reminding her of that misstep for ages.
After we passed (and resisted) the Disney World exits we made a pit stop and filled the car with gas. That’s when all hell broke loose. Warning bells (seriously) told us we had brake and traction problems. The air conditioner quit working; the gas gauge was on E; the speedometer wouldn’t move, etc. We carefully drove across the street to a McDonald’s, parked in the shade (this is Florida, folks and it’s hot down here), and went inside to set up a work space.
I called Hertz’s emergency number and the phone was answered, “Are you safe?” I have to say, I liked that. I explained my situation. The attendant said the car would have to be towed and we’d need to go to the nearest Hertz rental spot and get a different car. He offered to call a cab for us and soon we were headed (in the opposite direction from our cousin’s) to Kissimmee. I’m pretty sure we didn’t go the most direct route—though the taxi driver kept assuring us he knew where he was going as he mumbled, “I think.”
In the meantime, the AAA tow-truck driver called to tell me he was at McDonald’s. I explained where the car was parked, which door I’d left unlocked, and where the key was. We picked up our new car and were once again headed down the yellow brick road. My sister, with her sleep deprivation, called our cousin to ask which exit to take. After we got off at the wrong place we determined perhaps I should get the directions first hand. I looked at the recent calls log (my sister had used my phone) and called my cousin back. When aman answered I was pretty sure it wasn’t my cousin’s husband and assumed it was either her son or someone there due to her father’s death.
“Hey, this is Kay. We’re lost again.”
“Hi, Kay. Where you want to go?”
“To your house,” I told him, not amused at his sense of humor. When he asked where I was exactly, I answered, to the best of my ability and he started with the directions … but they seemed a little … I don’t know, off, or something.
“Who is this?” I finally asked.
“Your tow truck driver.”
I don’t think I’ll tease my sister about going to the wrong gate. What do you think?
© 2010 Kay Elam