Sunday, March 20, 2005

From the sublime to the ridiculous again

I'm in Dallas again, as you'll have guessed from a recent post. I had to travel Saturday rather than Sunday because this is Spring Break* and there were no airplane seats to be had for love nor money on the Sunday! Normally in that situation I'd say 'bugger em' and travel on the Monday. But if I did that then basically Monday is written off. Most weeks that wouldn't matter but next weekend is Easter and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to get onto the customers site on Good Friday. Hence the Saturday travel.

The airports were pretty much what one would expect at Spring Break and the stop over at El Paso was nearly 4 hours. We really have to do something about that damn Wright Amendment! See here[^] for just one opinion on it.

So anyway, I needed to hire a car for the week I'm going to be here. For whatever reason the company I work for prefer Advantage Car Rentals. Accordingly I went to their website and booked an economy car. They promised I'd get a Kia Rio or similiar. I drive a Kia Rio by choice and it's a great car so I was looking forward to having something familiar in a (relatively) unfamiliar city.

So I fronted at their desk at Love Field. No one in attendance. Waited maybe 10 minutes with nary a sign of an Advantage employee. But I can read and extrapolate from fact A to hypothesis B; on the Thrifty Rentals desk 10 feet down (also unattended - indeed, of the 11 car rental desks there just one had a human on the non customer side of the desk) I saw a sign entreating the eager renter to grab a shuttle and attend their real office. Extrapolation led me to try the same thing with Advantage!

It worked. There at the car lot were the human beings on the other side of the counter. I have to say they do their job well. Two black women with great senses of humour. They had a choice of three colours of cars; I couldn't care less what colour rental car I drive but they made me choose; Red, White or Blue. Ok, I drive a white Kia back home so I'll go for white! Nuh uh she says, pointing at herself! Why would you prefer white? Now maybe I'm so dumb about race politics in America that I missed something subtle that an American born white would have caught but I just thought it was funny. Maybe ignorance really is bliss .

So much for the sublime - now for the ridiculous. I said earlier that I'd booked a Kia Rio or similiar. If you don't know what a Kia Rio is go have a look[^]. As you can see it's a tiny car. But as already said I love mine. Best less than US$10,000 on a brand new car I ever spent!

So what did I get from Advantage Rentals? You'll never guess in a million years, even if you're an American. I got one of these[^] for the same price, because they'd run out of Kias. This monster is about 4 times the size of my Kia - the one I have even has a DVD player for the backseat passengers (fat lot of good that'll do me!).

I hate the way it handles. Hit even a mild bump in the road and it waddles around like a fat duck! On the other hand, it does accelerate faster. But, having driven it, I now understand why the fine print at the bottom of late night TV ads for SUV's; the fine print that warns that SUV's handle differently. A good thing I drive like an old lady (to quote my wife); at least twice it felt like I was about to do a rollover with a maneuver that my Kia would have handled without even blinking!

I guess I'm always going to be driving small low-to-the-ground cars.

*for the benefit of non Americans and those who haven't lived here; Spring Break is a curious tribal custom whereby the schools stop functioning for at least a week and students of all ages take that as license to infest airports across the country. Those most prone to the effects of Spring Break travel south across the border and take advantage of relaxed alcohol laws in Mexico to get disgustingly drunk.

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