Thursday, December 24, 2009

Long Commute

Months ago, I'd splurged and bought a train ticket for the holidays. My mother and her husband live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The setting is beautiful but it's tough to get to. The Greyhound line through was canceled a few years ago and the train to nearby Staunton only runs a few days a week. And since I have to fly out of DC's National Airport at six on Sunday morning, I had to be able to get away late on Christmas. The train doesn't do that. And I couldn't drive my own car since I was flying back into Newark from my post-Christmas trip.

So I'd get to DC first and rent a car from there. I used points from one of my credit cards to book and pay for the car. I checked the Boltbus and Megabus sites... $20 one-way to Washington DC. But I'm lazy and it's slightly easier and faster to get to the train station in Newark from my apartment, so I forked over an additional $50 for the train.

The Amtrak _is_ more comfy than the bus. But the bus has wifi so it's kind of a trade-off.

I'd been packing and planning my post-Mom's excursion for months but somehow, the night before found me in a panic. I hadn't packed, hadn't graded my students, still had a ton of day-job work to do, needed to prepare my Hackintosh netbook with the right software and so on. I got to sleep at 1:30, woke up at 5, and made the train. Made the earlier train, in fact, which was the previous train running an hour late.

I was out of Union Station by noon and at National Airport a few minutes later. I was renting from Dollar.

My first surprise was the cost of rental car insurance. I have Amex premium rental car insurance, which means that normally I just pay for my car with my Amex, which then triggers a $24.95 additional fee that is primary, comprehensive rental car insurance. One fee per rental, not per day.

Well the Dollar lowest option was $29.

A day.

Bejesus. I might as well have rented the damn thing without mileage and used my Amex.

Then there were the taxes which were my responsibility. The total for my free car? $140.

AND I'd called a few days ahead to check. The agent had confirmed my reservation, said I was prepaid and only the insurance was my responsibility. And then had been cagey about the amount.

Now I knew why.

It took an hour to get the car, because for reasons I'll never understand, the desk agents must click a lot of very important buttons on the keyboard. Then the car keys were missing. Then the car wasn't in the right space. Then I found the car that matched the keys, but it didn't match the car on the contract. Then they found the RIGHT keys, but the car was in a totally different space, and finally I got in the right car. Someone had been cleaning it with something utterly toxic and it smelled like my face was being sprayed with Lysol for the next two hours, which meant I had to drive with the windows down and stop several times to get out of the car. That was some nasty shit. I thought I'd pass out... but it might have just been my lack of sleep the night before.

But in the end, I slid up the mountain roads to the Fonzie Apartment.

Now I just have to hope the weather cooperates for me to get out of here on Friday evening.


jbabcock said...

One of the "tricks" I have appreciated since I dumped my car (and insurance) in 2002 is the rental car insurance loophole.

When renting, you can tell them "my car insurance provider will have me covered, I pay a lot of that" and get out of any extra fees at all. Sure, it means you are uninsured while renting the car, but you can still GET the car. So that's the secret of driving without insurance: Rent a car. Just don't hit anything (or get hit, or scratch it up...)


Marie Javins said...

Man... DON'T DO THAT. What if someone bashes into you?

jbabcock said...

I didn't say it was GOOD idea, just that it could be done!