I’m trying to work out the whole extended travel thing. I have a monthly budget, but renting a car every week from my good friends at National Rent-a-Car leaves me eating Ramen in my corporate apartment in front of my 1980’s television, a bleak prospect indeed. I figured out that a mini-lease from Avis saves me some money, giving me more room in my budget for essentials like beer and sushi.
After waiting on Dulles’ absurdly slow baggage claim system (are they checking for any valuables they may have missed at O’Hare?), I hopped abourd a sleek Avis shuttle bus. 30 Avis “preffered” members hopped aboard with me. Hillarity ensued while they all shouted their names at the driver, who then looked up their names in the little bus computer. You can imagine with names ranging from “Holtz” to “Yakagori” that there were a few mistakes made by the operator, while the 3 of us who were not a part of this really entertaining game sat quietly and just wished the bus would roll us to the reservation counter.
When we got to the lot, there was more madness as the operator yelled names followed by slot numbers where people could pick up their cars. Some people weren’t called, and frantic key punching was then performed by the driver to look up these slackers who for some reason decided not to scream their names from the back of a 40 foot bus as it careened down the highway.
As I was finally let off in front of the Avis office, I realized that other people on the bus with me had apparently bailed out on the first stop and dragged their bags in, since they were already at the counter getting their reservations. I finally got to the counter thinking that maybe now the madness was ended. But no. The pained look on the clerk’s face when I told him I had a mini-lease informed me that I was in store for some mind-numbing beaurocratic silliness.
The first step was trying to find an economy-class car for me. The people working the lot were either staggeringly past normal retirment age (and therefore somewhat slow) or of questionable intelligence. A query over the radio for a low mileage economy car met with nothing but static for at least 15 minutes. The clerk figured out some other way to pick a car for me, and we proceeded. The next step entailed filling out 7 seperate rental agreements, 1 for each month I needed the car. There is apparently no other way to rent a car (at least not at that location) for more than a month. I waited while they all printed. I signed them all. I waited while he prepared other paperwork and tucked it away, unseen by me. I signed other things. I waited while sheets were seperated and folded and tucked away. Finally, I was given the standard rental car folder, jammed with little agreement sheets, and walked out to climb into my crappy Malibu and get on with my life.
What a ridiculous system. Going through post 9-11 security is more efficient and less stressful than getting a car from these people.