I'm holed up now in Columbus, Georgia, in the cozy anonymity of the latest carbon-copy hotel room, replete with all of the amenities I've come to expect (at least in American hotels) - readily available coffee. Lamps with extra outlets in the base. Cable TV. Fitness center. Free wireless.
I appreciate standards, but it's kind of creepily mind-boggling that this room could be any room, anywhere. It's not even immediately discernible which brand of hotel I'm in...
Once, a couple of years ago, I forgot where I was. I woke up in the middle of the night, knew that I was in a hotel, but had utterly no idea of my specific whereabouts. I'd been out on a trip for something like three weeks. I remember looking out of my window and seeing an innocuous, alien landscape stippled by too-familiar neon lights. In a perverse way, it was almost like, "Oh, there's Wendy's. I guess everything's okay."
Thank God for the little binders they put in hotel rooms. They're full of really pertinent information sometimes, like where you are exactly. And room service menus.
My drive to Columbus last night was remarkably uneventful, except for sort of getting lost at the end because my google map directions were a little vague after a certain point. Plus, when I got here (around 1:30 a.m.) the airport was closed
. I mean, how weird is that? I didn't even know that they closed airports. How are you supposed to drop off your rental car if you can't get in there where the little box is? Clearly my needs had not been considered...
I was already well into the realm of disgruntlement with the car rental company, Avis, yesterday before I even got into my car (a Chevy Malibu, in case you're wondering). The guy that was working at the counter at the Charleston airport was a. complete. fucking. prick. I made the mistake of getting into the "Preferred" line, half-believing that I might actually be a "Preferred" member because I've rented from them a bunch of times, etc. and when you travel like I do, sometimes it's hard to keep track of all your little points and cards and things. Either way, I was not helped ahead of anyone - the next person queuing up in the "Non-preferred" lane had arrived after me.
I had not derived any special benefit from choosing this line over the other, yet the counter guy, whose name was Ernest (I took special notice of this while I was fantasizing about reporting him to his manager) thought it not only absolutely crucial to the continuing rotation of the earth and existence as we know it not only to point out that I am not, in fact, "Preferred," but that I had "jumped the line" (ignoring my protests that I'd actually not been helped ahead of anyone, because Ernest is slow as fucking molasses). When I apologized and pointedly said, "The next time I consider renting from Avis, I'll know which line to choose," I hoped the matter was over, but Ernest was not yet satisifed. "I'd like to point out that we do have a sign," he began and when I nodded and apologized again, he said something to the effect of, "but I'd really like you to take notice of it," still standing there pointing. Before he would process my reservation, it was necessary for me to actually physically turn around
and look at the fucking "Avis Preferred" sign.
At this point, waves of adrenaline were starting to wash over me and I struggled to contain my anger. I was proud of myself that for the most part my demeanor remained professional and I gave myself away only when my face started turning red as it does when I'm truly pissed. My dear new friend Ernest mistook my rage-induced flush with blushing, thought I was embarrassed, and found the need to have another little personalized chat with me beginning with "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, but.." and with a special little flourish, produced an application to become a goddamn "Preferred" member.
In retrospect, this is the second time some asshole behind a rental car counter has forced me to enter into the dark place. I believe that the last time (in Fayetteville, NC) I was renting from Avis as well. This particular time, I'd just flown in a group of troops from overseas and was leaving directly to make the three-hour drive home. Some of my passengers, coincidentally, were also at the counter trying to get a car. The Avis folks got my name, etc. and processed the papers while I chatted with my former passengers. Then as we waited, another Avis employee walked out holding a set of keys, and I (thinking that since I had a reservation, and the military boys didn't, or something) said, "Oh, are those for me?" and the guy snapped
at me, "No, you can wait. These are for the soldiers who just flew in from overseas!" I was too stunned to say, "I know! I brought
Avis needs to stop hiring embittered old men. And I need to go return the Malibu.
Labels: bad customer service