In my last blog, Driving One’s Emotions, Part 1, I began my travel stories of all things road-related. But the topic was just so large, I needed to split it out. While I am still beside myself with emoji, welcome to Part 2…rental cars.
Hit the Road Jack!
I need to take a moment here to thank my brother-in-law (BIL)…who just happens to be named Jack…for volunteering to serve as chauffeur of the rental car on, not one, but two separate trips to Europe. It takes someone of strong character to brave the highways and byways of Italy and Spain. Jack is a strong character! It also takes knowledge of where one is going, foresight to anticipate hazards, and the ability to make wise and quick decisions. Hmmm…well…I guess that is what the navigator is for!
We had decided to rent a car for the 4 days we would be exploring all things Tuscan. In this trip, we had three siblings (me, my sister, my brother) and our spouses. After arriving by train [My Train of Thoughts, My Thoughts of Trains], sis and Jack dutifully headed out to secure the rental car…to the chagrin of my brother who was fighting with a Bancomat across the street.
You see, my brother had acquired an international driver’s license so that he could help with the driving, but because he did not see the others departing, he was omitted from the rental agreement, leaving him only with the important diplomatic duties of the navigator. The navigator requires knowledge of where one is going, foresight to anticipate hazards, and the ability to make wise and quick decisions. Hmmm…well…I guess that is what backseat drivers are for.
Sis and Jack arrived in a 6-passenger van…with a stick shift…without a map. “Avete la mappa, Jack?” Sightseeing was the activity of the day as multiple missed turns, U-turns, and circle turns ensued, affording the non-drivers-non-navigators a lot of time to admire that medieval wall…oh, there is that wall again…and again…and again. A series of jerks, bucks, stalls, and missed shifts brought jolts of excitement to the passengers as my brave BIL re-accustomed himself to the manual transmission. YIKES!
Now all this time, the driver and the navigator didn’t have a map and were relying on roadsigns. You know, those unfamiliar roadsigns that no one bothered to Google before the trip?
“So, what do you think that round red sign with the white bar represents?”
“Does that red circle with the 60 inside mean the highway number or the speed limit?”
“Ok, now we have a sign with two cars pictures, one red, one black…what the hell does that mean?”
The one sign that was figured out rather quickly was the one denoting the dreaded roundabout…the circle of hell…the vortex of no escape!
One thing was certain. We needed something to show us the route…something that hinted as to the direction we should take…I know…A MAP!! I was very pleased to discover that the map app on my smartphone was functioning.
Soon driver, navigator, and smartphone were in sync and we headed off to our hotel in Petroio, a very small medieval burrough with narrow streets…VERY NARROW STREETS! At one point, when the walls were literally closing in on us, my BIL quietly stopped. Both driver and navigator looked at each other, then silently rolled down the windows, folded the mirrors inward to hug the vehicle, and inched forward…ever so slowly…to our destination. Whew!
The next couple of days were filled with adventure and high spirits as our merry group of six traversed the Tuscan hills. Jack was reprimanded by our hotel manager/travel guide/savior-of-lost-travelers, who, when he located us and showed us the way back to the hotel, told Jack he drove way too fast.
As it was a holiday when the car needed to be returned, we were prevented from dropping it off where we had picked it up. Instead we had to drive into the metropolis of Florence – designated as Firenza on all the highway signs – something Jack did not realize for some time.
My BIL, god-love-him, has developed the ability to melt off a person’s face with his death stare. And if you are the designated navigator, he has just a few cardinal rules: 1) pay attention; 2) do not engage in sightseeing, and 3) do not joke (think making off-hand comments in the airport security line – NOT A GOOD IDEA!).
So it did not help the driver/navigator team to be aided by the ever present friendly voice on the smartphone map app…that, we found out way too late, had no friggin’ idea how to get to the rental car return in Florence, Italy. It also did not help that the navigator had a dry sense of humor.
What did help…a bit…was calling the rental car location and seeking directions. “Dove…?” What we got from that call was to head into the center of Florence. A couple of round-abouts later, we were back on the highway.
What did help..a lot…was insistence from the female passengers for Jack to pull over at the nearest gas station, where my sister and I jumped out, got directions through clumsy Italian phrases given and broken English phrases returned. I took on the role as navigator and five minutes later, we had arrived. This one calls for a thumbs up, Jack!
Months after we returned to our respected states, Jack finally realized what the red circle with the white bar in the middle of that road sign meant …Do Not Enter. He realized it when he opened up his mail and found a traffic ticket from Sienna, Italy for unlawfully entering a street. Color him embarrassed.
So here we are in 2015…Costa del Sol, Spain…Jack once again behind the wheel of a rental car. With full confidence he starts the car…wait…how does one actually start this car? After a 10 minutes delay due to equipment confusion, and with help from the peanut gallery in the back seat and a check of the owner’s manual, we began another highway adventure. This time we had paper maps, directions from the resort, the less-than-trusty map app, and me taking on the role of navigator.
The first time we took the route, we had no issues. The second time, I broke two of Jack’s cardinal rules. I was doing a wee bit of sightseeing while we drove, and therefore was not paying attention to the roadsigns. Jack said “Wasn’t that the turn we were supposed to take? OOPS! So we all got to enjoy sightseeing in a whole new area as our driver unhappily maneuvered through multiple circle turns in unfamiliar locations.
As I had already broken two rules, why not go for three? “Oh, look Jack there is a multi-lane roundabout ahead, we know how much you love those! Ha Ha!”
“WHY ARE YOU STARING AT ME THAT WAY?”
You’re up! What rental car stories do you have?
See other posts in this series: