A not-so-little scrape with our European rental car

OK, now that I’m back from the Azores, it can be told:

Instead of enjoying myself, this is how I spent part of my precious last day there. At a Mazda body shop.

You shouldn’t know from it. I never thought I would, either. This was a first for me. At least internationally.

I guess I was due for some, as my dad would say, racing stripes. Because I did the same thing as a kid to one of his vehicles many, many miles ago; backing it out of our garage.

Though I have an eye for detail, I was shortchanged in the depth-perception department. I was Born That Way. That’s why I stink at parallel parking. I’d rather park blocks away — and always do.

If  only we had known … our hotel in the Azores was very nice. (See balcony view.) We were fine as long as we parked in front.

The locals were such pros, they knew how to parallel park on the sidewalks, which were barely wide enough for pedestrian traffic. We didn’t feel like messing with that.

One night there was no space out front, so we didn’t hesitate to use the underground garage, included in the price. No big deal. Or so we thought driving down the ramp to the entrance.

But me trying to coax it up the same ramp the next day turned out to be a nightmare.

For starters, I had a couple things working against me. The cute little Mazda rental was a stick shift. I’d driven another cute little Mazda — a Miata — for years before I switched to an automatic.

I confess I’ve never been world’s best when it comes to stick shifts, but always thought they were cooler than automatics. And usually less expensive.

Let’s just say I’m no Danica Patrick. My Nanny Annie put it best many moons ago when I was hauling her around in my Toyota Corolla stick: “Laura,” she sighed, “If I had had milk for dinner, it would be butter by now.” Nanny always told it like it was.

Yes, I happened to be the one behind the wheel on that fateful day last week in the Azores. Most of the rentals were sticks. There were a few automatics, but they were big bucks by comparison. I thought I’d be fine.

Anyway, I was trying to get up this ramp, still getting used to the stick. Then there was my big depth-perception deficit, for which I always overcompensate.

That simply wasn’t possible here, because — did I mention the ramp was really narrow?

Right down to the paint primer.

I was taking it so slow, we were crawling. No matter. Next thing I knew, the passenger  side was scraping the right side of the ramp. Poor Mitch jumped out of the car (who could blame him); and had to direct me, inch by inch, out of the jam.

Lest you think I’m a total maroon, I give you Exhibit A. Those black marks on the ramp are souvenirs of others who had the same problem. (My mishap happened elsewhere on the ramp.)

Needless to say, we were not looking forward to facing the music at the rental car office in town. We were thrilled when the guy there delayed our show-and-tell meeting until after lunch.

We got there early and ended up eating lunch with all of the personnel in a block that sort of looked like the good old South Philly Auto Mall.

With slightly different decor.

Drowning our sorrows in more traditional grub …

And trying to act chipper with the locals.

But — get this: After we trudged to the rental car place to settle up, the rental car guy confessed he’d done the same thing on that ramp, and always cautioned people not to use the hotel garage.

Now they tell me. The guy at the airport office where we picked it up didn’t. Neither did the hotel folks.

The cost was less than I thought it would be. It wasn’t cheap; but also wasn’t enough to justify reporting to insurance.

Mitch paid the tab. Good-naturedly, I might add, considering the circumstances. For that reason, it was the most generous Hanukkah present I’ve ever received.

Par for the course, dad would say. Par for the course. Since he’s no longer with us, my sista said it for him when I blurted out on the phone what I’d done.

She’s the only other person alive who ever knew about my special talent with racing stripes.

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One Response to A not-so-little scrape with our European rental car

  1. aunt betty says:

    your all alive that is all that counts!!!!
    love
    aunt betty

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