Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tangerine Scream

Recently I traveled to California to visit relatives, courtesy of a Southwest Airlines 35% off deal that included a similar price break on a Budget rental car. When I arrived at the Budget counter to retrieve my car, I had a brief, polite exchange with the sales associate.

     He asked if I wanted to use the credit card on file. I said, "Yes."
     He noted that I had selected an economy car and asked if I'd like to upgrade for just a few dollars more. I said, "No, thank you."
     He recommended that I purchase a GPS unit for the car, but I declined and asked for a map with directions for the rental car return. (It took him a good 3 or 4 minutes to locate the item.)
     He then suggested that I purchase the optional insurance coverage to protect myself from damage claims. I said, "No, thanks. I'm insured."
     Finally, he politely offered me the convenience of having Budget fill the tank with gas upon my return, for a small surcharge. I said, "No. I'll buy my own gas, thank you."

With that, he hurriedly directed me through a set of "screens" on which I was to press "I Agree" at the bottom of each one, and then sign my name in order to complete my rental agreement. He handed me the paperwork with a quick "here you go." As I walked away from the counter, I realized I did not have the keys, and had no idea where the car was located. I turned back to ask. He answered, "Keys are in the car, and the car is in the space marked on the folder." Ah, okay. C-57.

Exiting the building, I saw rows and rows of A spaces and B spaces, and 4 lines of just-returned rental cars, but no C spaces. I asked one of the lot attendants where "C" cars were located. "Around the back," she said, "just follow the sidewalk." My car in space C-57 was in one of the last spaces in the last row behind the building. It was a Ford of some kind, in the ugliest color I have ever seen. Real California lemons--the kind that grow on trees--are beautiful. This yellow-orange car was not. Was it mustard yellow? School-bus orange? Or maybe yield-sign gold? I drove my bright yellow-orange (orange-yellow?) car all around Southern California. One of my father's neighbors commented, "That is some bright car you've got!" During my 5-day stay, I saw thousands of cars on dozens of freeways and roadways, but never saw a single other car the color of mine.

Arriving back at the Budget lot two hours before my flight, the attendant grinned at me as I rolled down the window. He used his scanner to check-in the vehicle, and then leaned in the window and said to me: "Besides the COLOR of the car, how did you like your vehicle?"

Oh, how we laughed. I regaled him with my ticket-counter story, concluding that I was absolutely certain that  the sales associate had deliberately down-graded my car with every "no" I supplied until he determined that the "Tangerine Scream Metallic Tri-Coat" (see Ford's web site) was what I deserved! The attendant would not comment, but his smile confirmed my suspicions.

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