When an airplane is overbooked and you’re without a seat, the airline makes it worth your while.
But what happens when a rental-car company overbooks cars at the Raleigh, N.C., airport? You stand fuming for about an hour in a parking lot with no shade, with the temperature about 90 and the humidity somewhere around a million. And all on one hour of sleep after taking a red eye for my journey to this week’s U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C.
When I complained about the humidity to the guy in front of me, he responded that it was just as humid in Minneapolis. So, by some mathematical property I learned in the first grade, I can deduce that I would hate being stuck without a car just as much in the Twin Cities. We just stood there, having to wait until someone brought back a car for one to become available. That was happening at the rate of about once per 15 minutes, which I calculated would leave me standing there for about 12 hours if I didn’t have heatstroke first.
It could have been worse. A caddy for one of the U.S. Open players was in a panic. He had to be at the course soon, and he needed to know when he could get a car. They couldn’t give him an answer. I don’t know what happened, because I got my car after an hour of waiting. He might still be there, five hours later. I didn’t think it was my turn, but they called my name and I wasn’t going to question it.
After quickly leaving that unpleasant scene, I pulled over at a fast-food restaurant that looked it came right out of a Jetson’s episode to get my bearings. As I turned off the ignition, a deer passed about 10 feet from my car, strolled through the parking lot, across the road and into the woods. “I am not at Sea-Tac, Toto.”
The one-hour drive included a stretch of toll road. A new toll was assessed about every two miles, and the amounts were odd to say the least. $1.24, 1.36, 1.17 and so on. So why $1.17 and not $1.16 or 1.18? Just wondering.
I am staying in Spring Lake, N.C., about a block from the gate to Fort Bragg, the huge U.S. Army installation, and about 40 miles from Pinehurst. I needed a map (no, I don’t use GPS; no, I don’t have a smartphone; go ahead and laugh), so I was told to go to Walmart. It didn’t have one, but I was told the gas station down the street did. Actually, it didn’t either, but I was assured that Walgreens did. But once at Walgreens, I was told it didn’t have one and I would have to go to Walmart. I had thought there was no way I could experience anything as frustrating as what I had experienced at the rental-car lot. I was wrong.
But as I was walking out of the store, I spotted maps. The store clerk had no idea they were there. I felt like screaming. I am going to sleep while I still have an ounce of sanity. Tomorrow I head to Pinehurst. After today, anything that happens will seem like a breeze.