Monday, March 8, 2010

Hertz Please

When offered an option, I much prefer driving a rental car. Having nothing to do with novelty, the lure, quite simply, the complete unfamiliarity, and the assumption that I have no idea what I am doing, a consideration not given to me when driving my husband in the car we have owned for five years.

"Allyson, turn on the back wiper, you can't possibly see anything behind you".

Pulling on something to my left, the bright headlights go on, which I don't notice as I am furiously looking in the rear view to see if I have found the right switch to activate the rear wiper.

"You have turned on the bright lights, which you need to now turn off as you are blinding those driving towards us".

Knowingly I look away from the rain soaked road and directly at my passenger seat husband, "I know that dear but I thought it best to be able to see in front of me. And now that I can see that yes, there is a road there, I think it's safe to turn these off". Reaching to the left I turn off not only the brights but the headlights as well, leaving us in complete darkness. In a hasty attempt to bring back the light I turn up the volume on the radio as Jack stretches over to me to turn on the head lights. In a confident show of driver control I let fly with wiper fluid.

The simple idea that I might know why the car is beeping is removed in a rental car. Not one to read the manual we get in and go, after the the requisite two hour installation of the car seats. We are now on our third set of seats, each one promising to be more user friendly than the last. One might think that having now done this for five years we would be accomplished, experts perhaps, but sadly no, it's possible we have regressed. Jack pulls and pushes, I climb about in every kind of unflattering position, wedging myself in between the seats, feet in the air, while the girls play in the open back area, hungry, tired and often cranky. In a convoluted car version of Twister, he hands me a strap which I attach to the nearest thing that looks to be a receiver, Mary's seat now firmly held in place to the front seat shoulder strap. We begin again. When they appear to be firmly in place I begin the test drive, shaking each seat violently, assuring myself that the car could roll over twice and bounce to the moon and the seats would not move.

Now strapped in we begin, and when navigation is an issue, I drive because my husband has decided that it is far more painful to watch me make sense of a map, choosing instead to suffer through my my driving, to which I defend myself, "but Jack! I once drove in Paris". He turns, "and I thank God each and every day that I was not with you". Bravely I pass over the Do Not Back Up sharp things and turn left, no right. This car beeps and we turn up the radio and sing; at home this behavior is considered foolish and is strongly discouraged. Beeps and bells are to be immediately investigated and discussed in detail with the car repair man. However, when flying along on unfamiliar roadways in New Hampshire, it is perfectly acceptable to completely ignore the car's attempt at attention getting and enjoy the scenery. One rain drop, then two, and we both search for the wiper switch, turning on seat warmers, headlights, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wings and the cruise control before landing the right lever to whisk away the bothersome rain on our once clean windshield.

This camaraderie does not exist in our own car where the driver is expected to know the specific purpose of each and every knob, stick and button available. Save the stereo, where the driver is only allowed limited control.

The rain slows to a stop just as I turn onto our street and with a boldness usually reserved for guacamole making, I reach to turn off the windshield wipers. Swish, swish, the back wiper jumps to attention, whisking away any remaining drops on the rear window. Found it!


Candace said...

Oh, gosh...installing those car seats--I am so grateful my kids are now firmly in backless booster seat land! I just let (the manual-scrutinizing) Laura drive...and I don't even have to ponder over the whole gender roles thing when I defer to her that way...a wee benefit to the Life Changes I've experienced.

Rob Marvin MD said...

Ally, I must also admit to a strange sense of enjoyment when hopping into strange rental cars - you pegged it. I, too, have been forced to pull over after a few minutes of fumbling around for the windshield wipers or a favorite Serius radio channel -- I am always in too big a hurry to get going to learn the basics; I am internally DRIVEN to get going! In the end, I am always left wondering WHY the car makers seem to go to extremes when intentionally relocating these controls -- "See, we DO make a different car!"

Margaret said...

Do Not Back up Sharp Things, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Wings, boldness reserved for guacamole making. . . I laughed out loud! Thanks for a fun read.

northsidefour said...

Candace, as gender neutral as I really consider us to be, it's all lost in the car, and my inability to keep track of my keys only adds to the stereotype. Your Laura resolved more than a few car issues of mine many years ago, thankfully.

northsidefour said...

Rob, this is my fifth Jeep, you'd think they could remain somewhat consistent, but they do not. Or maybe they do, it's possible I just didn't bother to find anything in the last car. And eek, fifth Jeep makes me sound really old.

Margaret, thank you!

OJS said...

You are the reason taxis were invented.

northsidefour said...

Took two today, thank you. Cars in the shop, lots of beeping.


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