Monday, February 11, 2008

Drive It Like You Stole It

On my first experience with a rental car some ten years ago when I was still very wet behind the ears, I sat in the passenger seat as my coworker signed the paperwork. The attendant told him to have a nice day, lifted the gate and my co-worker did a burnout as he exited the parking lot. I was shocked at such an audacious move but he reassured me that the attendant was getting cheap wages and didn't care. It wasn't his car thus he was free to drive it a lot harder than he would his own car. He summed it all up with his motto on rental cars, "drive it like you stole it."

I found myself repeating this story to my still wet behind the ears coworker as we approached LaGuardia airport looking forward to the next four days spent tooling around in the new Dodge Charger we had reserved. Later at the rental agency, I went to look at maps while my coworker did the paperwork for the car. When he was finished, we walked out to our car reserved in space 2A only to find not a Dodge Charger that was parked in 3C across the aisle, but a Mercury Grand Marquis, the kind of car my grandparents would drive. My coworker had gotten duped by the agent instead of sticking up for the car we had reserved. We thought briefly about going back inside to get our reserved car but decided that it wasn't worth the hassle it probably would be, especially since all the paperwork was signed and completed. We threw our bags in the trunk huge enough to hold a family of bodies and headed out.

My coworker drove since he had brought a GPS navigation system with him and although we didn't do a burnout in the rental car parking lot, he did drive it like he stole it. Over the course of the next few days, the tachometer might have been a little bit in the red just a few times and there might have been a pile of rubber dust left at the end of some very black and long tire track marks in the hotel parking lot one evening as a result of a massive burnout. Three times during the trip, we accidentally pulled too close to a curb and scraped the underside of the curb and one time when I wasn't there, my coworker forgot about a parking lot curb and drove completely over one. Driving a rental car has got to be one of the funniest things to do and we did lots of laughing.

The rental plates were from Wisconsin though we were from New York so many people correctly assumed that we were naïve tourists when it came to driving. Once while drive about 40 through a residential district zones at 25 mph, a car came up behind us and remained almost attached to our bumper. In fact, he was so close, I doubt that he even noticed that our license plates read Wisconsin because he couldn't see them. He stayed dangerously close to our bumper for about a half-mile before we came to a stop sign and he pulled along side us. It was a business suit kind of man in his early thirties, clean cut and looked like an upstanding citizen except that he rolled down his window and yelled at us, "What the fuck you doing" before peeling off around the corner. I never laughed harder in my life. We never did figure out what the fuck we were doing other than not speeding fast enough to suit that guy.

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