Saturday, May 17, 2008

Car troubles

I had a day to forget yesterday. Took the car into the shop for a grease and oil change. Two and half hours later I was still there, waiting for someone to drive me home.

Seems that the mechanic, upon driving the car out of the shop, g&o change completed, thought that the tires felt 'funny'. He'd inch up a little bit, stop, frown, and then inch up some more. Another mechanic came up to look at it. The owner came out to size up the situation. I went over to see what the devil was going on.

It was the left front tire. Looked like it was shimmying when the brakes were applied.

Back up the rack she went, where three guys equipped with very bright lights looked over the undercarriage, poking and prodding here and there. Finally, the problem was located. The bushing (part of the control arm in the left front) was cracked. I was driving an unsafe vehicle -- an accident waiting to happen. Ye Gods!

I needed to get home and wash my hair, take a shower, and see what I could do about renting a car. I had two personal customers coming in at Intercontinental Airport at 5pm, and I would have to allow about an hour to get there at that time of day.

I guess I got back home a little after twelve. First thing I did was call DSL (Dreaded Son-in-Law) to get his recommendation about renting a car. Micky (shop owner) had already checked all over the city. NO dealership had that part in stock. It was going to have to be ordered (not what you want to hear going into the weekend), and it would probably be sometime Wednesday before I would get to drive my car again. Heavens!

I have scheduled customers coming in and going out Monday and Wednesday, in addition to a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning. Micky thought he probably could have the part 'overnighted' in by Monday. Then, depending on what time it arrived on Monday, I might have it in time for my mid-afternoon pickup at Hobby Airport.

Well, "probably" and "might" were really unacceptable terms, but there was nothing I could do about it except try to get a rental car -- until Tuesday afternoon, it looked like.

So, I started shopping online. DSL had recommended Enterprise, so I began there. I entered Houston, Texas and then my zip code. The answer came back that there was no match found in the US. I should try another country. (???)

I immediately called DSL and told him what had just happened. He told me that the computer was just trying to "help". I said, "Whaat!" Went back to the beast and entered my zip code only. Five locations within a 3-mile radius of my home quickly appeared on the screen. (Guess I had given it too much information the first time.)

I compared prices between the various locations. All were exactly the same.

The good news was that I could take advantage of the "weekend special" at the rental car place. The bad news was that, if I were to keep the rental until Tuesday, I would have one day at the normal rate.

OK. Armed with pricing information, I called the location nearest to me to reserve a rental car. I intended to rent a small car -- not teeny tiny, but not as large as my Buick LeSabre, either. The person at the other end of the phone said that they didn't have any in that size, how about the next size up? I'm looking at the screen as we're talking, and say, "OK, so that would be --$$ for the special + one day at the normal rate?"

He says, "No, that'll be --$$." I asked, "Where'd you get that figure? I'm looking at the rates on my screen." "Ah," sez he, "those are the rates if you reserve online." (The things you learn when you 'supposedly' know a lot already. Amazing!)

Then, just as I'm preparing to hang up to make a reservation online, he adds, "By the way, try to reserve a car in the size you want. If it's accepted, then we have to honor the reservation and give you an upgrade." (!!!) He didn't have to say that! Enterprise will probably have my business forever (not that there's much of it, you understand, but still!) due to that young man's thoughtfulness.

All right. I call Micky back one more time, trying to get a better handle on when my car might be ready. He says, "I'm working on it. Give me just a few more minutes. I'll call you right back."

Well, I was out of time. It was going on 1:30, and I needed to be at the airport by 5:00. That meant that I had to be picked up at my house no later than 3:30, so I could be at the rental place and have all the appropriate paperwork filled out and on the road no later than 4:00. Enterprise required (on their website) a two-hour notice for pickup. An executive decision had to be made.

I said "OK" to Micky, hung up and immediately made a reservation online for the smaller-sized vehicle. It was accepted. I then called the nearest location again to arrange for a pickup. All was well. I'll amend that by saying that all was as well as could be expected.

Three o'clock came around. I called Enterprise again to make sure that someone would be coming to pick me up. They said yes. I added that I would be waiting outside. They verified my phone number. All was well.

I had not heard back yet from Micky, but I was not surprised. I've known him for a number of years. When he says, "I'll call you right back," what he really means is that he'll call you back just as soon as he CAN, which might be tomorrow!

Meanwhile, I knew for certain that he was working on my behalf. He didn't need any reminder calls from me. Contrary to Will, I want to know EVERYthing that's going on with my vehicle. I'm positive that this relates directly to my many years of being a taxicab driver, when I would put (on average) 1,000 miles each week on the car. (Now, by the way, I put less than 3,000 miles in six months on it -- just an incredible difference!)

So, I'm waiting outside. No one comes to pick me up. It's now 3:30. I call Enterprise again, and am once more reassured that he's 'on his way'. I ask, "What color car is he driving?" (I can see a car parked down at the end of the street with a person in it.)

When the answer comes, I KNOW that that's my driver down there! While still on the phone with Enterprise, I stand up and begin waving frantically to the driver. Slowly, he exits from his parked position and comes towards me. He stops in front of me, rolls down his window, and I ask, "Enterprise?" He nods and I get in.

He says that he has tried to call me, two times! I say, "That's impossible," showing him my cell phone. "What number do you have?" (One of the digits is wrong, what can I tell you?)

OK. We get over to Enterprise. I'm not the only person in there. I start to get more than a little concerned about the time. FInally, it appears that I'm all set to go when the person behind the counter informs me that a $250 "hold" of some sort is going to be placed on my account. I say, "Whaat!"

I only have one credit card. (One of the main reasons I got into such financial trouble years ago was that I abused credit cards.) And, my one credit card doesn't have a very high limit. I "knew" that my card would not accept a $250 charge or hold of any kind!

I immediately got on the horn to DSL, positive that this gal at Enterprise was trying to overcharge me. He talked to her. She talked to me. I talked to DSL again, and he said to go ahead and put it on HIS credit card. Ye Gods! I hung up in utter frustration, ready to blow the scene and try to disappear.

Meanwhile, the gal behind the counter had been running my credit card and told me that it had all been approved. I was shocked! Glad, but shocked. Out we went to see and inspect the car for prior physical damage. And yes, it was the smaller car that I had initially requested over the phone but was told they didn't have any. (?)

How could that be? Do they have certain numbers that they keep in reserve for online customers? Or, does that 2-hour window allow them to transport one of the reserved size to the required location? I'm guessing that the latter is correct, but I don't know for sure. I don't care, either.

All I know for certain is that I had a rental, it ran, had some gas, and I was on my way to IAH.

I got there around 5:15. Customers' flight had been delayed, thank the Lord, and I called Micky. (Still hadn't heard back from him.)

He sounded very excited. "I was just about to call you. I think we might be able to have your car ready for you by tomorrow!" "Whaat!" I replied. "How is that possible? What happened?"

Well, to try and make what has now become a very long story just a little bit shorter, Micky is a shop owner who works VERY hard to try and make his customers happy. He scurries hither and thither all of the time -- one second he's on the phone, the next he's looking under a hood or at a left front tire, the next he's running out to the mailbox to post something. He's constantly on the move!

While I was having my own problems getting a rental car, Micky was back at the shop scrounging up the part my car needed. I'm supposed to call him back later this morning (they close at noon on Saturdays). He couldn't promise -- they would have to test drive it first to make sure all was OK and safe to drive -- but he was hopeful. Incredible man!

OK. It's now almost 7am. Have been up for awhile. Hit the pillow last night around 8:00. Was emotionally drained. Just as soon as I post this, I'm going to send an e-mail to DSL, thanking him for his offer and advising him to read this post so he knows what eventually occurred. I never did call him back, but he didn't call me back, either, so I guess we're even.

Then, I'm going to hit the pillow again for a couple or three hours, get up, and call Micky to see if my car will be ready today. Am supposed to be at DD (Darling Daughter) and DSL's place by 2:45. There's some sort of belated "Mother's Day" outing planned. (The belatedness due, she says, to an inability to get a reservation for the date that she had initially wanted.) I must remember to take my umbrella. It's not supposed to rain. It's just that my skin can tolerate NO sun at all!

Meanwhile, I am extremely grateful to the mechanic who spotted a problem before it had another chance to overwhelm me.


Polimom said...

BlecH! Yuck! Ick! I HATE when days go like that -- stress-inducing!

Hopefully you're up and running, with this nightmare day fully in the past by the time you read this comment...

Tammy said...

Oh my. What a story! I'm so glad the mechanic caught the unforeseen problem and that you aren't driving around any longer with a those problems.

But wow.....what a day you had. lol

I hope you have your car back now.

I hardly dare ask..... Do you????

Tammy said...

Sheesh, Tammy. Read it before you post a comment. lol

That should read, "....and that you aren't driving around any longer with those problems."

jabo said...

I always hate maintaining my car, its costly and it eats time, well, I read from somewhere that by doing it, it actually reduces the money one would have to spend for repairs and all.

Goldenrod said...

Hi, jabo, good to hear from you! Your comment reminded me of a poem I thought I remembered writing many years ago, and just a bit earlier I found and published it. You might (or might not) get a kick out of it. My post is titled "Car Sickness" - same as the poem. Good luck selling cars down there in OZ!