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December 12, 2010

A Day of Reckoning - Part 2

Wondering when they'll start boarding my flight, I approach the ticket counter and inquire.

The guy behind the counter just breaks into a wide grin.

"Man...I haven't heard that in a while. I bet I haven't heard that once in the 12 years since I left Orlando."

It's something I said, apparently. I have no idea what I said, but obviously it was something that betrayed my Southern heritage.

"What'd I say?" I ask him for clarification.

"When do you reckon you'll start boarding?" he replies. "I haven't heard the word 'reckon' since I left Orlando," he repeats.

"Yeah. You got me.on that one. I did 18 years in Mississippi," I allow.

But I'm not offended. I'm not ashamed of my Southern upbringing. I'm proud of it and I don't mind that I talk like a Southerner. I'm very comfortable with both my accent and my dialect.

I spot Norman, another consultant from my project, queueing up to board also and I say 'hello' to him.

"I didn't know you fly through Denver," he replies.

"Dude, I live in Denver."

On the plane, I pretty much sleep the whole flight. I fall asleep with a cup of Diet Coke on ice on my tray table and, in my dream-state, raise my arms slightly, nearly upending the whole retinue. But somehow, I catch myself just before it all goes topsy turvy across me and the thing sitting beside me.

I have no idea what's sitting beside me. Looks like a Chupacabra with earrings and it's knitting the whole flight. Don't even get me started on the thing beside me in 15B.

Eventually, we land in Madison and, with the wind chill, it's 19 degrees below zero. Snow on the ground. I go up to the little cross-eyed worm that works at Enterprise and Norman is ahead of me, already deep in the process of renting a car.

The rental agent and I have had our differences. It's never been a pleasant relationship. I hate renting cars so much you can't know, but the motorcycle is no longer an option. It's ceased to serve as a useful means of transportation so when Norman leaves, I tell him I'll see him in the morning and then I approach this little cross-eyed, spineless maggot cowering behind the Enterprise Car Rental counter and hand him my driver's license and my credit card.

When he asks to see my plane ticket, I show him my boarding pass. But he wants to see my return plane ticket because my credit card says "Debit" on it somewhere. It's a credit card. And it can be processed as a credit card, but for reasons that only make sense to the deeply stupid dolts at Enterprise, if the credit card says "Debit" on it, they won't process it as a credit card, and they want to see your plane ticket.

"Why do you want to see my plane ticket? Do you think I'm not allowed to travel?" I ask.

"It's our proof that you're returning to the airport," he offers, as if that makes sense. As if a piece of paper will somehow compel me to return to the airport against my repressed inner-desire to steal an imported economy card and drive away into the Great White North.

"Dude. This is 2010. I don't have a plane ticket. It's not like 1976 when they printed tickets on ticket stock and hand them to you in a smoking lounge. I made the reservation on Expedia. I printed my boarding pass at home. This is what I have," I explained. He wasn't buying it.

"Delta can print your ticket for you right over there," he insists, trying to deflect my unwanted advances.

"Seriously. Delta? Who the fvck flies Delta?" I'm flying United. Their ticket counter is obviously closed." It's 11:00 at night. We're in a small airport. There are no more flights out tonight. Outside, it's snowing and freezing cold. The agents have all closed shop and gone home for the night.

"Then bring up my reservation on your computer," I continue.

"I have your reservation right in front of me," he deadpans.

"No, genius. I mean bring up my plane reservation on Expedia. You can see it there."

"We don't have internet access," he replies.

"Now you're lying to me. You're a bald-faced liar. You're telling me you don't have internet access? You're a liar, and not a very good one."

And I stalk off to catch a cab, but there are no cabs, just a crippled line of people to dumb to realize that there's no good reason to be in Wisconsin in December. A queue of hopelessly lost soles praying for a cab to deliver them from the misery of the Madison airport in the deep recesses of a Sunday night.

I wander around the airport hopelessly trying to come up with a plan. If I can't rent a car, and I can't get a cab, I'm pretty much screwed. Like, this sucks. I've never claimed to be a good traveler. Quite the opposite. I've readily admitted on numerous occasions that I'm a poor traveler at best, and now Norman has made it clear to me that I'm not cut out for this kind of work. Somehow he flew in here and rented a car, something that I'm utterly incapable of doing.

Eventually, I realize that I'll just have to call Norman and ask him to come back and pick me up because I'm incapable of renting a car for reasons that are so absurd that even I'm having a hard time understanding what went wrong.

So I call Norman on my cell phone. I'm actually surprised that I even have his number, but I call him and he answers...I'm sure he's at his hotel by now as he left the rental car counter 20 minutes ago.

But he answers and tells me to meet him in Enterprise's parking lot and I walk down there, slipping across the ice and find him in his car.

I get in and he says "Why won't they rent you a car?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Let's go."

"I can't figure out how to start the car," he states, and he hands me the key.

I study the key and I recognize right away that it's one of those super-trick keys that you don't have to put in the ignition. You just have to have it in your pocket. There's a button on the dash to start the car and I push it and it lights up, but nothing happens. The car doesn't start or turn over or anything promising. I turn the fan down on the heater so I can verify that the engine is not, in fact, running.

"Put it in park," I offer.

"It's in park."

"Hmmm." I push the start button again and again it lights up, but the engine won't start. Won't even turn over.

"You've been out here in the car this whole time trying to get it started?" I laugh.

"I was just about to go back inside and ask for help when you called. I wasn't going to answer the phone. I didn't know who it was."

"I'm not even sure why I had your number," I reply.

I'm beginning to think that we're all in trouble. Not just us - not just me and Norman - but everyone in society at large. He and I are being flown in at great expense to work as computer consultants for our client. I come from another state. He actually flies in from another country. And here we are, presumably smarter than anyone in the state of Wisconsin, and together we can't rent a single car and drive it away. Maybe the whole of civilization is doomed.

"Put the brake on," offer.


"Put your foot on the brake."

He does and I push the button and the engine roars to life.

"Maybe there's hope for our civilization yet," I mutter, and we pull out into the frozen night of Madison in mid-December.

Posted by Rob Kiser on December 12, 2010 at 11:25 PM


According to my weather info there were no planes flying in and out of WI due to the MegaStorm. How'd you get in the middle of that? Now call Enterprise and ask them how youy're supposed to have a ticket and report Norman for putting you in an untennable position. And use National.

Posted by: sl on December 13, 2010 at 1:42 PM

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