Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bad Karma

When it comes to rental cars, I'm a no-frills kinda gal. I honestly could care less about the "class size" - give me full, mid, or compact. I care not, as long as it gets me from point A to point B. Until this week. This week, I had the misfortune of renting a Toyota Yaris. Ick. I give it two thumbs down.

First off, I was supposed to have a mid-size vehicle, and I was told these were in one of the first two rows. The first car I approached was a Kia, which I had last time. No real complaints, but I knew the Kia to be Economy size, and I figured if the company paid for mid, I should be getting mid. However, this and the Yaris were the only non-mini vans in the rows so I asked for clarification as I eyed up a very nice looking Chevy Malibu in the next row. The attendant assured me the Yaris was considered a mid-size vehicle. (BTW, it wasn't. The guy lied. But I did not know this at the time.)

I opened the over-sized door on the thing, and it promptly flew open and left a mark on the Kia. I glanced more closely at the attendant than the mark, and prepared to Get the Hell Out of There. So who knows? Maybe it was just a bit of dirt. Not a dent. Just dirt. Either way, I decided a quick evacuation would not hurt.

As I have gotten a few rentals in the dark, I knew searching for the trunk release would be a futile endeavor and I popped the keys from the ignition so I could press the little button. No button. Annoyed that I would have to do things the old fashioned way, I stuck the key in the trunk lock. Nothing. Glancing once more at the attendant, I (carefully) opened the passenger side door and threw my bags on the seat.

I returned to the drivers side and knew at once that I did not like the car. Ironically, I did not switch to the Kia, fearing I would be blamed for the (dent) dirt. I am fairly certain this was bad karma. But we will get to that later. First, a list of the crappiness that is This Car:

1. The car features the mega-stupid "sport shift". This means it is an automatic transmission with a gear shift on the floor that makes it look like a standard. So the stick glides on a zig-zaggy path to get to all the gears. So. Stupid.

2. My GPS suction cup refused to adhere to the balmy windshield. The weather in Raleigh was all wacky - it was cold AND humid. I found out later that they had some massive storms come through just before I arrived. But at the time, I blamed the shape of the windshield, which is rather bubble-like. Fiddling with the sucker, I momentarily lost site of my objective to Get the Hell Out of There.

3. Couldn't find: headlights, windshield wipers, defroster, or (previously mentioned) trunk release. When I finally found the headlights, I was not certain they were on because the dash in front of me was a dark abyss. For some (stupid) reason, the odometer, etc is located in the center of the car on the dashboard. Pretty much right where you might want to mount a GPS. With headlights on, I slowly pulled forward, manually making the wipers wipe, because they were decidedly not staying on.

4. It was around this time that I realized the car is closely related to a death trap. I could not see the front due to the weirdo (and stupid) shape. The experience is not unlike driving in a bubble, and any hamster who has ventured too close to a stair can tell you what happens. Each time I waited to turn into traffic, I felt like I was in the middle of the street. I had several visions of rolling round and round with my baggage flying about, knocking me unconscious. The next morning I found out visibility while backing up is also poor. I consider it a true miracle that I did not hit anyone or anything while attempting to drive in the bubble.

5. I carefully pulled up to the gate and handed over my license. While the guy did his thing, I thought I'd try and get some tunes, so I hit the button. To the sound of COUNTRY MUSIC. REALLY LOUD COUNTRY MUSIC. I also attempted some temperature adjustments, hoping the freakin defroster might work so I could stop turning on the wipers every 10 seconds. The display said it was on full blast. I certainly hope there was user error, for blast, it did not.

6. I pull into traffic, braced for impact (see #4). In a moment of clarity, I remembered how to activate the wipers on my old Toyota (the other way), so at least I resolved that problem. But, as I merged onto the Interstate with the engine roaring, I again feared for my life. The thing has no get up and go! Luckily, there are not many cars out at 11pm on a Monday night.

6. Cruising along, still with the engine roaring (this adds to the bubbly death trap feel), I attempt to adopt my normal driving stance. It turns out my comfort level while driving relies heavily on resting my elbow on the center console. The Yaris, of course, has no center console.

7. Last, but not least, I could not get the (stupid) key out of the ignition. Luckily, I again searched my database for Toyota knowledge and remembered you have to push in before pulling out. I am sure glad those brain cells stuck around.

I gratefully returned the stupid thing this afternoon, and left my GPS suction cup in the car. Bad karma? Perhaps. I called, waited on hold for approximately 12 minutes and 32 seconds, and explained the situation. He claimed they didn't find it, and I suggested perhaps, just maybe, it was overlooked and they could check again in the specific spot I could describe in detail. He insisted that they would have found it if it were there. I insisted it was there. He took my number so he could call. Yeah. I'll be holding my breath waiting for that call. Replacement? Costs $14 for the suction thing, and another $10 for the "claw" that connects to the unit. Excluding shipping of course. I wonder what it would have cost to fess up to the dirt on the Kia.


CaraBee said...

You know, I have wondered what driving those cars was like. Given your experience, I don't think I'll ever find out.

I have seen several cars with the instruments panel in the middle. What is with that? The driver is on the right. Crazy.

Mel said...

Thanks to reading this post right before bed, I dreamt of careening down country roads in a bubble car filled with singing children. (I should note that I am in tech week for The Music Man -- thus the singing children).