Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo is back from his week of biznay travel safe and sound. The trip itself was extremely productive and, apart from the fact that we had to return to the gate in Denver yesterday morning because a passenger suddenly felt sick as we were taxiing out to the runway and were therefore very late, it went remarkably smoothly. (The fellah in the seat next to me was quite irate. I pointed out to him that it was just as well the sickie piped up when he did and that it was a hell of a lot better than having to make an emergency landing in someplace like Kansas City.)
As I say, a good week.
Well, except for the rental car, that is.
I may have mentioned after my last trip on this same biznay early in December that these excursions involve driving hundreds of miles in the shadow of the Front Range of the Rockies. After having been stuck with a small econo-car rental the last time we went out and getting caught in several snow storms, my colleagues and I demanded that the bean-counters let us have an SUV this time. (Our foresight proved justified, because we got caught in snow storms yet again.) Surprisingly, they agreed. To this end, when we got into Denver Sunday evening, we found ourselves presented with a brand new, tricked out, 2017 Ford Explorer.
Ol’ Robbo was pretty pleased with the thing at first, but our relationship almost immediately soured when I realized at oh-dark-thirty Monday morning that I hadn’t the faintest idea how to actually start it up. (The rental-wallah had started it himself Sunday evening when he was showing me all the whistles and bells and I hadn’t been paying attention because I was so tired.)
To me, starting a car is supposed to be a straight-forward process:
1.) Insert key.
2.) Turn key.
Even with past rentals that featured the option of keyless ignition, I have always ignored such option and stuck with this tried-and-true system. And so I wished to this time around. However, after spending about ten minutes that morning trying to figure out where the hell to stick the key in, I suddenly made an alarming discovery:
Keyless ignition in THIS car was mandatory.
It was also ridiculously complicated. First, you had to hit the “lock” button on the remote. Then, you had to hit the “start engine” button on the remote twice. Then you had to stomp on the brake and hit the other “start engine” button on the dashboard. All that just to turn the stupid thing on? How is this supposed to be an asset to me?
And of course, because it was usually dark when we were heading out in the morning or coming back in the evening and I was completely unfamiliar with the button layout on the remote, even after I figured out the magic sequence all kinds of hilarity resulted. Sometimes I wound up opening the back hatch. Sometimes I wound up setting off the alarm. One morning when I had the remote in my pocket as I was leaning over the hood to scrape off the ice and snow, I managed to do both at the same time.
And of course, since the key wasn’t conveniently stuck in the side of the steering column, I was forever scrambling to find the damned thing amidst all the flotsam and jetsam of the center console whenever we got out of the car.
This Explorer also featured side mirrors that automatically folded back against the body of the car like a bird’s wings when you shut off the engine. Unfortunately, while trying to adjust the mirrors, through some combination of buttons on the door I managed to disconnect them from the servo-motor. The result was that the things blew back against the side of the car all by themselves when I got anywhere above 40 mph or so, a situation that certainly didn’t make highway cruising any easier. It took about two days for me to figure out how to reconnect them.
Finally, I have never driven a car that was so much of a confounded busy-bodying scold before.
For one thing, it was forever beeping at me in alarum about something or other and displaying all kinds of mysterious visual warnings on the dashboard. We never figured out what these visuals were supposed to mean (although I suspect at least one of them had something to do with snow covering a headlight) because we couldn’t find the owner’s manual to look up the code. (We learned later that the manual wasn’t in the glove compartment because it was stored with the spare tire instead. It was explained that without the manual, changing tires on the thing would be virtually impossible, so the rental people thought it better to do so.)
Also, said Explorer had a hyper-active proximity warning: One evening, as I was trying to parallel park in a fairly tight spot, the thing started clicking at me. The nearer I got to the car behind me, the faster the clicking. I can tell you that this does absolutely nothing for one’s concentration, especially when one is trying to get out of the way of the traffic coming up behind. (Indeed, I found myself feeling like the guy attempting to disarm the nuke with ten seconds to go until detonation and feverishly trying to decide whether to cut the red wire or the blue.)
Ol’ Robbo can’t stand being nagged. It’s bad enough when the nagger is one of the Port Swiller wimminz, but a stupid machine? Even worse. Over the course of the week, I found myself talking back to the thing in ever-increasing irritation. “Shut up!” “Mind your own bloody biznay!” “Who the hell asked you?” “Which I’m doing it, ain’t I!”
My two companions (both wimminz themselves) thought this was hilarious, but after a while I wasn’t joking anymore.
Anyhoo, it’s just as well that this was only a week’s rental, because there’s just no way that Ol’ Robbo could see a long-term relationship with this car working out at all.
(By the bye, last time out we rented our econo-junker from some down-market outfit where the counter-guy didn’t appear to give much of a damn at all. This time, we used Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I dunno what it’s like in their other offices because it’s been years since the last time I dealt with them, but I can tell you that their people at the Denver airport are friendly and helpful almost to the point of ferocity.)