I promised to tell you our travel bloopers, so here’s the first one.
After a five-hour, puddle-jumping adventure across half of Canada we arrived in Regina, Saskatchewan. I thought the hard part of the day was over. Hah.
Swiftly we disembarked from the plane and left the gate area, smug that we, the worldly, carry-on-only travelers, move easily through foreign ports. Expecting our rental car to be ready for us, we headed straight for the rental car desk.
We were beyond exhausted, but still capable of speech.
The crisp young man behind the desk said to my husband, “You’re a big man. You sure you don’t want to upgrade the car for $10.00?” To me he said, “I can add on car insurance, Mam.”
“Uh,” I said. Hadn’t we already arranged everything? These were formidable questions at this point in our journey, which had started at 3:30 am. “Our insurance is covered by our credit card.” I said, pulling the knowledge from some dusty corner of my mind. “But a bigger car?” I looked at PJ.
“Only ten dollars,” the young man said.
“That’s seventy,” said my husband.
But it’s a bigger car and it’s our vacation, so I said, “Okay, we’ll take the big one.”
Two minutes later we hustled out the front door of the airport into the blistering-dry, prairie heat with a shiny key for a Ford Edge in our hands. Excitement tingled in my veins as I spied the truck we were going to drive, big, shiny, and brand-spanking-new. After circling it like dogs trying to find a place to lie down, and of course making sure there was no damage, we looked at the key. We pushed every button until the doors unlocked. We had access.
Great, I thought. It’s only a four hour drive until I see my baby (who is all grown up, but you know what I mean).
We sat in the car and looked around. Then we looked at each other. It was pretty, but there was no hole for the key to fit into.
How could we start her? PJ inspects the dashboard, while I pulled out the manual and started reading. The document had been written for geniuses or idiots, I’m not sure which, because the key section talked about many different kinds of keys and we had only one.
I started with the first instruction. “Push the button on the key and another, smaller key will be released for you to use.” I told PJ this as I pushed every part of the blinking key. Believe me, nothing released.
He raised one brow.
The heat in the car rose. We couldn’t open the windows, because… we couldn’t start the car.
PJ resumed his search and rescue mission. I returned to my book. Next key instruction. “You can give your key verbal instructions.”
As I wiped sweat from my brow, I told PJ to talk to it. He talked, but not to the key, and the temperature in the small space increased.
PJ looked under the console. I found the next instruction and read it to him. “If the key is in the car, you can push the button to start it.”
He grunted and pushed the button beside the steering wheel. The car started.
Whew, step one. Now we needed to find the air-conditioning. The temp, well over a hundred turned the inside of the vehicle into a sauna. We were both sweating from head to toe and were cross-eyed from the confusion.
PJ, never a quitter, started playing with dials. I went back to the book. The fans started up and blew hot air all around us. Prairie sunlight streamed through the windows. I wondered at what temperature human flesh baked.
“That’s it,” Piet said, pushing the ignition button again. The engine stopped. He didn’t need to say more. I jumped out of the car.
We returned to the crisp, young man and explained that we couldn’t figure out the big car. We said we were too old.
Warily he nodded. We couldn’t have looked too good, because he took a step back and blinked. He blinked a lot. “I understand,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.” Scooping up the key to the compact car from a drawer, he said, “Try this one.”
The patronizing tone of his voice grated on my nerves, urging me to give him a piece of my mind. A big piece. I’d start with my incisive review of the car manual. But I bit my lower lip and settled for, “You better make sure that we are charged the lower rate.”
I didn’t dare look at PJ. I could feel steam rising from his body.
We left the airport with a good, old-fashioned key and an economical compact car to start the next leg of our adventure.
I felt less the worldy-traveler and more the technologically challenged old lady in a strange land.
As soon as the air-conditioning kicked in, we started laughing.