It was my last day teaching in the Los Angeles area, and I was on my way back from Anaheim when my travel partner, Valerie, called me, worried, saying there was no Dollar-Rent-a-Car at John Wayne. For $100, Thrifty would take our rental car, but because it was under only my name, I had to talk with them. Valerie said I needed to call Thrifty and ask for Olivia. I did.
“Hi, my name’s Ashley,” a peppy voice said, “Olivia is on the phone. How can I help? Or do you want to wait until she’s off?”
“That’s fine,” I said, “I’ll talk to you.”
I told Ashley the situation, “I was supposed to drop off my car at LAX, but due to circumstances, I need to drop it off at John Wayne instead.”
Ashley said, “Yeah. I see that on your sheet.”
I said, “Great. Also, I’m not going to be the one dropping it off. Valerie’s the one dropping it off.”
“Who?” she asked.
“You don’t know her. She was my travel partner for the week. She’s just some other person. Long story.”
She said, “That’s not on the sheet.”
“Ok,” I said, “So what I want you to note is someone who’s not me is going to drop it off.”
“Only you are authorized to drive the vehicle. She’s not a registered driver, so can’t be driving the car.”
“We’re past that at this point. Due to circumstances, she had to drive the car, and I just want to know what I have to do so she can drop off the car.”
“I don’t advise that,” she said.
“Well, I don’t really have a choice,” I said, “So I just need to know how I can authorize it.”
She said, “Sir, she needs to be a registered driver.”
“Is there any way you can mark down that I’m fine with it? I just want her to drop off the car.”
“You needed to do that when you originally signed up.”
“Well, that didn’t happen. Is there something I can do now?”
“I’m not sure I understand sir. What’s your problem?”
I went through the problem again.
She said, “Oh. No - she needs to be a registered driver.”
“Yes. I understand that. I get that. That’s….what do I need to do?”
“You need to go through Dollar-Rent-A-Car.”
“Okay. Great. What number can I call to authorize this?”
“Actually, you need to go there in person.”
“That’s fine. I’m by LAX,” I lied, “What exactly do I need to ask for in person?”
“Actually, you both need to be at Dollar-Rent-a-Car to authorize it.”
“That’s not an option. She has a flight to catch from John Wayne in two hours. I just want to drop off your car. Is there any way she can drop off the car?”
“I don’t advise that.”
“I don’t understand. What does that mean? Is it not allowed? Is it illegal? What’s the problem?”
“Is it illegal? Is there a problem with the police? I mean if my partner…I mean why can’t you advise this?”
We went back and forth for a while, until finally she said, “The car could get impounded.”
“Who would impound the car?”
“Are the cops impounding the car? Are you guys impounding it?”
“The cops might.”
“All right. In the off chance the cops don’t impound the car and we do manage to get it back to you un-impounded, then is it all right if Valerie returns it?” I asked.
To which she said, “Can I put you on hold sir?”
I said, “Okay,” and then waited. This wasn’t the exact conversation, but the gist of a conversation that went in circles over the course of 20 minutes, ending in the exact same way.
After five minutes, I hung up and called them back. I got Olivia and told her that I’m that person who Valerie was talking about earlier. I asked, “Would it be all right if Valerie dropped off the car?”
Olivia said, “Oh yeah. That’s fine. Let me just change the contract.”
I said, “Thank you,” and got very frustrated I didn’t just wait for her in the first place.
How we originally got in this situation is a much longer story. I wish the screw up only costed me the $100 fine and 30 minutes of frustration. The longer story ends with my job in jeopardy and having to put Valerie in the middle of an ugly problem and permanently hurting our relationship. But I’d rather just tell this shorter version. It’s funnier.
Note: Valerie’s real name is not Valerie, but all the same she was fantastic to work with, and I look forward to seeing her again. I learned so much, not only from her experience, but also her amazing professionalism when under an extremely stressful situation (again, a longer story only tangentially connected to this one)