The Final Trip
On the outskirts of Nashville, I drove down the freeway weaving in and out traffic, going a little over 85, switching lanes every 15 seconds, as traffic crawled at 55 around me. If a cop saw me, I had no doubt he’d rightfully pull me over. I prayed that that didn’t happen in the eight mile stretch between where I was and the airport. My flight was taking off in 50 minutes, and I still needed to return my rental car, check my bag, and hope that I didn’t hit traffic.
Cut to thirty minutes earlier. T-minus eighty until my flight departed.
When I got to the airport, there were no rental car locations. I searched for Budget’s location on my phone. It was eight miles away meaning if Budget had a slow shuttle I was screwed.
‘I probably should have checked this beforehand,’ I thought.
I started driving in that direction, and about a mile in, saw it was taking me straight towards the center of Nashville. It didn’t make sense. I looked down at my phone, this time looking at the address that they’d listed in my email when I booked the car.
1 Terminal Road.
Searching for directions to that, I saw I was going the wrong way.
The real destination was only a mile and a half away, which still seemed pretty far from the airport for a road with Terminal in the title. Also, it was listed as 1 Terminal Court. Not Road. I’d done that dance before, so I searched again, not letting the autofill correct me. It showed up with the same address. Reluctantly, I drove there.
‘There’ ended up being a dirt road under a bypass with a massive truck depot lot on the left. No Budget Rental Car.
“Shit,” I screamed, knowing I would miss my flight. There wasn’t enough time. I got back on the road, heading to the actual Budget Rental Car place inside Nashville, still feeling this didn’t make any sense. Why would the airport drop off be eight miles away?
Ten minutes and six red lights later, I got to a tiny Budget office. This wasn’t right. I swerved the SUV into the lot and ran into the office.
“Is this the Airport Budget place?” I asked the guy at front.
He looked at me and kind of smirked.
“No. That’s by the airport.”
“Oh, cause I typed in Budget and got this. Do you get that a lot? I’m sure you do.”
“No. Never gotten that before.” He looked at the other guy there. They smiled, “You see-”
He kept talking but I ran out yelling behind me, “Thank you. I don’t mean to be rude, but my plane takes off in less than an hour and I’m pretty sure I’m screwed.”
By the end of the sentence I was back in the SUV, screeching out and heading back to where I’d started. I thought how this was probably going to be a $400 screw up. How I trusted my phone without double checking, and it was likely going to cost me, which is ironic as the whole point of my phone was to avoid situations like this.
This was my very last day on a job I’d had for four years, traveling one week out of the month to teach. On the one hand, it would be a terrible way to end it. On the other, it would be a pretty poetic finish to a run that for all intents and purposes should have ended two years ago. I swore to myself pretty loudly.
‘I’m an idiot,’ I thought, switched lanes, hit my brakes, switched again, and continued praying no cops saw me. The windows were down, country music played at full blast (this was Nashville, after all) and I relished in the air beating against my face at 80 miles an hour, feeling alive.
In less than ten minutes, I got back to the airport, this time from the front where there were all sorts of signs showing where the Rental Car drop off was.
I sped up the ramp, over the Do-Not-Back-Up thingies and came to a halt behind someone slowly removing their luggage from their trunk.
“Hey, my flight takes off in 40 minutes. Could I quickly get a receipt?” I asked as I went for my bag in the trunk.
The Budget Employee shot me a look.
“Give me a minute,” she said. Not an option.
“Can I get it emailed to me?” I asked, as I shut my trunk.
“Sure?” she said.
“Great. The keys are on the seat. I hope that’s all right. We good?” I didn’t wait for a response. I was running with my bag in tow towards the gate. I ran through the lot towards departures and down the escalator. I hoped my projector was fine, as I heard my 45 pound bag clank as it hit each step.
Reaching the Delta front counter, I swiped my card. I wish I could say this was the first time I’d almost been destroyed by an airline’s 40 minute absolute cut off policy. I was prepared for the worst.
This time my card was accepted. It wasn’t a problem. After four years of endless traveling, it was over.