Flashback Friday from 2012! When I picked up my navy blue rental car in Philadelphia, Penn., I had no idea that being a creature of habit would almost land me in jail. After all, this had been just another business trip for me and my friend, Mercy.
In my defense, my past 12 rental cars had been maroon. I used to travel a lot for business and, for some odd reason, when I rented a car in Dallas, Arizona or even Utah, the car could be a Chevy Corsica, a Ford Tempo or a Buick Regal but it was always maroon.
This particular trip, we were almost two hours away from Philadelphia when we stopped for gas at the local station.
I pulled up to the pump closest to the front door but when I got out of the car, I noticed that the gas tank was on the opposite side of the car. I re-parked the car at another pump, further away from the station door. I filled the tank and went in to pay.
I came out and, as I was about to get into the car, I noticed that Mercy had gotten out of the car. I glanced around the gas station for her but decided that she must have gone in to use the ladies’ room, as we still had a good trek ahead of us.
I stepped into the car and bumped my head. The seat had been moved up too close to the dash board — a fact I found quite annoying. As I reached down to adjust the seat, I looked over at the maroon, passenger’s seat covered with unfamiliar papers and thought “Hey, this isn’t my stuff.” In fact, it wasn’t my car.
Reality came crashing down and I realized that I was not in my own car but the maroon vehicle parked where I had first gotten out to pump gas.
I jumped out of the car as fast as I could, still in a daze. A woman, obviously in shock, came running out of the gas station and gave me a horrified glance.
I tried to explain to her that I had mistakenly gotten into the wrong rental car (a fact that she was already blatantly aware of) but she couldn’t utter a sound. I finally untangled my vocal cords long enough to justify my behavior with an idiotic remark, “My passenger wasn’t in the car.” She gave me an icy stare, jumped into her car, slammed the door and sped off.
I walked over to our navy rental, opened the door and waited until Mercy’s laughter died down before I started the car.
It seems Mercy saw me go behind our car in the rear view mirror and assumed that I’d forgotten to replace the gas cap. When I didn’t return, she turned around and saw me peering around suspiciously before I got into the other car. (I was looking around for Mercy, but to the astounded woman in the gas station, it must have looked as if I was planning my getaway.)
Mercy said it all happened in slow motion. All Mercy had time to do was sit there and think, when she heard my feeble excuse to the lady was, “Passenger? Why that’s me!” Luckily, this unfortunate accident didn’t happen in Texas where many folks carry guns and may choose to shoot first and ask questions later.
AVIS collects preferential data on its frequent car rental customers and my list of preferences now reads: non-smoking, mid-size, four-door and maroon.