Driving home from my favorite mountain town in Idaho with a friend, her rental car was assaulted by a rock that slammed into the bottom left hand side of the windshield and sent tiny shards of glass flying around inside the car. We were shocked into silence and reassurances of ‘are you okay? I’m okay. Are you okay?’ We were okay. Just shocked. Conversation then lead to stories of times we had strange accidents or knew of people who had accidents on the road.
My shared story involved my folks. My parents drove from California to Denver and then to Idaho for family visits. During the summer months in Idaho they do a lot of road work, and the summer my folks drove here wasn’t any different. Having bypassed the repaving, my father finally hit the open road once again, happy to finally be passing a long line of semi-trucks. That’s when something slammed against the passenger window where my mom was sitting shattering the whole thing. Her first reaction was to start yelling, “I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot!” To which my dad, assessing the situation best he could from his side of the card yelled back, “It was a rock, It was a rock.” To which my mother replied once more, “I’ve been shot!” Dad kept driving, because there wasn’t anywhere to pull over.
Upon further assessment and realizing that there was no blood nor entry wound, she resigned her original diagnosis and accepted, it was a rock. Still, the line will live on in family folklore, and if the moment ever lends itself to it, one of us will laughingly screaming out, “I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot!” The complimentary line then comes, “it was a rock, it was a rock!”
Still, I was looking around at the rental car of my friend, thinking back on rental cars I’ve had, and began to think about life, like you do.
I only briefly had my own car for about a month of my life when I was about 20 or so. It was a piece of crap and I had to have it because I didn’t want to shop around, I didn’t think I could find anything better, I was impatient. My life took me to other states and as there was no way I was going to be able to make the car payments or put gas in it, I ended up leaving the car behind.
Once I moved, I was always traveling, so I never had my own car, just mooched rides off of friends and took public transportation. I wanted my own car, but my income and life style of a gypsy never opened me up to getting one. I was 37 (that’s right 37 years of age) when I got my first car that was mine, all mine. So you see, when I would get a rental car, I would put my favorite CD in, blast the air conditioning, roll down the windows, buy myself the biggest iced mocha I could find, and head out on the open road.
Jeff Foxworthy did a bit on renting cars, something about his grandmother who would drive 15 miles under the speed limit and only had 200 miles on her car, but when she rented a car, she would pay for all the insurance she could and drive that rental car like she was leading the pack in NASCAR.
Returning a rental car is always fun, isn’t it? You drive the dirt encrusted, muffler dragging mess into its marked place and upon climbing out, you don’t really make eye contact with the attendant who is categorizing the scratches, the dent in the hood, the part of the bumper that is missing, the strangely high amount of sand and dirt in the trunk, the ripped upholstery. Nervously, you clear your throat and quietly explain, “you might want to be careful when you open the glove compartment, there’s a snake in there, we weren’t sure if it was poisonous or not.” Not to mention the fact that no one recalls how it got there. And then the most wonderful phrase is uttered, “Well, it looks like you had full coverage, so you’re set.” The rip of a receipt and you scream “thanks have a good day” over your shoulder as you run away before they find the proof of the small fire under the driver side floor mat and get a really good look at you.
Ah, rental cars. And there are those who return it cleaned, vacuumed, and in the same condition in which they borrowed it. And that’s fine. But other, others return it as if they just relived any one of the Hangover movies.
This whole rental car thing got me thinking about how each of us is living this life. Like Hunter S. Thompson, the guy who wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (they made the movie with Johnny Depp), is credited with saying “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Maybe we should all start paying attention to how we treat and return rented cars, maybe it’s a secret metaphor for how we are living our lives and what we’re taking with us, how we’ll end, and what we’ll think of ourselves when all is said and done. Myself? I’m a bit dented, dinged up, and dirt encrusted. I might wash the car, but I’m not about to take the dents out, they’re good reminders of the ‘wow, what a ride!’ times.