This post is dedicated to my fellow baseball scribe and blogging friend, Marc Carig. He is, after all, the inspiration behind my finally sitting down and starting this blog for myself. In a recent post, Mr. Carig laments the fate the Baseball Gods bestowed upon him: a crappy Hyundai for all of Spring Training.
It is true, the rental car process is a critical element to spring. Last year, I grabbed my keys and hurriedly toted my stuff to my assigned parking space, where I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing my vehicle -- a Crown Victoria. A Great White Behemoth of a car that might have done as well floating across Tampa Bay as driving around it.
"No way," I said outloud, with no one around. "No chance."
I marched back into the rental place and sat patiently until they found something better for me. It paid off. I wound up with a Jeep Liberty.
Normally, rentals during the season are no big deal. But, in the spring? This is your car for six weeks, or longer in cases like last year when the World Baseball Classic threw everything off. Getting a quality automobile, if at all possible, is integral to your comfort level, especially when facing the long road trips of the Grapefruit League.
I happen to be a "Fastbreak" member with Budget, due to my loyalty to their rental service over the years (they even sent me a Christmas card this year, I kid you not). A lot of times, this allows me to bypass the whole waiting-in-line thing. During the spring, though, when your rental contract is longer than three or four days, you have to wait in line and do more paperwork at the counter at the Tampa airport.
After grabbing my luggage from baggage claim -- The Art of Packing is destined to be a post on here at some point -- I headed out the doors and headed to the building where Budget is located. I walked inside and, of course, every rental company has no line except for the one I was renting from.
And I'm not talking just any line. This was a guaranteed hour of waiting. The line wove back and forth through some dividers and the mass of people just kept going and going and going. I decided that my best bet was to play dumb and avoid standing there like an idiot for God knows how long.
I headed to Level 3 inside the parking garage at the airport and headed to the Fastbreak booth.
"This is where Fastbreak members check in, right?"
"Yep," said the girl behind the counter.
"You know," I began, "you're always the one working when I come into Tampa. It's so great to see familiar faces when I travel all over the country."
She smiled, reached for some keys and handed me my receipt.
"Thank you," I said, smiling back.
"Hey, was I supposed to check in downstairs since it's a long-term contract?" I asked, keys firmly in my hand.
"Yeah, but don't worry about it," she answered. "See you again soon."
And, to top it off? I was awarded the shiny, white Volkswagon Jetta in the above picture. Sure, it's no convertible or anything fancy, but it is the exact car my wife and I drive back home. Ours just happens to be red. Any time you receive a rental car that is at least of equal value to what you usually drive is a win in my book.
Tough break, Carig.