Keep Trying

Posted April 19, 2010 by jimhigley

I recently rented a car from a national car rental company. It’s the one that promises to try harder. And, I like anyone who tries harder because trying matters, right?

Well, I guess the answer to that question depends on what it is you’re trying harder to achieve. This weekend, I decided I don’t like these folks trying harder with me.

I had a small, midsize, foreign car. It was fine. It squeaked a little. And, I had one heck of a time finding the outlet to plug my cell phone into. In fact, once I found it, I had to lie on my back and reach my arm up under the dashboard to use it. I looked like I was birthing a calf. Anyway, I digress. The cell phone outlet was the least of my frustrations.

The kicker was the cover to the gas tank. I’m not talking about the gas cap. I’m talking about that little square door you first have to release from inside the car to get to the gas cap. Mine wouldn’t open. I discovered this 267 miles from home, with the gas tank level well below “empty” in a neighborhood that did not, I repeat NOT, look like a Norman Rockwell painting.

It simply wouldn’t open. I’d punch the release button inside the car. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Harder.
Nothing. Two swear words and then punch again. Nothing. Not good. So, I had my son get out of the passenger seat and try to coax the darn thing to unleash itself.

“Got it,” I heard him yell to me after my third attempt.

What he actually “got” was the tiniest of cracks after the lock released. The door wasn’t open yet but we were making progress. I was able to slide my fingertips into the hairpin crevasse. But it didn’t budge. It felt like the hinges were rusted shut. I knew, one way or another, I needed to get this thing to open. So gently, ever so gently, I pulled it open. It sounded like the lid on a treasure chest that had been sitting for a few hundred years. And, I promise, I used no unnecessary force. I didn’t pull out my pocket crowbar. No chainsaws. This was an industrial strength top on a can of sardines that eventually met its match.

The end to the story came when I returned the car.

“Everything run O.K.?” asked the counter clerk.

“Things were fine,” I said. “All except the gas cover which isn’t working.” I didn’t complain. I didn’t bore her with my long story. I opted to take the friendly road and not be a nuisance to her. And, with that, I left.

Thirteen minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was the manager at the rental place. She wasn’t happy.

“You have to come back and fill out an accident report.”

I really don’t like it when people start a conversation with the words “you have to.”

I tried to explain what happened. Surely she would understand the simplicity of this. I tried harder (even though that was her job) to be nice in hopes of resolving this over the phone. No go Joe.

So, I stopped back at the rental office to fill out her paperwork, all titled on the top with block letters that spelled out “Accident Report.” She seemed pleased with my compliance and even smiled at me when she started to staple my copies together. Except her stapler jammed up in the tree trunk report.

“Looks like you might have to fill out an accident report for that stapler,” I said to her. She stopped smiling and handed me my copies after she extracted them from the stapler.

“Have a nice day,” she said unconvincingly as I started for the door.

“I’m trying,” I replied nicely. “I’m trying real hard!”