I am now back in Syracuse after finally departing the UK after a little over ninety 90 days. I have actually been back for almost two weeks to be honest, but I’ve just now managed to stop crying long enough to actually recount the experience.
I suppose I will start by outlining my arrival in the UK. The trip started out terribly as my flight was delayed for 749 hours. Things would soon look up though when I realized that on my flight from Newark to Heathrow I would be sitting between an elderly married couple who refused to switch seats with me.
Now, this was quite bizarre, but ultimately turned out to be fine as the people were lovely. They somehow managed to not annoy me at all even when they felt the need to talk to each other. The wife spent a lot of time watching Disney films, while her husband read a bit, and then watched a Monty Python film and occasionally burst out in laughter. It was fairly adorable.
I slept off and on throughout the trip, but far less than I expected and did manage to watch the movie ‘Gone Girl,’ which I thought would be phenomenal, but turned out to be quite awful. Okay, seriously awful.
Delta’s in-flight service was superb though with a tiny little touch-screen television featuring 8,497 different viewing options. And if those viewing options aren’t enough you could entertain yourself by watching people unfamiliar with touch-screen technology freak the eff out on the tiny screen when it was non-responsive at times.
After my arrival I then headed out to meet up with my mortal enemy (although this was unbeknownst to me at the time) – EUROPCAR!
Europcar is National Car Rental – but not really. They are to National what Bizarro Superman is to Superman. They’re just evil. Pure evil. Oddly, National was my favorite rental car agency previously because of their policy of letting you pick out your own car, but going forward I will be avoiding them at all costs as well. Guilty by association I guess….
As an introduction, let me outline Europcar’s customer service policy. It pretty much seems to be………fuck you.
I would guess they have two main instructions for new employees. First, make sure you’re extremely difficult, and tell a tiny lie or two if possible. Second, finish off every interaction with a big metaphorical fuck you to the customer. That sums up my experience.
So, I arrive at Europcar and they immediately tell me that the price I had reserved the car for was for a manual transmission. I try to explain to them that this is nonsense because I cannot drive a manual (and therefore have no need for one), but after growing tired of arguing and wanting to get the heck out of Heathrow, I give in. Having been awake for about 44 out of the last 48 hours and now needing to drive three hours to Huntingdon, on the wrong side of the road mind you, I figure it seems best to live to fight another day.
Europcar then asserts that there are almost ZERO automatic cars in the lot as everyone desires this new magical form of transmission. I’m not sure why they keep emphasizing this other than to make it known that they will not be honoring the price I actually rented the car for. Okay, fine, but I still need a car – so let’s goooooooo.
Note: Oddly, after walking through the lot for a bit I think I discovered approximately 847 automatic transmission cars so I have no idea what the hell they were talking about. I saw maybe 10 manuals. Maybe they segregate them….I don’t know. Segregation is wrong though.
After initially putting me in for an Alfa Romeo (is that a real brand any more?) they ultimately give me a VW Passat. After getting to the car and sitting in it and noticing that it is absolutely gigantic I go back in and ask for a smaller car. We then search through the 847 other automatics in the parking lot and each time I settle on one they cannot find the keys to the car. It’s simply bizarre. You rent cars – how are you losing the keys to every car in the lot? I’m almost dying at this point as most of the time they seem focused on renting me a giant SUV, and since I’ve never driven in the UK, I’m trying to sway them toward something smaller. Like an enclosed moped or something akin to that.
Finally, after about an hour, and with it now raining, they finally force me to take some strange looking Mercedes that resembles a hyped-up super-awesome version of a Nissan Versa. I agree to take the too-big-for-me car because it has GPS that comes standard and most of the others do not. I figure this will come in handy as I have no idea where I’m going.
Well, as I drive out the parking lot I ask the attendant what’s up because the GPS isn’t turning on. Like all Europcar employees he refers back to his training and says that the SD Card (or chip, or whatever chip allows the GPS to function) was probably stolen because they’re always being stolen and waves me on with what I would call the patented Europcar fuck you.
Note: Whilst I’m talking about cars I would like to point out that Honda Accord in the UK looks exactly like an Acura! Or, sometimes if I’m not mistaken, they look like an Accord in the front, but an Acura in the back. Weird.
Coming up next: My drive to Huntingdon!