I had a surreal moment yesterday. I was coming off of a 10 day run and had to return a rental car to the DFW airport. When I got to the drop off point the guy that was checking in the cars told me that there was a mistake on my account and that I needed to go to the counter downstairs and have it corrected. I guess that for some reason they weren't able to credit the security deposit back to my account upstairs. So I made my way downstairs and when I rounded the corner I saw a line of about 30 people waiting for cars at the same counter that I needed to get to. So now I had a choice to make... I could wait in line for what would probably be an hour or two or I could decide that I didn't need the $300 as much as I thought I did. Well, it turns out that I did need the money but I didn't feel like waiting in line so I decided to do something that I haven't done since I was in 3rd grade - I cut! I walked straight to the front of the line because my rationale was that this was something that was the company's fault, not mine, and I shouldn't have to suffer for their mistake. So I reverted back to my 3rd grade frame of mind (which was actually much easier to do than I thought) and made my way up to the front like it was no big deal. When I got there I noticed that while all of those people were in line there was no one at any of the counters. I walked up and told the clerk, who was standing at a counter talking about football to another clerk, that I needed to get my deposit back. I was fully prepared for my "I shouldn't have to suffer" speech but instead they stopped their conversation and immediately helped me. Maybe my elementary school charm had paid off. They took me over to the counter that was nearest to the front of the line. While the clerk was helping me he stopped to make an announcement.
"I just talked to the guys upstairs and they said that they are cleaning the cars and turning them around as soon as they come in."
I realized that because of Hurricane Ike everyone needed cars and there weren't enough to go around. All of these people had their reservations in their hands so it was obvious that they felt a little cheated.
One of the people asked "But what about our reservations?"
The clerk said "Well, a lot of people are extending their rentals by phone and some people are just late turning in the cars."
I immediately thought of the Seinfeld show about this exact problem... "You know how to TAKE the reservation, you just don't know how to HOLD the reservation."
Actually, I completely sympathized with these people. The company should never make reservations if it can't guarantee a car, but these people were ready to take it out on this poor clerk. They were yelling at him like he could possibly do anything about it. I'm sure he wanted to help them and I'm sure he felt bad for them but short of shitting a new car there wasn't much he could do.
Then it started...
I heard a rustle in the line and then the rustle became whispers which turned into audible tones until finally the one loud guy who doesn't take shit off of anybody (you know the guy) decided to speak up...
"Who is this guy? How did he get to the front of the line? Was he in front of you?"
"He wasn't in front of me" said the loud lady who doesn't take shit off of anybody as long as there is someone there to not take shit first.
Then it spread like wildfire. Now no one was taking shit from anybody.
I realized what was going on and I reluctantly turned around to face the mob. It was horrifying. I felt like the one guy in the zombie movies who hasn't turned into a zombie yet. They were coming at me with blank faces, groans and torches (in black and white). I was seriously ready to run. I thought maybe the clerk would speak up and tell them what I was doing but he looked more scared than I was. That would be two strikes against him. He kept his head down.
Then I heard the voice of an angel. It turns out my wife, who had come to pick me up at the airport, had walked in and was standing behind me without me even knowing it. She told them that I was returning a car and that they should be glad that I was there because that meant that one of them would get a car quicker.
The voice of reason is a sweet song.
This was the funniest part because the mob didn't want to be rational. You could tell that they really had a hard time letting go of the thought that they were going to have someone to burn at the stake.
After she said this the clerk said "Yeah, that's right." (Thanks)
We settled up as quickly as we could and turned around to leave (the crowd murmur had still not settled completely).
As we were leaving the clerk said "Ma'am, you don't have to explain yourselves to them."
Wow. We nodded but didn't turn back around.
I hope he made it.