Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Friends who don't travel much and rarely rent cars sometimes comment that a car is a car, that one rental will do as well as another.

They're wrong.

I know this because I'm driving a rental Chevy Malibu with over forty-six thousand miles on the odometer.

Let me be clear that I am not condemning all Chevy Malibus. I have never driven one before, so maybe there are some lovely models. Maybe there are even some wonderful cars of this same vintage. We are, after all, discussing a car with a mileage so high that in dog years it's past dead and recycled into steel Coke cans in countries that haven't succumbed to the sickly temptation of weak aluminum drink containers. All that said, beginning my Malibu relationship with this particular car is a lot like having your first sexual experience be with the eighty-seven-year-old, one-legged, false-toothed hooker who works under a five-dollar discount sign outside Camp Lejeune. Not that I've ever been to Camp Lejeune. I haven't.

Anyway, I digress. What a POS this beast is.

Even the basics suck with it. Long ago, the rental company lost the key fob that would let you unlock the car from afar, so you have to insert the key. That's fine--except that you can't open the doors for clients because the only keyhole is on the driver's door. The beast also won't let you lock it from the driver's door lock button until all the doors are shut and you've pushed the lock button twice. (The first time you push the button, the car emits a sickly beep, as if to say, "Hey, enough already. I'll lock when I'm ready.")

But what's it like to drive, you may well ask? Well, its ride is fine as long as you're a fan of the whirl-and-puke rides at the State Fair. The suspension is shot, the shocks are only good for holding up the folding chair of the Camp Lejeune hooker (and then only if she hasn't eaten much lately), and the steering makes the lock button look responsive.

Aside from the joy of driving the faded black beast, the day was fine: work, meetings, work, meetings, etc. Oh, yeah: the meetings are work meetings.

Dinner was a tasty seven-course chef's menu at Restaurant Jezebel. As with most of the tasting menus I've had recently, all the dishes were good but never great. The procession of both this meal and last night's menu was also odd: instead of the classic build-up from amuse to light fish and so on, this one began with foie (Cajun blackened on flavored grits, a dish that was good but that lost part of the foie's charm by carrying too thick a blackening coat), moved to elk, and presented sashimi fish as the last course before dessert. Very odd. Still, I enjoyed it and ate, as usual, more than necessary.

Much work awaits, so to it I go.

Lesson of the day: If you're ever in Austin, and a rental agency assigns you a high-mileage Malibu, ask for another car.


John Lambshead said...

46K does not sound an aweful lot?

J. Griffin Barber said...

The rented Malibu vies with the Impala as the car most favored by career criminals of my aquaintance. Check deep for contraband before driving off the lot.

I have pulled more guns out of Malibus and Impalas, closely followed by late model Taurus and GM's Concord than any other vehicles.

Ticia said...

"We are, after all, discussing a car with a mileage so high that in dog years it's past dead and recycled into steel Coke cans in countries that haven't succumbed to the sickly temptation of weak aluminum drink containers."

46,000 miles is high on the East Coast?

On The West Coast, our cars are made of sterner stuff. I put over 400 miles on my car in a WEEK. I wouldn't even blink at buying a car with over 100,000 miles on it (as long as my mechanic gave it the once over).

That said, you are a very entertaining writer and your blog made me smile.

Mark said...

John, 46K miles is not a lot for a car that a person owns. In my experience, it is very high for rental cars; I rarely see one with more than 25K miles. I suspect the reason is that rentals probably take a harsher beating per mile than most cars. In any case, in all my years renting cars, I've never seen one with this many miles on it.

Mark said...

Griffin, I wish I'd known that data before I headed out with my Malibu. I will definitely have to check it closely before I return it tomorrow.

Mark said...

Ticia, I must apologize for being unclear. It's not an East Coast thing. I routinely drive cars to well over 100K miles. It's just that, as I mentioned in my response to John's comment, 46K miles is the most I've ever seen on a rental car.


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