Low Earth Rental

November 21, 2012óWinter is my least favorite time of year, but itís redeemed by the holidays, parties with friends and family, and doing doughnuts in snowy parking lots. Not here in Los Angeles of course, but snow reportedly falls from the sky elsewhere in the US. Maybe Iíll soon be travelling to snowbound Maine or Montana.

Flying in would afford the chance to drive my all-time favorite vehicle: the rental car. Iíve driven some of the worldís greatest cars, feeling like a nine year-old playing Hot Wheels and winning the Big Race. Yet, my favorite remains the lowly rental car. I donít care which model.

What other car can be driven at the limit without concern for trees or guardrails? Lotus Elise? Sure, itís a track-day riot. But give me a Ford Crown Vic rental in Galveston, Texas, where I learned to execute 180-degree parking-brake turns on the beach.

I was there for my sisterís engagement party, and the January beach was empty. So why not? Iíd purchased the insurance policy. After an hour, I was laughing hysterically and cramped from trying not to slide too far across the bench seat. To quote ZZ Top, ďIím bad, Iím nationwide.Ē

What about a Dodge Viper? It has never-ending muscle and grip. But give me a U-Haul truck and spare time. Some friends were helping me move and thanks to their encouragement I decided to find out what the truckís cornering limits were. The Ford turned more sharply than I anticipated. Somehow, there was no damage to the Toyota pickup I hit, other than a flat tire. I canít say the same for the U-Haul. But I had the insurance policy. And now, a new nickname: T-bone. My friends were laughing the whole time.

Surely, nothing beats a Ferrari 458. Then again, in New Orleans, I rented a truly awful Chevy Cavalier. Its tires vibrated at a stand-still. Anyway, heading to a meeting, I went through a small dip, then sharply uphill. I made a mental note.

I couldnít wait to get back into that pile-of-garbage Cavalier after the meeting. I sped back to paradise planning my shenanigans along the way. Idling a few moments, I noted the sun hanging high in the sky ready to witness. The Cavalier shuddered hesitantly (it knew somehow). Then I mashed the gas pedal and let out a ďYeehaw!Ē At fifty miles per hour, the bump produced sparks in the rear view. Then the engine raced as the front wheels cleared the ground. My shoulder harness kept me off the steering wheel when I landed. But now the Chevy sat lower on my side.

Whoops! Something broke. Apparently, Cavaliers werenít built for flight. Oh well, thatís why I bought the insurance. The rental car company sent out another car, an upgrade, for my trouble.

This holiday season should I be so lucky to be offered the choice, Iíll skip the Lamborghini and choose the incognito rental, making sure to buy insurance. Low-earth orbit in a Buick Regal could get me in the Guinness Book of World Records. [kiWO]