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26. Stuck in the Desert
Patricia asked for the cheapest car available at
Car Rental. She needed a car for 48
. Because it was the weekend, there was only
car available at the moment—an SUV. Patricia was
environmentalist. SUVs, which are big cars consuming a
of gasoline, offended her greatly.
But she needed
to get to Baker, a town that was
miles from the small airport. So she went
RentMe instead. “I need a car for 48
,” she said, “and I don’t want an SUV.
want something cheap.” They told her they had
the vehicle for her, a 1998 Fiat. It
only thirty dollars a day, including insurance and
incidental fees. All she had to do was
pay for her own gasoline. Patricia was very
. Thirty dollars a day was a good rate
for a weekday. She signed all the paperwork,
they gave her the keys.
The Fiat was
4-speed, 4-cylinder, 2-door beauty. The paint, tires, and
interior were like new. It was comfortable, even
the air-conditioner was not the frostiest. She got
and drove north. It was a two-lane road
the way to Baker, with only one town
the airport and Baker. That town was Norris,
miles from Baker.
Patricia didn’t make it to
. The car refused to run 30 minutes after
had been driving it. Fortunately, her cell phone
able to connect back to the RentMe desk. “
car stopped running, and I’m out here in
middle of nowhere in the hot sun!” she
“That doesn’t make any sense,” said the clerk. “
did put gas in the car before you
town, didn’t you?”
“No, of course not!” yelled
. “Why would I put gas in the car
I even got out of town?”
you think you got such a good rate—we
money by having the customer gas up instead
us having to put gas in the car.”
was in a hurry,” said Patricia.
pay a price for being in a hurry,”
the clerk. “We’ll send a man out with
spare gas for you, if you’d like.”
I’d like,” said Patricia. “How long will it
The clerk told her it would be within
hour. He didn’t tell her that there would
a $50 service charge for delivering the gas,
that the 3 gallons of fuel would cost
$7 a gallon. She would get that bad
when she returned the car to the airport.