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?”

“Well, why 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.

“Well, sometimes 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.”

“Of 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.