Carmageddon Is Coming

I’ve mentioned on several occasions how much I hate renting cars, so you can imagine how pleased I was (not!) to belly up to the rental car counter again last weekend.

My life seems to flip-flop between Murphyesque fiascos and windfalls of ridiculously good luck; so I fully expected our car-rental experience to be either excellent or excrable, with no chance of middle ground.

My heart sank at the first words out of the agent’s mouth:  “We don’t have the full-size sedan you booked…”

I braced myself for the inevitable shit landslide.

But no; the agent went on to say that they’d give us a free upgrade to an SUV or mini-van instead.

“No mini-vans,” I said.

“You can go and look at the vehicles and choose the one you want,” he replied.  “Just check with the agent on the lot.”

So we did.  The lot agent confirmed that they had a Kia Sportage or a mini-van available.

“No mini-vans,” I said.

“Let’s just go and have a look,” he said.

The shiny red Sportage was brand new with a leather interior and only 78 kilometres on the odometer.  The driver’s seat was comfortable.  Perfect.

“Let’s look at the mini-van now,” the agent encouraged.

“No mini-vans,” I said.

“It’s fully loaded.  Let’s just go and look at it,” he cajoled.  “You’ll love it.”

“No mini-vans,” I muttered.  But he wouldn’t give up, so I followed him around the corner.

He hadn’t lied; the mini-van was loaded.  Leather interior, remote start, power everything… and approximately the size of the RMS Titanic.

I did not love it.

“NO… MINI-VANS!” I repeated loudly and firmly.

The agent gave me an incredulous look.  Because seriously, who in their right mind would want to zip along in a sporty red SUV when they could be wallowing down the highway in a land yacht designed to accommodate seven full-grown adults along with enough luggage to outfit an entire expeditionary force?

But at last the agent reluctantly handed over the keys for the Sportage.  And life was good.


We were at my niece’s wedding reception when my brother-in-law’s phone pinged.  “Uh-oh,” he said, and showed us the screen.  There was a severe weather warning:  Lightning, thunder, torrential rain, hail, tornadoes, and a 60% chance of the biblical apocalypse.

Our shiny new rental car quivered under the darkening sky.   I quivered, too.  We had insured the Sportage under our regular auto policy, and I really didn’t want to make a claim for total vehicular annihilation.

The sky turned as black as night and the heavens split open.  The wind howled.  The power failed.  When the rain wasn’t blowing completely sideways, it bucketed down so hard it bounced a foot up off the asphalt when it hit.

But not a single hailstone fell on the shiny new Sportage.

I found out later what a ridiculous stroke of good fortune that had been.  A giant hay barn collapsed near Tilley; two semis blew off the TransCanada highway near Brooks; the entire city of Medicine Hat was without power for a couple of hours; loonie-sized hail pounded northeast Calgary; and tornadoes touched down outside of Edmonton.

But we were fine.

Which was wonderful; but I shudder to think what Murphy is saving up for the next time I rent a car.  It’ll be Carmageddon for sure.

Maybe I’ll just stay home for the rest of my life…

27 thoughts on “Carmageddon Is Coming

  1. Vehicle size is relative, like kissing you sister. Having driven a full size van for 17 years, 8 passenger with room for camping gear, I found the minivan a nice small vehicle with not much luggage room. Having said that, the Kia Sportage is a great car and I am glad no hailstorm spoiled it.


    • I can see where the mini-van would seem small to you. And it was smaller than our longbox club-cab half-ton, so I guess I can’t exactly consider it a giant vehicle; but we were driving 1,000 km so fuel economy was a consideration. (Plus the Sportage was new and cute and red. I’m shallow like that.) 😉


  2. Since the kids are grown and gone, I’m with you on no mini van….
    I haven’t experience weather like you described since growing up in Iowa…I remember an entire town wiped out by a tornado. You are very lucky it didn’t hail and dinged the heck out of the car….that would be my nightmare….ealing with a car rental company on damage that was beyond your control! Hope the rest of the trip went well!! Makes any weather issues you deal with on Vancouver Island pale by comparison doesn’t it!!


    • It sure does, Kirt! It’s such a joy to never have to worry about hail or tornadoes. Apparently they’ve had one tornado in the past 50 years or so. Ditto hail – it’s rare, and even if it does come, it’s rarely destructive. Iowa is near the edge of Tornado Alley, isn’t it? No wonder you moved! 😉

      The rest of our trip went well, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I returned the Sportage unscathed!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Since the Sportage was spared, I’ll conclude that God hates mini-vans. I suspect that if you had caved into a mini-van, that God would have punished you with hail stones – instead he said, “Spare the Sportage, those are good.”


  4. I think everything worked out well this time, Diane. You got the car you wanted and had no major hiccups, even managing to avoid a storm. But… as you tend to veer from side to side, I’d be more than a little prepared for your next adventure, car hire wise, just in case.


  5. I would have grabbed the agent’s lapels and said “your mother never said ‘no’ to you, did she?” Cripes.
    Good thing you weren’t driving the RMS Titanic in the storms. That would have been like a wind catcher for ya, and over you’d have gone as well. Kee-rash.


    • Yep. I suspect that the agent was just trying to avoid the wrath of the next person to show up expecting a full-size sedan, only to be told that their sole remaining options were a mini-van or a sub-compact econobox. He probably thought he could easily pawn off the Mom-mobile on this nice middle-aged lady. Ha. Little did he know… 😉


  6. As a reluctant traveller and certifiably frugal person, I think that your plan to never leave home again is the only sane thing to do 🙂

    Whenever I have too much random good luck, I’m always keeping an eye on the sky like the birds do when they’re on the ground, just waiting for the very large raptor / stroke of lightening, so I get your nervousness 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Better that than Karmageddon, I’d think. Then again, with rent-a-cars, who knows? With either, never ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” That’s a sure-fire way to find out. Don’t ask me how I know…

    No real excitement has happened in either mini-vans or SUVs. Well, yet. But vans? Yep. Busses? Yep.

    Was the driver for an all-weekend church outing from a small town in OK to Dallas. On the way back, late at night, thick clouds, HARD gusting crosswind, and blowing dust that reduced visibility to zero frequently. A twelve-passenger van carrying ten women and luggage.

    I think that situation may be where bad people go when they die.

    A few years later, went to Santa Fe, NM, for the weekend with another couple. Dear old friends for years and years. He had just completed the conversion of a retired Greyhound SceniCruiser into a posh motorhome, and nothing would do but to leave our usual transportation at home (our Honda Odyssey) and take his sweet ride. Great! I’m all for it! So we load up the bus, leave the Texas Panhandle town where we lived at the time, and hit the road for the high country. (Santa Fe is at 7,000 feet, FYI). Just out of town, he pulls over, kills it, tosses me the keys, and says, “Have at it!” COOL!! Fire it up and off we go. Powerful, smooth, tight, and handles like a Corvette! Well, a thirty thousand pound, forty-foot-long Corvette. Just sayin’…

    As usual, we spend the entire trip talking about everything and laughing a lot.
    We approach the city, so I ask if he’s ready to drive again. “No, you’re doing fine.” Closer to town. “No, you’re doing fine.” VERY close to the point of no return! “Nah, you got this. Take us to the hotel.”

    Just to be clear here, the hotel was two blocks from “The Square,” the center of the city in historic, old-town Santa Fe. The blocks are TINY, the streets are hilly and NARROW, it’s Friday night, and the place is packed with cars and pedestrians. And the bus has the same 4-speed, NON-SYNCHROMESH transmission and brutally stiff clutch that it left the factory with nearly THIRTY YEARS BEFORE.

    And remember, the gear shift lever is CABLE OPERATED as well as THIRTY-FIVE FEET from the transmission it operates. And I think the actual transmission retains veto power over anything the shift lever might suggest. Just sayin’…

    Okay, gotta double-clutch every shift, up and down. No problem. Okay, traffic light coming up, traffic thickens, downshift NOW. And the clutch pedal hits the floor with a resounding CLUNK. And stays there.

    I yell at my wife, “BABE! PRAY! The clutch just went out!” My buddy and his wife don’t say a word. Both are wide-eyed with their chins on their chests.

    Here’s the thing with manual transmissions. If you are either very skilled or very lucky, the only time you really need a clutch is for starting and stopping. And when you get right down to it, if conditions are favorable, you still can get by without a clutch, at least for a little while.

    As if by magic, traffic opened up in front of us. Granted, some was at the very last second, but still. Okay, don’t panic yet. Well, not completely. Close, but okay. CLOSE!!!! But okay! (Whew!) Traffic cooperates, we make a couple of green lights. Okay, not as bad as I thought…

    Until the fateful stop sign at the intersection just before the hotel. No option. Two city cops and a New Mexico State Trooper are RIGHT THERE. So ease it out of second as we slow, match revs, slide it into first, and let off the gas to coast to the stop sign. Hit the fuel shut-off to kill the engine (a HUGE Detroit Diesel) We are legally stopped at the stop sign with the engine dead and no clutch.

    When it’s my turn to go, turn the fuel on and hit the starter. The starter motor on an engine that size has more horsepower and torque than some mini-vans, just so you know. The engine turns over once, fires, and we’re off and idling sedately along in first gear. We ease into the hotel parking lot and I hit the fuel button again. Silence reigns. I have a near-death experience while everyone else gets us checked in. A few minutes later, everyone is back in the bus. We need to pull across the parking lot to unload, then the bus needs to be parked in one of the big RV slots. Same procedure gets us unloaded, then parked.

    My buddy is thinking about calling OTR truck road service, but I ask him to wait. I pulled the clutch pedal back up from the floor and wiggle it around a bit. A pin and a washer fall out from under the dash somewhere. My buddy produces a flashlight so we look around. Yep, the cotter pin had worn completely out and departed. The pin stayed put from gravity and friction, but finally worked its way out far enough that the cable unhooked from the pedal. When it was barely engaged, I still had a working clutch. When it was barely disengaged, I did not. The last wiggle caused it to fall out of the link altogether. Voila, mission-critical pin is on the floor. One of the girls produces a safety pin, and we’re back in business. And that’s my version of Carmageddon. And I’m sticking to it.

    Never hang with Karmageddon. Just sayin’…

    Liked by 1 person

    • O… M… G!!!! After the very first episode of “no clutch”, your buddy would have had to scrub, sterilize, and Scotchgard the seat I’d been occupying; and I sure as hell wouldn’t have started that monster up again after I got it stopped. I bow and genuflect in sheer awe at the magnitude of your cojones. (Or should that be “your craziness”…?)

      Liked by 1 person

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