“I’m sick to death of that song, but for $100 I’ll play it for you. Once.”
That’s a lounge musician talking.
At the roadside Holiday Inn’s lounge, lounge musicians do the same audience-expected songs night after night, month after month. Eventually, The thought of the first few words of Route 66, Feelings, or Sentimental Journey comes to provoke an involuntary grimace before being masked by a forced smile.
I feel that way about air travel.
My “rule” used to be if I could drive it in two hours, I’d do that rather than fly. But the TSA, that “quick hop” from Houston to Dallas that routed between two flahing thunderstorms with everyone – and I do mean everyone – strapped in and cinched down tight against the violent up, down and sudden rolls left and right … … Oh yeah, put me in a rental car for several hours rather than strapped i to a silver tube for a few minutes and I’m a happy traveler.
My rule is now four hours, sometimes five.
And if the schedule permits, a whole day enjoying the ground level scenery, be it bare naked winter trees, four inches of traversable snow or a deafening downpour, I’ll take the highway.
But Denver changes things, and it’s not the snow, or not exactly the snow.
It’s the rental car companies and what they do different in Denver in the winter.
You see, rental car bookings go way down in Denver in the winter. Travelers would, not surprisingly, rather go elsewhere. Consequently, the back parking lots of all the rental car companies have lots of idle cars in Denver in the winter.
Nobody wants those cars in Denver.
And what the rental car companies don’t want is more cars.
So, they hike up the “one way rental drop charge” to Denver.
Their $100 song is, “We don’t want another car but, for a bunch of money, we’ll take it anyway.”
My rental from Tulsa this past Monday is about $200/week but if I drive it to Denver and return it there, my employer will be calling me up about the two week rental for $400 but with the drop charge that racks th total up to more than $1000. And that was the cheapest of four rental companies. The worst was over three grand!
Of course, my employer will pay the rental – once probably – but I’ll surely hear a strong, “Don’t ever do that again!”
So forget the truck stops, rest areas and speed limit signs westward to Colorado. Instead I’m driving back to Tulsa Saturday morning to turn in the rental car where I got it, fly a one way to Denver and, once there, pick up a new rental to be returned also in Denver where it will again be about $200 but with no one-way fee. They’ll still be stuck with the car, but I won’t be blamed or paying for making their predicament worse.
My total travel dollars will actually be close to the same once the air ticket is added in but the damage will be spread out on the expense report form. No one charge will jump out.
And that extra ride on Southwest this weekend?
That’ll be me doing a $100 song in the lounge.