Sunday, January 24, 2016

Adventures in Car Renting

There are several car rental agencies in the town center just a few blocks from our house, so renting a car is pretty easy (in theory).  I reserve online and try to remember to have all of the necessary paperwork with me when I go to pick up the rental; this includes my drivers' license, credit card, teudat zehut (Israeli ID card) *and* my US passport (that's the one that always gets me, as the other things are always in my purse).  This past week I had a new clerk who, 15 minutes before closing time, insisted that I also needed my teudat aliyah, the ID card confirming we had made aliyah.  She and I went back and forth for several minutes, with me remembering the advice that "Israelis will say 'no, no, no' and then, without reason, will say 'yes'".  And then she gave me the rental car without requiring me to run home for the teudat aliyah.

My father suggested that I try to work out a better price with the car rental agency than the one I get online.  Those of you who know "Norman the Negotiator" in real life will have no trouble believing he said this :).  "Tell them you'll bring the car back nice and clean and without dings" he suggested.  I had such a good laugh over this: "Dad, when I GET the car, it's not nice and clean and without dings!".  Re. the dings: for anyone considering renting a car in Israel, just do yourself a favor and take the full insurance coverage, no matter the cost.  I can't imagine that any renter could realistically catalog all the dings and knocks each car has before taking it out as a rental (unless you came an hour before you actually needed the car), and you would surely end up paying for someone else's trouble with the car.

Re. the "nice and clean": I have had cars that range from mildly dirty to downright filthy (inside and out).  Hard to believe I'm paying for this!  The last time I rented, Yinon, the young man who brings out the rental cars, tried to clean the car for me: he took out the empty packet of cookies from the front seat and threw it on the ground (don't get me started on the trash issue in Israel--one of the big things that bothers me here).  Yinon left the half empty Coke bottles and water bottles for me to deal with, though....

Amusing side story about Yinon: he speaks very little English.  The first time I rented, he was trying to ask me....something....and I just wasn't getting it.  Getting frustrated, he asked in a very strong tone how long I had been in Israel for.
"Three....weeks....." I responded.  Every word was a struggle at that point.
"Three YEARS?!?!" he demanded
"No....three....weeks"  (and I realized he was upset with the idea of someone here long-term who hadn't learned the language)
"Three MONTHS?" he asked.
"NO, THREE WEEKS!" (see, I'm educable!).
He broke into a broad smile and said, "Three weeks?  You speak Hebrew very well for only three weeks" and since then we chat every time about how things are going in ulpan and life in Israel.

The past two times I rented I got an Opal wagon with a backup camera.  First time I've ever driven with one and I loved it, although it definitely seems very, very weird to look forward while driving backward.  I finally decided my method was to look out the back to the left, look back right and then look at the backup camera.  From those of you who use a backup camera on a regular basis, I would love advice of the best way to use it.

I also drove the worst car I have ever driven.  As someone who never owned a car until I was in my 30s, I have driven LOTS of rental cars, lots of ZipCars and lots of friends' cars.  The Fiat 500 was the worst (and scariest) driving experience I have ever had, which is really too bad because it was also the cutest, sportiest car I ever drove (well, perhaps it was tied with the light green Volkswagon Beetle with the flower in the vase on the dashboard that was "our" ZipCar in Brookline).  I got in that car so excitedly and, when I returned it, was just thankful the experience was over.  When they tried to give me the same model the next week, I told them there was no way, and I even paid for the upgrade because all they had left was Fiat 500s in various colors.  While searching around online to find out if I was the only one who had such a hard time driving this thing ("I'm pressing the gas and I'm in drive.  Why on earth am I rolling backwards?!"), I came across this:  Truly the funniest car review I have ever read (it may also be the *only* car review I have ever read, but don't let that stop you from getting a laugh, too).  My favorite line: "Driving the Fiat 500L made me long for the days of mule-based transportation".

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