10:50 on a Sunday morning and I’m not out enjoying my new bike on the first dry day since I took delivery nearly two weeks ago. I’m at the airport. Not in the shiny A380 I first thought was waiting for me at gate C64, but in a clapped out looking 747 next door. The seat in front of me was recently redecorated in chewing gum and my neighbour is one of those charming fellows brought up without tissues or handkerchiefs, so it’s a-hack-hack-hackin’ away we go down the runway and into 11 hours of nasal entertainment. Yet I’m smiling like the proverbial cheshire cat, grinning from ear to ear because I’m being paid to be here and looking forward to spending time in one of my favourite cities.
Simple plans are often the best, and this one’s positively hillbilly; nip over to San Francisco, rent-a-wreck, drive to Vegas. Spend a few silly days celebrating a birthday with the girls, burn up and down The Strip, then meander back to the city by the bay via Yosemite. Pop into head office to file the expense claim, catch up with old friends, board plane for Blighty. Sort through the photos, back to November monotony. Quick & painless.
That’s the theory anyway. Back in reality I’m at the Holiday Inn, recovering from a cold burger and wondering if I can risk another bottle of Old Rasputin Stout.
Despite the timely arrival of my flight it took an improbable two hours for me to clear customs (apparently ‘shift change’ means 8 immigration counters are manned but only one in service) and then I couldn’t find the hire car counter, mainly because I was rushing around like a tit. Needn’t have worried, for Avis have queues all of their own and were obviously determined to show Immigration how it’s done. I could see the staff were as harassed as the customers were frustrated so I tried a different approach from the folks in front of me in the line, and was rewarded with the proposition of a free upgrade – something ‘a little more fun’ she said, suggestively, looking over her glasses.
And so I came by the big red shark that’s parked under my hotel room, one bag on the back seat because the boot is full of
dead hookers my other bag, costing me as much for 2 days parking as it would have done for a week’s accidental damage waiver. Which I declined. Idiot. It took less than 20 minutes of downtown driving to realise my mistake, another 20 minutes to crawl 3 miles to the local Avis office and a 10 minute conversation with the rudest, most unhelpful individual to stand either side of a counter to find out that no, you can’t add collision damage waiver after you drive off, even if a colleague has inspected the car and found it to be fine. Said colleague shrugged his shoulders and showed me the number to call with my complaint, I thanked them both for their contribution and slunk back to the hotel.
Oh, and Rasputin? Having finally pulled out some money on my Amex card (all the others refused, guess who forgot to call the bank before leaving?) I was only going as far as Burger King, but there was an off-license on the corner and suddenly a few cold beers seemed just the ticket. One had ‘stout’ on the label, the others pretty pictures, so I grabbed an assorted handful. The lightest one was 6.8%, the strongest nearly 13%. At least the evening’s off to a good start – cheers!