New Rule- if I ever go out of town again, I need a travel agent and maybe a driver. When faced with a recruiting trip for my college this weekend, I went online to Cheapoair, my internet travel site of choice. In about ten minutes, I had managed to secure the most fatally flawed itinerary imaginable because online, there is no one to tell you you are an idiot. I take that back- no one reliable.
Fly Long Beach to SF, pick up a car from an agency called NuCar that even said it was a non airport location in south SF, and drive to the hotel in Burlinggame.
My events were in Oakland.
When I realized that, with not too much trouble, I managed to change my hotel to one in Berkeley, but the car reservation didn’t come clear as a disastrous mess until I had taken the blue train to the car rental hub at SFO only to be told that the car rental place was actually in the South SF. Really, Els?
The LA equivalent of my Bay Area travel debacle would be to fly into LAX, book a rental car at Rent-a-Wreck in downtown LA, a hotel in Valencia and then have meetings in Glendale.
And because idiocy reigned supreme on the day when I booked my own travel, I also booked the return leg at 6:00AM, necessitating the reverse trip to begin sometime around 3:30AM.
So I got to the car, a very cute, pearl gray Fiat 500, a car that I have admired since seeing it out and about in various interesting colors. The very kind man at the Avis counter at the airport, who deftly steered me to the Budget counter, sealing irrefutably that car rental companies are one big monopoly, gave me an upgrade, in addition to the car. I had been feeling pretty good about my $40.00 NuCar Rental until Mr. Avis/Budget told me the best deal for the 40 hr rental period was $125.00. (Hey, recruiting ain’t cheap.)
Exhausted from having come directly from tech rehearsal to the airport, it was a small price to pay to get me on the road. I got in the little Fiat, which is actually quite spacious, and after checking all the mirrors, lights, etc., and getting Siri to give me the directions I needed to get to Berkeley, I backed out of the slot and started out of the car rental garage.
The car, with an automatic transmission, actually has two little symbols to the left of the D. A plus sign and a minus sign. It was groaning and straining when I pulled the stick to the left so those were lit up.
About now, you are thinking, “what college does she recruit for? Why is she such a moron?” Wait, gets better.
The drive to the Doubletree Berkeley Marina is pretty straight forward until you get off at University Avenue and have to do a Uturn at Seventh to get going the right direction. It was early, but dark enough that as I approached Marina Avenue. On what is essentially a very poorly paved road, my thoughts were beginning to go toward a James Ellison novel. Siri told me we had arrived when clearly we had not, but Pearl and I just kept driving until the warm and welcoming lights of the Doubletree chocolate chip cookie inn appeared on the left.
The auditions went very well. The school had extremely talented students in production, and we got out just at 4:00pm as promised. I bid my colleague, Sergio, goodbye, and toodled back to the hotel.
The good news about the trip, aside from getting to meet about 17 interested production students is that I was able to arrange to have dinner with some college friends whom I just seen a few weeks earlier when they traveled to USC with their two children to see the campus. So I figured I would head back to the hotel and just kick back for a while before heading to their house, also in Berkeley.
Siri told me to take the 580 W and I tried to, but misinterpreted her directions to stay on the road I was on at a critical juncture- the Bay Bridge. Before I could even say “Els, you are an idiot,” I found myself approaching the toll plaza for the Bay bridge, fast track off to the right, cash lanes to the left. Panic time. But no, Siri was telling me in her so calm and authoritative voice, to take the first exit, West Grand Ave., which I could see ahead up to the right. The last exit for Oakland. Off I veered, rather too dramatically for my own tastes, and the Pearl and I were suddenly on some bypass road, completely bypassing the toll plaza. And yes, that blue flash was the camera taking my picture to send me the ticket. I was going as slowly as I could, and off to my right, there was a CHP officer ticketing someone else who had done exactly what I did. Maybe Siri gets a kickback from the CHP for guiding lost tourists onto the FastTrak bus lane at the toll plaza. But there was nothing to do. I even slowed down in case he had time to finish his ticketing process and turn his attention to me. Now Siri had me get back into the bridge traffic. People around me were clearing for me as they knew I was the worst driver this side of Kansas, and Siri told me to get over to the left lane and get off at Treasure island. Which I did, doing the Uturn she told me to do. Another CHP officer watched me from his car at that ramp entrance. It seems pretty clear that either Siri doesn’t know wtf she is doing in giving directions, or there are a whole lot of U-turns necessary to drive in this part of the world.
Pearl started groaning conspicuously, and was flashing her red “check transmission” sign on the dash. I exited at University Avenue again, did a uey at Seventh, this time in rush hour traffic, and soon glided into the parking space at the Doubletree Chocolate Chip Inn.
While I was more than a little worried about my drive to my friends’ home, Pearl made it and we had a very pleasant evening talking about days long gone by I know that it will be worth it to spend the evening with them. I just hoped that Pearl could manage the drive back to SFO in the wee hours.
She did, and now I am happily ensconced in the safety of my tech rehearsal.