Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It Pays to be from Alvechurch


By Belinda

Early last week while we were still at home in Canada, the phone rang and it was Rob.

"Belinda, I don't have anything to tell me what flight you're on or what time you're arriving or anything," he said.

I usually send these details by mail to Rob, since he doesn't use the internet. But I had been busy with a wedding and Christmas and work. Also, because Paul was coming with me this time, I had booked a car for two weeks when booking our flight with Expedia, thinking that it would make the visit more enjoyable for him.

We were picking the car up at Birmingham airport, which meant that Rob didn't need to meet us off the plane. But I gave Rob the flight number and time of arrival over the phone.

It was Friday, and we were almost ready to leave, when Rob called again. He asked if there was anything we wanted him to get in for us.

"I've got crispbread, yogurt and nuts for you Belinda," he said.

Although he knows me well and these are indeed my staples, they sound deceptively virtuous. They would be liberally laced with fish and chip and various other treats that even out the healthiness of my diet to well on this side of sainthood.

But there was more behind Rob's call.

"Are you sure you don't want me to meet you at the airport?" he asked, "I'd like to be there when you arrive, and, I know you'd be all right, but it might be easier to follow me home."

I could hear the same anticipation in his voice that I was feeling about arriving there short hours from then, and Paul thanked him for the offer to meet us. Simple as the trip from Birmingham to Alvechurch is, having someone to follow while he was still getting oriented to driving on the other side of the road wouldn't hurt!

And in the bright sunshine of Saturday morning we would  have missed Rob's big bear hug, which greeted us as we emerged with our luggage.

We all went together to the car rental counter and there, a young girl with a pretty, round, pale face, and blue eyes--all surrounded by deep pinkish maroon hair--asked us if we had insurance.

Insurance? I hadn't seen that question when I booked.

We realized that we didn't have it and we should have it but were shocked to find that the cost of accident and theft insurance for 14 days was going to cost as much as the rental itself--an expense we hadn't planned on.

By now her  male colleague behind the counter was listening in and helping sort out our dilemma. Behind his glasses, his pale grayish blue eyes matched the gray of the sweater he wore over his shirt and a slightly crooked tie. He was in problem solving mode.

He asked a few questions with a look of concentration and then explained that had we insured it at the time we booked, it would have been cheaper. Then he said, "Hang on, I'm going to try something."

He got on the phone to Expedia and asked if there would be a penalty for canceling the rental. No. Then he explained to us what he could rent the car to us for with insurance--it was almost exactly what we had paid without it.

"Deal!" we said.

As we thanked him he looked at Rob and said with a smile, "Well, I saw that you're from Alvechurch."

A flurry of questions later and we found that he lives on Snake Lane, just around the corner from Mum and Rob realized that he recognized him. Alvechurch folks--they stick together--and we were grateful!

Paul was also grateful to have Rob to help figure out how to work the beautiful hybrid Toyota Auris that had no key, just a push button start.  It made no sound although it was running--on electricity.

Quite a bit later than we had expected, we finally arrived safely in Alvechurch, where Mum was beginning to worry that some dreadful fate had befallen all of us. Kisses all around and a kettle was put on for tea!

5 comments:

Susan said...

I'm glad you didn't pay much for insurance - because your own car insurance covers your rentals. The rental companies (the scoundrels) don't tell you that, though. I got stung once, (in Florida) and then when I got home I checked with my insurance agent. "No need," he said. "Your policy covers rentals." Never again. :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Oh, My, Birmingham. I think Birmingham is the single most difficult city to navigate. Once, asking a police officer how to get to a venue where I was presenting in Birmingham - we were hopelessly lost, he pondered a moment and then said simply, 'You can't get there from here.' Birmingham is the reason we have a GPS. We were in Manchester and going the next day to Birmingham. We were 'sweat at night' worried about it. We went to the Trafford center and Joe marched us into a store and bought a GPS. 'Ted' our GPS managed to get us into Birmingham and to our hotel. But it was the first time I'd ever heard a GPS sound exhausted on arrival at a destination. Having someone to follow ... priceless!

Belinda said...

Susan, we thought we might be covered, but weren't certain, and because it was Saturday, our agent's office in Canada would not have been open. Having not thought to check before we left, we felt suddenly vulnerable and thought, "Better safe than sorry!" It's good to know that if we did this again we wouldn't have to worry.

Belinda said...

Dave, Yes, I've heard tales of "Spaghetti Junction!" Fortunately we just have to get on the M 42 from Birmingham Airport and it pretty much takes us straight to Alvechurch but Rob just recently got himself a "Sat Nav" :)and can't say enough about how much it has reduced his anxiety when in unfamiliar territory!

Susan said...

Yeah, that sense of vulnerability is what those rental companies prey upon. You can't be faulted for not knowing, but they can certainly be faulted for not giving you that information when you book your rental. And I'll do my best to get the word out to anyone and everyone. I remember that same feeling, standing at the rental car checkout in an airport, being asked if I want to buy insurance and not knowing the answer! So I bought it... But when I got back I checked and I didn't need it. Most people don't. Vultures.

Listen to me! Maybe I thought I was on someone else's blog today... :)