The unexpected: desert, then on-tray.
By John Maizels
It’s been pretty much plastered all over the the web that I and Julius (aka J-Man, publisher, editor, chief strategist, and totally unpredictable director of all things CX) went on an adventure-filled road trip to InfoComm 2012. As Road Trips go, we had everything except Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour: drama, pathos, surprises, danger, extraction, and a happy ending. Of course, I didn’t know it was going to be a road trip until J-Man told me, two days before departure, to bring a hat and don’t forget the sunscreen. Why? For this trip Julius had reserved a Ford Mustang convertible. For those of you truly born yesterday, the Mustang is an iconic two-door American performance car that sits in the same category as “fun fun fun till her daddy takes the T-bird away”.
Anyone who has done the trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas knows that the five hours of driving between the two cities is through desert. It’s almost desert when you leave LA, it’s desert along interstate route I15, and it’s still desert when you get to Vegas. TheMaiz’ dictionary defines “desert” as a zone which doesn’t get a lot of water. Even though we normally think of desert as sandy and arid, an Alaskan ice field could technically be desert. I15 goes through a piece of countryside that is waterless AND very hot, and inhabited by the sort of people who might comfortably eat a salamander for breakfast. Desert. It’s not the place to take a convertible in summer, whether you have a hat or not. It’s not the place to be if the car breaks down, fifty or a hundred miles to the nearest rental car desk.
Somehow, our universe moved to the left of sensible. I was on the phone haranguing AT&T about a data plan when we pulled over, barely half a mile from the next gas station but facing uphill where we couldn’t see it. J-man turned off the ignition, in the belief that recycling the car’s computer would help. All that did was get it annoyed. “Bong, bong” it said, translating roughly as “No, I won’t let you start the engine because you’re still in gear”. :”No”, we said, “you’re not in gear”. Without air conditioning or shade to mitigate the 43C heat we weren’t going to be in gear for much longer either.
The rest of the story has unfolded in blogs and on CXTra. (View here). The car won… it was carried back to Vegas on a tray truck and we never saw it again. I won’t mention the name of the rental car company, but their slogan used to be “let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat”. We think that’s changed to “let us put you in the boot”. Or maybe “let us put the boots in”, given their lack of willingness to do the right thing with the obscenely high rental charge, despite stranding us for hours with a vehicle that more resembled a convection oven than a conveyance. J-man (who has Gold Latinum status with the rental company, so you’d think they’d care) has vowed never to darken one of their driver’s seats again. Can’t say I blame him, and it’s not as though there aren’t other options.
Planning for next year’s trip has started. We have booked a Bollywood bus, and have gone to the trouble of prescheduling a breakdown in the desert. It’s one of those Bollywood tricks used to justify a spontaneous but inexplicable high-production-value dance and chorus number in the middle of nowhere.