Happy Monday, readers! As the first month of Tiles in a Mosaic draws to a close, I have one last snarky and overly bitter service encounter to share with you all. I’ve had this waiting in the wings for a bit, but between the Shore, strap hanging doomsday prophets, and feeding my own narcissism, it fell by the wayside for a few days. I’m just a man.
Last Wednesday, my roommate asked me to help him move– not out of our apartment, but in. You see, my previous roommate got married and moved to New Jersey (you know, like ya do), so at the beginning of the month, another of my friends moved in and took his room. Pretty awesome deal for me, since I didn’t have to spend any time looking for a new roommate and/or have to live with a random jackass off Craigslist who no doubt would have some sort of super-weird “quirk,” like collecting taxidermied song birds or murdering me in my sleep. So, at the beginning of the month, new roomie moved in. The only problem was, old roomie had yet to move all his stuff out of the bedroom, so new roomie couldn’t quite move all his stuff. Therefore, we had two guys’ stuff, but only one room to put it in. (Three guys, if you count my boy who crashed on the couch for like a month in the fall, then got ghost to Indiana, leaving behind an enormous duffel bag for us to safeguard. Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump’s mom: I usually live with at least one retarded person, and a steady stream of random boarders keep coming and going. The main difference being I’ve never met Elvis…or fucked my son’s principal. Yet.)
As January marched on and old roomie still hadn’t come by for his possessions, new roomie’s old roomie/brother (got that?) started getting about the other bedroom at his place still not being empty. Finally, new roomie has to bite the bullet and clear out his old place before his stuff winds up on the street. Enter: me. (Note the difference between that and “enter me.” The latter is much more traumatizing.) I have a Zipcar membership, so new roomie offered to compensate me for my help by reimbursing the cost of the car and buying me a cheeseburger. As a broke-ass writer, I can’t really afford to be turning down free meals. I was in.
We needed a lot of cargo room, and the weather was rapidly becoming a concern (rain was becoming freezing rain, then hail and I think at some point it was forecasted to morph into giant frogs), so I picked out a 2010 Ford Escape. Now, I’ve never been a shill in my life, and certainly not for an automobile, but let me just say that this particular piece of equipment absolutely crushed it. All wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, heated seats, tires made out of some sort of space-age road-gripping super substance…we loaded the thing to the brim and I rolled through the oncoming storm with no fear whatsoever. Despite the hail/snow/frogs steadily falling and accumulating all around us, never once did I fear anything remotely close to losing control.
Back in Park Slope, we unloaded new roomie’s worldly goods (does anyone really need 6 pillows?). Of course, we had to unload them into the living room, since there was no space in the bedroom due to old roomie’s material footprint still occupying its share. But at any rate, we were done. So we did what anyone would do at 10:30 at night after pulling off a successful crash-move: we drank. The car didn’t need to be returned until the next morning, and I had pulled off one of the most majestic parallel park jobs of my career, so no worries.
The next morning, I arose at 8 to return the car and found that Brooklyn looked something like this:
This was actually taken about 2 hours , and this is Prospect Heights, not Park Slope, but you get the idea. These drifts don’t accurately reflect the state of things on 4th Avenue, where the plow trucks had done a great job of clearing the street, but had plowed in all the cars on the block, including my Escape. The bank barricading it in was easily 2 feet high. I took one look at the situation (situation!) and decided there was no way I was getting that thing out of there, at least not without extensive snow removal, which I sure as shit was not going to do. I assumed (wouldn’t you?) that Zipcar encounters this problem at least occasionally and therefore had systems and solutions in place for it, so I called them.
The customer service rep did that sly “start-talking-just-a-second-before-I-unmute-the-mic” trick, so I never got to hear his name. The odds that he did this on purpose are about 168:1, but I think everything revolves around me and therefore took it exceedingly personally. Since I never got his name, I’m going to arbitrarily assign him one for the purposes of telling the story. He sounded like a…Brad. Yeah, just like a Brad. Plus, there was this kid I hated in middle school named Brad, so it works out perfectly. Already on edge, I explained the situation: car stuck. Not getting out. Send help. Brad offered to extend the reservation two and half hours and suggested that sometimes Zipcars have “a small shovel in the back.” Sigh. Clearly Brad is not anywhere near New York, so I reiterate: seriously, lots of snow. Car not moving any time soon. Do something. Brad says he understands (still kinda feeling like you don’t, Brad) and put me on hold. I’m going to unnecessarily put a paragraph break in here to symbolize the hold time.
Brad returns a few minutes later, and again says he can extend my reservation at no cost, allowing me time to shovel. He then says if at about 10:00am it’s still not moving to call back and they can try to get some other members to help me. Well, Brad, I guess that sounds like a reasonab– wait, what? That’s your plan? Really? Tell me to do all the work, and then if that doesn’t work, get some more paying customers to pitch in? That’s a hell of a service model. Zipcar: “Where the Customers Pay to Serve Themselves.” You’re really telling me that you do business renting cars in New York and Boston, yet you have NO contingency plan for inclement weather? How is that acceptable? When I was in charge of the shelter, if we weren’t prepared for the weather with adequate staffing and supplies, we still had to make the show go on. I know weather can’t be controlled, but it can be anticipated. Get with it.
(Aside: for the record, let me just say that in general I love Zipcar. Good service, great cars, reasonable prices, always there for me. Except in this case. Cause they fucked this one up.)
I thank Brad for his help, and go on about my day, resolute in my plan to not shovel a single flake of snow. Instead, I do what any kid from the Northwoods would do: I tried to drive that fucker right out of there. Over the snow, through the snow, whatever; I was getting that thing on the road. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. After about 15 minutes of rocking back and forth, fighting for every inch of traction and positioning, the Escape escaped (so witty!) the clutches of the snow drift and roared on to 4th Avenue. It was, of course, a bittersweet victory. Excited though I was to have defeated the forces of nature, it turned out that I was the asshole for complaining to Brad so much. Sorry, Brad. I still maintain my position that they should be better prepared for circumstances like this. How much would it cost to have one tow truck in each major area? Or even to just contract with a tow company for these types of situations? Can’t be much.
One last word about the Ford Escape: awesome. Driving through the choppy mess that was the streets of Brooklyn on my way back to the garage that morning, I felt like I was in a Humvee on the streets of Fallujah. People were walking in the streets to avoid trudging through banks, lesser cars were stuck in the snow, people went out of their way to dodge the bigger piles left lying around…not me. I charged right through all the mess. In the words of Ferris Bueller: if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.