Scotland II: Rental Car Disaster with Redeeming Characteristics, October, 2019
Since we planned to travel around Scotland, to the Highlands and hopefully, the Isle of Skye, we rented a car. Jim, who has driven every imaginable vehicle from small to huge, was a little leery of driving on the other side of the road. Nevertheless, we rented a car through the “Scorecard Rewards” place that allowed us to use our accumulated credit union Visa points for all our airfares and car rental.
Alas, I made a mistake booking and needed to change one date. The price was higher and so the agent found another rental place “Green Motion.” Hmmmm, I thought but went ahead with it.
Luckily we took a taxi from the Glasgow hotel to the car rental place as it was not near the airport.
It was a small door at the back of a strip mall with mostly Mercedes, Peugots and very few small cars. The cars all had scrapes where renters had trouble with the roundabouts. The agent tried to sell us the liability insurance dazzling us with figures on a sticky note. We turned it down. We had to put a $3,000 deposit down even though we had car insurance in Alaska and some Visa coverage. We had paper maps of Scotland but none showing us how to get out of Glasgow. “Green Motion” didn’t provide the most rudimentary map.
They offered us an upgraded car, a Mercedes, with a SATNAV (GPS) for $80 more. We couldn’t figure out how to operate it. The agent showed us, even he had trouble, but it was still confusing. With my brain, still foggy from travel, I didn’t think to just use my IPhone GPS.
Finally, after photographing every scratch, we headed to the Highlands with plenty of time to reach our cottage before dark. Jim did not like the bigger car, driving on the narrow roads, on the left side of the road. We drove along Loch Lomond with Jim’s white knuckled hands gripping the steering wheel.
We reached the halfway point. There was a piece of wood in the road and Jim ran over it, unable to go around it. We had a flat tire. Luckily, we pulled into the parking lot of an Inn.
Jim checked the trunk, but there was no spare tire, or jack. There was an empty bottle of “pump it up” stuff. I called the rental place but was directed to the Mercedes car support line. I spent 45 minutes with them discussing the problem. Having not heard from them in the promised 30 minutes, I called again. My request was lost. We started all over again. Hope of getting to our lodging in the Highlands before dark was gone.
“Redeeming Characteristic.” We went into the Drover’s Pub and Inn. The building was built in 1705 and it is sheep country. It was crowded with happy people. A sign at the door said “Don’t take off your boots or shoes.” The help, male and female, wore kilts and T-shirts that said “ Best Pub 1705”.
We ordered a bite to eat and a Guinness for me for sustenance. Jim talked to the innkeeper while I talked to Mercedes. Even in this old pub there were vegan offerings and “let us know if you have allergies” comments in the menu.
“There are rooms upstairs available,” said Jim. I wasn’t sure if that was good news or bad news. I had never stayed in a 1705, shingled inn in the Scottish countryside, frequented by sheep drovers. The Scots are very friendly and helpful. There are many bars I would not venture into in North America, but in Scotland, the pubs are “family affairs.”
Finally, I received a text from the tow company. A very large tow truck arrived with orders to return us to the Glasgow car rental place. It closed at 8pm and if we did not get back before 8pm we would have to wait for the next day. We were appalled.
“Redeeming Characteristics” The driver was a tall, lanky Scotsman, who was efficient, helpful and…….funny. He drove the Mercedes onto the ramp of the truck and we climbed into the cab behind him and started back to Glasgow while John managed the very large truck and the narrow road like the expert he is.
John had served in the British Army in both Afghanistan and Iraq driving an armored tank carrier. He dearly loved the Highlands.
John: “The best stars in the world are in the Scottish Highlands.”
Me: “We live in Alaska.”
John: “Well I’ll shut up then.”
Pause: . . . . . . .
John: “The best stars in Scotland are in the Highlands.”
We continued down the road with John in charge. A lumber truck was coming and for the first time, John pulled over to the side.
John: “He’s bigger than me”
The whole way back John cheerfully chattered, offering suggestions of what to see and where to go, his strong brogue was delightful but sometimes hard to understand. He told Jim about another way to Ft William, our destination, that was longer, but wider and straighter. He made a difficult situation bearable and got us to “Green Motion” before 8pm. He unloaded the car, maneuvering it into its tiny spot, said goodbye and good luck and headed to retrieve his car and go home. I offered him a 10 pound tip that he took reluctantly. It was pleasant to be in a country where people are paid a livable wage and one is not expected to tip everywhere.
“Green Motion” was ready for us with the small car we originally booked. The agent couldn’t resist a smirk because we didn’t take their liability insurance. However, I doubted/hoped that a tire would not cost that much. The caveat was that we must make ANOTHER $3000 deposit in lieu of their liability coverage. They held the original deposit until they could “thoroughly” evaluate the damage done to the Mercedes. They did have a portable Tom-Tom SATNAV device we could rent for $80 for our Honda. We took it but ended up using my iphone, though we were pretty clear about the way out of Glasgow by then.
We headed off into thickening darkness knowing it will be quite late when we arrive at our destination in the Highlands far from city lights.