A Trip to New York City

Business is Business     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

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One Day in LA  (2)

March 12, 2023     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

Just so you don’t think all of my stories are about me, here is one where I was actually an innocent bystander. I admit it’s rare. Sometimes it happens.

I used to work with an older gentleman during my time in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dale was the sort of average guy who collected insults and bad luck faster than a bathroom stall. Like the time Hurricane Hugo came through the southeast. The night before the storm fully arrived, he dreamed a yard tree fell on his brand new BMW so he got up and moved it from the driveway to the street in front of his house. Yeah, the storm came through that morning and the tree, that same tree, fell on his car in the street.

Dale married for the first time in his early fifties. I’m not going into the mating rituals of overweight, balding raccoons, but somehow he found a pretty, down-home Southern girl; emphasis on “girl” and “down-home”. She was nineteen at the time and I’m pretty sure she’d never left her front yard more than once or twice. Long story short, a baby blessed the newlyweds within a year.

In those days, we traveled a lot. Dale thought it might be a good idea to take his new bride and junior along on a business trip to New York City. He booked a hotel room for the weekend to allow for a bit of sightseein’ and fancy eatin’. I understood the weekend treated the trio well.

Until they found themselves late getting the rental car back to Hertz. Has there ever been more than one or two vacation parties that weren’t panicked and late getting back to La Guardia? After 40 to 50 trips through this airport, a savvy traveler understands that even if you are late, the flights are all delayed later. Anyway, let me get back to the story.

“We don’t have time to get the car returned and wait for the bus to get us back here on time,” Dale said. “I’m going to let you out at the terminal with the bags.”

He skidded to a stop, popped the trunk, pulled out the suitcases, and ran around to get the wife situated on the curb. 

“You are not leaving me here,” she said flatly.

“What?” He tried to catch his breath.

“This is New York City. You’re not leaving me here defenseless. I have a baby. Anybody could kill us!”

The afternoon sun made Dale’s shirt stick to his skin. He paraded back and forth in front of a line of skycaps, trying to decide what to do. If he put his family and bags back in the car, that’s more wasted time, then there would be absolutely no chance of making their flight. He tossed his keys to one of the skycaps and pulled out a twenty.

“Can you drop this rental off at Hertz?” Dale asked.

“Man, we working here,” said the worker.

“Take it when you get off work, then.” Dale pulled out another twenty.

He dropped off the bags with the skycap. With the family in tow, he raced through the concourse to the gate. They all finally relaxed as they settled back in their 7th row seats. All was quiet for a few days until the first telephone call rang through. I sat in his office, listening to the conversation.

“Where’s our car?” Asked the Hertz representative at La Guardia.

“Your car? What do you mean?”

“Sir, your rental is overdue. Are you requesting an extension for the agreement?”

“I already returned that car. Last Sunday,” Dale said.

“We do not have a record of the return.” Shuffling papers.

“It has to be there somewhere. The skycap said he would drop it off.”

“Let me look into our inventory to see if we can track it down. We’ll get back to you.”

Dale explained the story to me and that was that for about two weeks. Hertz called to say they found the car in Medford out on Long Island. The vehicle had been stripped down to a partial frame. If they could have taken the paint, they would have.

“So,” Dale said. ”Your insurance can cover it, right?”

“No, sir. You signed the document transferring liability to the driver’s insurance company, so they have liability now. We already contacted your carrier for you. However, they refuse to pay for damages due to your negligence.”

“I was on company business. I’ll have IBM lawyers look into this for me,” Dale said.

He called the IBM lawyers and explained the situation. He was on company business and he would have missed his flight home. It would have cost the company another hotel room and added per diem. Before he could reschedule a flight, he would have lost a few more days of productive work. The skycap promised to return the vehicle anyway, etc. etc. etc.

IBM’s response was somewhere along the lines of “Are ya smokin' da ganja, mon?”

I’m not sure how the predicament was resolved. I spent the next few months traveling before being transferred to another city.