The Perils of Pauline – Tails From the Tour Trail

It is seven-thirty on Thursday evening, the first night of Left Coast Crime. I’ve just come back from the conference’s opening cocktail party, so I’ve had a single glass of cabernet, but I’m expecting that my faithful SERs (the Sharp-Eyed Readers) will have a ball finding copy-editing bloopers in the following.

I usually write the blog on Tuesday or Wednesday, but I’m on tour, and I’m also in some peculiar division of tech hell. On my way here, I had Siri delivering driving directions in my ear. Unfortunately, she ran out of gas somewhere in Oro Valley which is near where El Conquistador is—close but no cigar. When the phone died and Siri stopped talking to me, my Apple Watch knew enough to click at me in advance of my needing to make a turn. The clicks came through find and dandy, but with no hint about which direction I should take. I would have apologized to my fellow drivers, but I was too busy driving. I’m pretty sure I made an illegal right turn from the wrong lane. Then, once I got to the hotel, after charging my phone, when I turned it back on and went to make a call, the phone App had suddenly vanished from my phone. My grandson, Colt, says he can walk me through getting it back, but that will have to happen AFTER I write the blog. Because my problems that turned up after I got here were nothing to compared to the ones that happened on the way.

I arranged my car rental through Hertz. I’ve long been a Platinum member there, and they’ve been my car rental firm of choice for many years. When I arrived in Phoenix, a wonderful media escort, Nancy Steube, picked me up from my incoming flight and squired me around town for all the Phoenix-centric events. Those ended yesterday evening, and I had made arrangements to pick up a rental for the remainder of the the trip. Because my hotel I was in Scottsdale, and because getting around SkyHarbor isn’t exactly a walk in the park, I asked the Platinum Desk if there was any place in Scottsdale where I could pick it up. “Oh, yes,” the telephone attendant told me. “You can pick it up at 11:30 am from the Hertz desk at the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale.”

All righty then. Good to go. Right? Nope, wrong.

Yesterday, when I began getting a little squirrelly about exactly where at the Hyatt we’d find the Hertz desk, we tried calling. Voice mail, voice mail, voice mail, and more voice mail. With no returned call. By then I also realized that, with a 1 PM event scheduled in Casa Grande, maybe an 11:30 pick-up was cutting it too close, so I needed to move that up to 10:30. By the time Nancy and I were returning from an event in Mesa, we still hadn’t had a call back from the Hertz Desk at the Hyatt. But then, when I checked my mail, lo and behold, there was an email from a guy named Matthew at the Hertz Outlet on Scottsdale Boulevard. (When I had looked on the Internet for another Phoenix area location, no Scottsdale location showed up in the search.) Matthew assured me that he had my reservation, but when I told him I needed to move my pick-up time to 10:30, he assured me that was impossible because he didn’t have any cars. My car was due to be returned this morning and wouldn’t be ready for me to pickup until 11:30, if, that is, it was actually returned on time.

So while Nancy kept driving, I called the Hertz Platinum desk again and asked if I could pick up a vehicle from SkyHarbor at ten-thirty a.m. today. A few moments later, she assured me that I could have one of the “manager specials”—a Range Rover–and quoted me a price. To my way of thinking a “manager special” would have been something closer to a Kia than a Range Rover, but I said fine. We completed the transaction and she assured me she’d send me a confirming email. When the confirmation failed to appear two hours later, I called back and spoke to someone named J.P. (No relation to Beaumont, by the way.)

He found the reservation and assured me that there must have been a delay in sending it. The delay was that the first agent never sent it in the first place. It arrived a few minutes later while I was still on the phone with J.P., because now that I for sure had a vehicle at SkyHarbor, I wanted to be sure the other reservation was properly canceled.

And then this morning came. My name wasn’t on the reader board telling me to go directly out to get my car. We stood in the Gold line for a long time before we finally realized that there was a tiny sign at the end of the counter for Platinum members. A clerk showed up, she took us out to the car aisles, and led us directly to a bright red … wait for it … Tesla! In Hertz land, the term “manager special” is code for all electric vehicles. Who knew? As I explained to the clerk and later to her supervisor, I am a seventy-eight year-old woman. I do NOT drive cars masquerading as computers. Like my friend Twinkle Winkleman, I am a V-8 kind of girl. I need vehicles with actual gasoline engines, ignitions, accelerators, and brake pedals. When I threatened to cancel the reservation entirely and have Nancy drive me to Casa Grande, they somehow managed to get their act together and locate a Ford SUV which, as it turns out, is entirely satisfactory. Except for the front console. It has a place where I supposedly can “pair” my phone to the vehicle.

Are you kidding? At this point I can’t even make my phone app show up long enough for me to make a call. How the hell am I supposed to pair it? Surprisingly, though, after all that, I managed to make it to Casa Grande in time for my 1:00 PM appearance.

I’m sure that, as soon as I pay the bill for this rental, Hertz is going to email me a survey asking how they did. I’ll probably tell them, but they’ll be lucky that I got a lot of car-rental angst out of my system by writing this blog! Even so, my answers on that survey won’t be pretty. It seems reasonable to assume that the people running the Platinum desk would be smart enough not to direct me to a rental office closed three years ago!

So that’s your window on my world for this week. Next Friday, after I’ve had a moment or two to catch my breath, I’ll talk about the great things that have happened on the book tour as opposed to whining about the Perils of Pauline.

But just in case any of you were under the impression that going on a book tour is all glamorous smooth-sailing, now you know better.