Arizona adventure: Traffic comes to a standstill at the car rental office

It took about 14 hours in the air and on the road, but Irv and company finally made it to Sedona and got in some hiking.
It took about 14 hours in the air and on the road, but Irv and company finally made it to Sedona and got in some hiking.

SEDONA - This week's adventure takes us far afield. About 1,800 miles from Mohican Country.

A few months ago, Annette asked me if I wanted to spend a week in Sedona, Arizona with friends who were renting a house there.

That was what you call a rhetorical question. She had already booked a flight to Phoenix.

Then she used the "R" word. It's the word men most hate to hear - responsible.

"You're responsible for booking a rental car," she said.

More:The sounds of silence – or something like it – echo in the Mohican River Valley

So I did something totally out of character; I immediately went online to research rental agencies. One place seemed to have the best deals and a pretty impressive website. So I went that route.

We just needed something to get us and our luggage from Phoenix to Sedona, about a two-hour drive. I reserved a subcompact, a step up from an Amish buggy.

That was in mid October.

The day before our flight on Nov. 14, the company sent me a text. It said that, if I provided my driver's license and credit card information online, they'd expedite the rental process. It said all I had to do was stop by the rental office, show them my license, they'd give me the keys and Annette and I would be on our way.

Then I did something totally out of character; I trusted them.

Putting the brakes on vacation as the car rental place

Irv Oslin
Irv Oslin

We touched down in Phoenix about 20 minutes early. We had visions of making it to Sedona before dark. We were disabused of that notion when we arrived at the rental office to see a line of people overflowing into the concourse.

There were at least a dozen computer terminals at the counter and only four people manning them.

That was reduced to three after one of the clerks took a lunch break.

He had been taking an average of 25 minutes to process each reservation.

How do I know this? The man next to me had been timing him.

Like a lot of the others waiting for hours in the car rental queue, we struck up a friendship. Which is probably the only thing that kept all of us from rioting.

I didn't catch his name. I'll call him Bob because he reminded me of Bob Currie, a character from the Canadian TV series "Schitt's Creek."

He resembled Bob physically and in his understated sarcastic demeanor.

I asked him if he noticed that two people waiting in line a couple of rows ahead of us had become romantically involved, gotten married, and had a kid on the way.

After we'd been in line at least two hours, a clerk stepped from behind the counter and made an announcement. She told us they were short-staffed, belaboring the obvious.

She went on to explain that personnel normally dedicated to manning the reservation terminals had been relegated to the garage to gas up and wash cars.

"That's OK, I'll take mine dirty," Bob shouted. "And I'll fill the tank."

Getting there should be half of fun, but it wasn't

Finally, I got to the front of the queue. Fortunately, I didn't get the slowpoke clerk. The woman at the counter told me they didn't have my subcompact. I was given a "choice" to wait till they did or upgrade to a more expensive minivan.

“Wait” was no longer in my vocabulary at this point.

I accepted the "upgrade" under protest and told her I'd be discussing it further with corporate.

After running into still another delay in the garage, Annette and I were on our way.

It was dark and long past rush hour. Not that it mattered. I merged onto I-17 and into a river of pulsating brake lights stretching on as far as the eye could see.

Electronic traffic advisory signs warned that there would be delays due to a crash at the Glendale exit. Actually, there had been two crashes.

It appeared as though they had not so much cleared the crashes as allowed traffic to rearrange the car parts along the berms and between the lanes.

After nearly 14 hours on the road and in the air, we arrived in Sedona.

I've always been of the conviction that, when travelling, getting there should be half the fun. If not more. The car rental experience has disabused me of that notion.

This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: From Mohican Country to Sedona, Arizona: A 14-hour adventure