Thursday, September 24, 2009

Family Together Again

These are my girls. It was good to see them all together again. We put on a little Open House for the youngest--the one in the middle--since she got married two states away with only parents in attendance--as posted last December.

My husband was the photographer, so don't have him in this series of photos

This next one shows the youngest and oldest of our offspring, he, standing (the youngest) she, sitting next to me and a family friend sitting next to me on the other side. The husband being honored is somewhere in the photo stack, but I didn't have a good picture of him to post. I'll dig through and try to fix that another day. I think my other son-in-law might have taken some better ones.

We had a small, enjoyable gathering of family and friends. Oh. We did not color coordinate our wardrobes either, so it was kind of funny that all the kids wore black!

How Not to Rent a Moving Truck

Okay. I know I'm slow, but I've been busy with my family--and my grandchildren take a lot of time and care. Just so you know, I enjoy singing "Rock-A-Bye Baby" with my two grandsons just about every night. I think they enjoy it because Grandma rocks them and makes a big deal out of the "when the bough breaks the cradle will fall" cause I engineer them falling. I can't resist the giggles, and the hugs. So, I finally found a couple of hours to "record" the Craaaaaaaaaaaazy Friday experience for anyone interested in hearing/reading about it. It was wild.

On a Monday in August of this year, I called a U-Haul rental place in one town in north-east Louisiana to reserve a truck to move some furniture. I’d talked a few times with the guy who ran the business—on the side—his normal business being a towing service. Previously he said that all I’d have to do was call Monday to reserve a truck for Friday. Okay. So I called, the Monday before we wanted to get the truck, gave all the pertinent data, credit card number—you know the drill, and reserved the truck for a 4:00 PM pick-up that Friday. We had about 160 miles to drive to get to this “dealership”. Everything seemed like a normal business transaction, right? So my husband called a few guys to set up having them arrive at the house we were moving the furniture from. His parents’ house sold earlier that week and we needed to get out what was left.

As my husband and I were driving to our destination on Thursday afternoon, (with our son who came along to provide some of the muscle) and were about one-half to two-thirds of the way there, we got a call on the cell phone.

“Hey, if you want your truck you might want to come this afternoon to get it.”

“Don’t you close at 5 pm?”


“Well, we’re on the road and won’t be able to make it there by 5. Besides, we don’t want to pay extra for another day’s rental, you know?”

“Well, I just wanted you to know that I have a truck for you now and I’m not sure about tomorrow.”

“But we did reserve it for tomorrow at four pm, right.”

“OK. Just thought I should let you know.”

“Thanks, but we’re on the road and can’t get there in time today and we did reserve it for tomorrow.”

So we continued driving and discussing all the things we needed to get ready before 4 pm Friday thinking we might even begin loading that evening. Friday came; my brother-in-law arrived to assist. We packed, covered, taped and brought a lot of the stuff out to the carport in preparation of the “crew” coming on Saturday morning to help us load.

Sometime prior to 2:00 that afternoon I got a feeling I should call the U-Haul rental place (that’s 40 miles away) to make sure “our truck” would be ready for us to pick-up at 4:00 pm per our reservation.

I know with the build up you’ve most likely guessed that the truck is was NOT available. I called and, as you’ve rightly guessed, the truck wasn’t there. Funny, don’t you think, how a reservation is not a guarantee. However, IF I’d reserved it for two days and happened to keep it a little longer than the two days of the rental agreement, do you think it wouldn’t be guaranteed that they’d get all uptight about me being unwilling to guarantee I’d pay for an extra day? Uh huh. This guy who’d seemed so nice on the phone all the other times I’d spoken with him suddenly became less so as he reminded me that he did call me the day before to tell me I might want to pick up the truck he had at that moment on his “lot”. I believe I asked him the point of having me go through all the trouble of “reserving” one in the first place. I don’t know if I even waited for an answer. Time was running out, and we’d guaranteed 4 guys a chunk of change for even just showing up to help us out loading, so I dang sure had to have a truck for them to load. (Two of them were high school kids—grandsons of a guy my husband graduated high school with.)

I called U-Haul central and explained my dilemma to the lady on the other end of the phone, emphasizing my great displeasure and immediate need of accessing a truck. She went to her computer to see where she could find a truck that was available in the “neighborhood” of where we were located. I think she must have assumed we were in the same town as the reserved truck “dealer” was located. I was familiar with the town in which she found an available truck, and received a local phone number to contact that establishment. This location was 50 or 60 miles from where we were.

The lady I spoke to at the NEW U-Haul location was kind of funny on the phone when my husband spoke to her about the condition of the truck, if they had enough moving pads and dollie we need to rent (as we had originally reserved with the “other” location). Both of us received instructions as to how to locater her place of business. This lady urged us to “get down there quick” because it was nearly 2:30 and someone else was going to be there at 4:00 to pick up another of the two (same size) trucks she had on the lot.

So, my husband, son and I jumped in our truck and headed there. Now you need to understand that the little town we were traveling to is a rather old town located not far from the Mississippi river. I have no clue what industry keeps it going, except that it’s not too far from an interstate highway. Farming may be the main industry, don’t know for sure. As we neared the railroad tracks, which we were told we’d have to cross immediately before we arrive at the building she was located in, which was painted yellow, we noticed a fairly nice looking coffee shop or something of that sort, where two police officers had apparently handcuffed a guy and were talking with him. (Don’t you just love that run-on sentence?) We didn’t recognize the omen of things to come that it represented, but proceeded with great faith that we would be able to quickly fill out the paper work, pick up the truck and other equipment and be merrily on our way. (Chuckle, snort. Chuckle, snort.)

At about 3:30 we saw the “yellow” wall of the building, and eventually noticed a U-Haul truck parked on the grass between the railroad tracks and that building. My writer’s radar immediately went into overdrive thinking: look closely at all the details, I can just feel the richness of detail this place can provide for a story. There were a variety of signs posted on “the yellow wall” advertising the various business enterprises the proprietor ran from the other side of the race/sports-car-yellow walled building. Printing services. Passport pictures. Notary. And others.

We parked marveling at the scene before us. The business we were about to enter had a store front of no more than ten feet, and was one of several housed in the same building. There was a counter to our right where a cute 6 or 7 year-old girl was busying herself with shuffling papers, and her brother, I think, was finding as much mischief as he could while “Ya Ya” was busy on the phone. There were a couple of chairs against the wall on our left close to a small desk housing a computer. A few feet further back, on the same wall was another small desk with another computer. The wall was covered in computer printed color pictures and calendars. A third computer was sitting on yet another desk to the right of us, and almost behind the counter.

“Ya Ya” greeted us and inquired as to what she could help us with. We were still under the misguided assumption that we would complete the necessary paperwork, get the keys to the truck and be back on our way in fifteen to twenty minutes. Ya Ya fussed at her grandson and threatened him with the fly swat if he didn’t sit down and stay out of trouble—between her phone conversation and the three of us standing around waiting to get our transaction completed and on our way. She told us that “our” truck would be back in a minute as she’d sent a young man to pick up the moving pads and dollie.

About five minutes later, someone she knew stuck her head in the door and reported, “You know (insert young man’s name—I never quite understood what it was)? Where he’s at?”

“Why? I sent him over to the warehouse to get stuff for these folks.”

“Well, I was over to the Kangaroo” (I finally remembered that there is a gas station of that name close to the interstate) “and he done backed up and tore off a lady’s front bumper. And the cops’s lookin’ for him.”

“He what?!!! What he doin’ at the Kangaroo?”

“You don’t know where he’s at? He fled the scene.”

And it just got better after that. Eventually, the young man did come back. But apparently at some point, the truck that he’d deftly removed the lady’s front bumper with was deposited at the “store” and he took its near twin to the warehouse to pick up our “stuff”.

It was all very confusing—to all parties, it seemed. Fifteen or twenty phone calls—on various phones at the business—transpired while the first lady tried to locate the perpetrator of the driving crime, the truck, whichever truck he was in and/or the truck we were supposedly going to eventually rent, a number of other customers came and went visiting about the pictures or other items they’d come in to collect and pay for, grandchildren being admonished/threatened from time to time, the police coming and going and coming again, the “young man in question” showing up only to reveal that he’d not actually been to the warehouse yet to get the “stuff” he’d originally been sent to get and I could go on for about as long as the hour-and-a-half we were there.

During that time we went out to look at the truck and the “Ya Ya” lady never quite told us—for the longest time—if/when we could get the truck and leave. My husband was about to blow a gasket. He was far less than happy, I should say. My son and I just traded amused chuckles and smiles, between rolling our eyes in astonishment from time to time and shuffling in and out of the building. After the police came by the second time and made the young man drive the truck “back to the scene of the crime” and at least an hour had passed, I decided to contact the Central U-Haul office to see if they could help us out. The whole situation was so out of control, we were getting nowhere fast, and five o’clock was swiftly approaching. Miraculously, I was able to talk with the very woman I’d called at 2:00 something earlier that afternoon. After I explained the circus we were currently involved in and had been attending for the previous hour with nothing settled as to if we’d ever get a truck (after traveling about 60 miles one way to pick the stupid thing up in the first place with another 60 to go before even loading it) she asked to speak to the employee we’d been trying to deal with. Ya Ya was not happy with me for going over her head.

The young man came back into the office after a time and Ya Ya asked him if he’d finally gotten the 24 pads we’d requested and the dollie. “No, you only axted me to get a dozen.”

She turned to me, “Did you want a dozen or two dozen?”

“Two and the utility dollie.”

“We ain’t got no utility dollie.” She turned to him, “So now get back to the warehouse to get those other pads and don’t be going back to the Kangaroo and makin’ any more trouble.”

“No, I already got 2 dozen pads. That’s what I meant.”

For some strange reason, at that moment, I began to question his math abilities. I’m not sure why. Seriously, my two-year-old grandson can accurately count up to 13 items —without assistance, just so you know my point of reference.

By then, my husband (and I) didn’t much care. We wanted to get the truck on the road and get back to load it and be done! We were finally ready, we thought, to get the contract signed, pick up the keys etc. But, as luck would have it, the computer decided to freeze up. She had to reboot and begin again—once of twice—at least. (I think she was about a frazzled as we were by then. She kept mumbling to the kids about their mother should have picked them up hours before. All the while, the little girl was very busy organizing two different half-page forms of some kind. Some were a pale yellow. The others pink. She’d sort them and then connect one yellow with one pink with a staple in the top left corner. She was very quiet and didn’t easily engage in conversation, but she smiled generously.)

In the mean time, the other individual who was also renting a truck of the same size came to get her reserved truck. She was put on hold and eventually said she’d be back before walking out the door. We finished our transaction and finally, finally, headed back the way we’d come with the large U-Haul—my husband at the wheel, my son riding shotgun and me following behind in our personal (actually my husband’s) truck. We stopped at a gas station/Subway shop/convenience store (NOT the Kangaroo) so I could avail myself of the “facilities” which were much needed. While there we all concluded that we might as well fill the enormous gas tank—(I think it was over $50 to fill it up from just under half-full), to fill us up with sandwiches and something to drink while there. And so we did.

The next morning bright and early, my brother-in-law, and all the “hired hands” showed up. We got everything loaded that we’d planned to and finally, hit the trail. About 170 miles later, we stopped at the storage facility, and began unloading with the help of some friends—who actually volunteered to help w/o pay!! And we crammed the 10’ x 20’ space nearly full with our “hual”.

We then drove to the U-Haul facility in that city, neatly folded our pads—only to discover that there were only 22 and not the “dozen, er 2 dozen” reported to have been included. We’d had the truck almost exactly 24 hours—we’d rented it for 48. The establishment was closed when we got there, but we followed the instructions on the drop box and the paperwork and locked everything in the truck and dropped off their copy of the contract and the key and called it good. I immediately called U-Haul’s 800 number to explain what we’d discovered with the pads, and that we were returning the truck at that moment after only having it for 24 hours. The lady I spoke with sounded like everything was okey—dokey.

Much to my surprise and, I might add, chagrin, I noticed an extra debit to my checking account made to U-Haul about a week or so later. You can be sure I got on the 800 number to express my, shall we say dissatisfaction, dismay and need for an explanation AND REFUND of what could only have been a huge error on U-Haul’s part.

The very kind gentleman who answered explained that there were two missing pads and that we’d gone over the miles. I explained the whole sorry saga of why we didn’t personally count the pads after the hour-and-a-half drama we endured before we were able to rent the stupid truck. He was very helpful and said someone would call me within 2 days to clear it all up.

Yes. You guessed it. No. One. Called. After a few more days, I called them back and when through the whole process . . . AGAIN. I was then informed that we’d gone over the miles, were short 2 pads and were a day late in turning the truck back in. My ceiling still probably shows the marks I made when I hit it after hearing that! I very carefully asked how in the world we could be charged for turning in a truck a day late when we only had it for 24 hours AND called their office to let them know about the short number of pads, and all the other hairy details. And I told them I wanted my money back!

Yep. Another—“Someone will call you within 48 hours.”

You know they actually did call my house—after I requested that they call my cell phone, because I was going to be on the road heading to/from the doctor’s that day. My daughter answered the phone, knowing how much I didn’t want to miss that call and asked the lady that called to please call my cell. Made a point of asking her if she would call me on my cell phone. My daughter was told she would. She didn’t.

However, one day, after another phone call and another week or so of waiting, I did find a credit to my checking account from U-Haul. Woo Hoo! It was a really different experience all the way around. Makes you want to run out and rent a U-Haul, huh?