19 April 2012

The stupid and the smart

"Every person has both good and bad in him", said Shad-e-manzil.
He was my taxi driver driving me from Buffalo to Batavia, with me trying to bring a disastrous day to a close. Shad was talking about Iraq and the mess that country is in, he being from Iraq.
While he was going about the co-existence of good and the bad in the same individual, I was wallowing in self pity thinking how  stupid could I be?.
Just take a look at how the day had panned out for me so far, won't you?
I had arranged to pick up a car from Hertz office at Buffalo Airport on 16th Afternoon. Since the days are longer in this part of the world at this time (we are talking of April in NY), I thought that I could easily pick the car at Buffalo and be back at Batavia before sundown.
Little did I know...
Batavia is about 50 miles from Buffalo. While the Grayhound bus charges $10.50 for this distance, a taxi will charge $105 for the same distance. However, bus services between Batavia and Buffalo are few and far between. There was one starting at 5.30 PM.
So, to save on costs, I decided to take the Grayhound bus.
The gray hound station is about 3 kilometers (less than 2 miles) from my house. To save on my taxi expenses, I decided to walk the distance.
'Walking is healthy option', I justified my stinginess to myself as I lugged myself.
I took the Grayhound and reached Buffalo at about 7.00 PM. The Grayhound bus terminal is about 30 minutes bus drive from the Airport. Taxi would charge me about 20 Dollars. So, to save money, I took a city bus from Grayhound terminal to the Airport. Ticket charges $1.75.
It was a smug, money saving me sitting in that city bus in buffalo that day.
You the reader, would have understood by now that I am subtly communicating that saving dollars is very important to me.
I heaved a sigh of relief as I reached Hertz premises by about 7.30 PM, still with good amount of sunlight. It should be simple just to pick a car and drive back to Batavia, I thought.
What complexities could be there in a simple process of renting a car, I thought. 
I was feeling pretty good at this point. I had had a healthy walk and I had made some good savings by using public transportation. Here is a smart guy, I thought to myself.
At the Hertz station, feeling all pumped up, I asked for the car. The lady at the counter asked me for the license.
That is when I realized that I had left my license at home.
There was nothing I could do, but to take a taxi back to Batavia (remember, buses are few and far between?). This is how I have ended up sitting in Shad's taxi, listening to him talking to me about Iraq and the role of religion in politics.
"Every person has got both good and bad in him", said Shad.
I was feeling frustrated, silly and stupid all at the same time. I was cursing myself for forgetting to take the license when going for renting a car. What can be more stupid than that.?
I have to go again tomorrow to collect my car, I thought to myself.
That is when the 'Smart' me came into existence.
"You will be going back empty to Buffalo?" I asked Shad.
"Yes, I won't get any passengers to Buffalo. You are my first trip to Batavia in almost a year. I don't expect to be second time lucky and get a passenger on my way back", said Shad.
"I will pay you additional 25 USD to take me back to Buffalo Airport", I told him. The way I saw it was that if I go to Hertz tomorrow, I will have to again shell out another 13 USD and do that walk again. In addition, I had pre-paid for the car and if I do not take it, I will lose another 50 USD. By paying additional 25 Dollars, I will be a net gainer by about 40 Dollars.
The way Shad saw was that his normal average fare within the Buffalo city was about 10 USD and an additional 25 USD will pay for 'Shawarma' for him and his family of wife and four boys (three of them 'Naturalized' US Citizens, Shad told me).
So, to cut it short, we went to my home, I entered the house, collected my license and was out of the house in less than a minute.
Darkness had fallen when I reached Buffalo airport. I went straight to Hertz. They checked my license and handed me a key.
Just out of curiosity, I asked if the car comes with a GPS. Silly question, which car in US do not come with a GPS?
No, the heartless fellow at Hertz told me. Your booking is for a compact. We do not have GPS in the car.
It was dark by now, and if I drive in the dark without a GPS, I will reach New York instead of Batavia, I told him. I insisted on a car with GPS.
"We have only high end cars with GPS', the guy told me, "it will cost you more"
"How much more?" I asked a fair question.
"You will have to pay additional 10 dollars per day for the high end car. In addition you have to pay 13 dollars per day for the GPS. And then there is tax." the guy rubbed it in.
It was coming to about USD 60 extra. What the heck, I needed a car with GPS. I was not going anywhere without a GPS.
So he charged me additional 60 doubloons for the high end car.
I went down to the hold area to get my keys. The lady there gave me the keys and asked me to go to Q6 and collect my car.
"You don't want to check anything? Are you not coming with me to check for scratches and stuff?" I queried
"No sir, here is your key, there is your car, just sit in the car and drive away", nothing could be simpler the way she said it.
I went to Q6. Standing there, waiting for me was a Chevrolet Impala, as high end as they come. And the biggest car I would be asked to drive. (I am kidding. At home, I have a Corolla Altis which is equally big).

This car was all automated. I was already stressed out that it was about 9.30 PM and it was already pitch dark. And here I was, in an unfamiliar country, in an unfamiliar airport, about 50 miles away from my home and trying to drive a fully automated car. Once I sat in, I did not know what to do. 
I tried all the stuff normal people will do to start a normal car. None of it was working.
I tried starting it, it didn't start. The seat was far away from the steering wheel that my legs were not reaching the accelerator. And I did not know how to move the seat forward. I checked under the seat, there was no lever which I can pull to move my seat forward. In addition, eventhough my car started, I was not able to shift gears from the 'Parking' position. 
I felt helpless. I called for help. The professional came to assist. Fortunately for me he was compassionate. He showed me the bare minimum setups that I will require to navigate the night. Lights are automatic and will light up based on the external lights. You do not have to adjust the lights, he told me.
That was a relief. I was worried about the lights all this while.
He showed my how to move my seat forward. As a bonus, he also showed me how to slide it back, to lift it and to lower it. That was one problem less.
Then I started. I was hesitant at first, but once I hit the highway, it was smoother, since the traffic was thin and was moving in only one direction as it normally happens in a  freeway.
I reached home at about 10.30 at night, all tired from the adventure, but highly satisfied that I had conquered another demon, that of driving in US highways after dark. 
It was not as bad as I thought it would be. 
I forgot my license when going to collect the rental car. That was stupid.
I negotiated a good rate with Shad and I drove an unfamiliar car, in an unfamiliar highway, in an unfamiliar country at night and overcame my fears. That was Smart
I had both Stupid and Smart in me.

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