Our Charleston Day

My sister Megan and I made a little daytrip to Charleston on Sunday. We were excited.

We bought tickets to attend the Spoleto Festival finale that night. We ate a delicious brunch at the Hominy Grill. We saw The A-Team on a giant screen. We happily explored our (Savannah's) sister city. We sweated like mad. Then we crossed the bridge to Mount Pleasant, on our way to Whole Foods for some Spoleto finale snacks. And it was then that an otherwise successful day went horribly awry.

My sister drives a 2005 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited. It's a great car. All-wheel drive, excellent engine, handles amazingly of course. I love driving it, and since I've been in Savannah I've had the great pleasure of chauffeuring Megan around the city whenever we go out. Naturally, I drove to and around Charleston on Sunday.

Did I mention that the Legacy has a manual transmission? I rarely drive manual transmission cars anymore, but tend to get used to unfamiliar transmissions pretty quickly. And so it was with the Legacy...until Sunday. While driving around downtown Charleston, I stalled the engine over and over, to the point that Megan started busting my chops about it.

Fast-forward to the Whole Foods parking lot. While looking for a parking spot, first gear started getting really tough to operate. I had the great fortune of getting the car fully into a space and cutting the engine when the clutch pedal lost all resistance. Uh oh. I told Megan, she tried the pedal, said it felt gone to her, too. We tried starting the engine again and, though it did start, it wasn't happy about it. Upon opening the hood, we were both greeted by the horrible smell of a fried clutch. It was 630pm. We were due at our concert in 2 hours. We were screwed.

Megan called her insurance company, who sent a tow truck our way. We both went into Whole Foods for some fancy shopping (Megan had never been, so it would have been fun if not for the fiasco a-brewing). And, oh yeah, we kept sweating. Sunday was anything but cool.

Shortly after 8pm, our tow truck arrived and got the Legacy on board. Since we needed to go along, we made sure they could take us in the truck with them (there were already two in the cab, so there was definitely some doubt about that).

Tow truck driver: "We have two options for that. You can ride up front with us, or on the flatbed in the car."
Me: "We'll ride in the car!" (I have no idea why I was eager to do this, but I really was.)
Megan: "Is that legal?"

The driver assured us it was, Megan remained convinced it wasn't, but five minutes later we were on the highway, sitting inside a broken car with the windows down, on the bed of a long truck, looking backward at the dumbfounded looks on the faces of fellow drivers. It was bizarrely amusing.

It got less amusing. Though my sister had been plainly told that a rental car would pick us up at the Subaru dealership, no one was there when we arrived. She called the rental company. "We don't do pick-ups," they told her. "That doesn't make sense," she said, "someone told me an hour ago that you did, and would." She called a cab. It didn't show. She called the company again, and was assured by the dispatcher that the cab would be there shortly. It wasn't. She called a different company, whose cab showed up within ten minutes. When my sister called the other company back, the dispatcher didn't even answer. Assholes.

At 1015pm, we'd finally arrived at Charleston International Airport, the only place in town where you can rent a car on a Sunday night. Of course, we weren't out of the woods yet. When you rent a car with a debit card, the company runs a credit check first. Unfortunately, credit checks don't go through when you run the wrong name. The lady at the Budget desk ran the check on my sister's maiden name. And it failed. I asked her to rent the car to me. She told me that since I was 24, she couldn't rent me a car.

"I'll be 25 in an hour and a half."
"I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do. You have to be 25. If you want to wait an hour and a half, I can rent you the car then."


We tried a different company, where they ran my sister's credit check on the correct name and by 1045pm, more than four hours after arriving at Whole Foods, and one hour after our concert ended (did I mention my sister had already bought non-refundable tickets, an early birthday present?), we were a short two-hour drive from home.

I still like Charleston, and it's a damn good thing I do. We're going back tomorrow to pick up the Subaru. Better luck this time, right?

[Fun fact: Her car is the third thing of my sister's which has broken as soon as I got my paws on it. If you have anything moderately valuable you don't want to work anymore, let me know. I'm on fire.]

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