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Joel on Software

Well, if it hurts, you drive.

by Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Abbott & Costello pretty much had the last word on renting cars, in their who's-on-first-style routine on a company then known as Hertz U-Drive. As Lou says, "Well if it hurts to drive all over the country why should I drive and get hurt?"

Today we had the first major snafu of the journey, as Hertz DFW's computers melted down, and the fancy automated system that usually results in my name being up in lights on a digital board was out of order. When we got to the rental center (which is miles away from the airport, for no good reason, just because that's what Texas is like, miles of empty space between everything) the lines were out the door and we saw that the few Hertz employees were literally filling out rental agreements by hand at an incredibly slow rate. Thanks to the spiffy new computers, they don't have nearly enough people working there to handle the loads when the computers break down, but there were still three Hertz employees sitting around in the manager's office shooting the breeze despite the lines of angry customers out the door. Probably these were the employees who didn't know how to do joined-up writing.

I had the sneaking suspicion that somewhere, on one of the screens on one of the computers in the Hertz office, an old DOS box had booted up with the clock battery burned out, and it was prompting the user to enter a date and time, and if there was just one person working for Hertz who could actually read, that person would have typed in the date on time on that old DOS box, which then would have booted up and the whole system would have come back. Just speculation.

Worse, every other car rental agency in the airport was fully sold out, presumably because so many Hertz customers gave up and jumped ship. We had no choice but to get a taxi to the hotel ($55), and now we're stuck in the middle of Addison, north of Dallas, without a car, in the least pedestrian-friendly spot of the known universe.

We were counting on that car to get us to Austin tomorrow in time for the afternoon demo. Currently, my plan is to take a cab to the Addison branch of Hertz tomorrow first thing in the morning, where I have another reservation, fully expecting that they won't have a car for me there, either, in which case, I think I'm going to have to buy a car, because Southwest Airlines is booked solid all day. I guess in a pinch I can always charter a jet ($4673).

Feh. It seems completely impossible that I won't find some way to get to Austin tomorrow afternoon. Update: Got a car from the local Hertz office. Thanks for all the kind offers of rides!


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