I was working contract in Phoenix, Arizona for an aerospace firm out of Toronto, Ontario, at Luke Air Force base, installing flight simulators in the teaching wing, and heads-up displays in the F-16s. It was my very first time renting a car in the USA, and my first experience renting a car from Enterprise rent a car. But it was a corporate account, so maybe they treat the big companies different than the average citizen. I was given a Pontiac Grand Am convertible, not exactly suitable to my six-foot one inch frame. It was very small on the inside, and the car lot salesman had me out of the car before I was physically in it, and upgraded me to a 5.1 litre Mustang convertible.
What a thrill that was driving along the windy mountain roads of northern Arizona. Now, these roads do not have guard rails, just strings of bunches of little white crosses, which I later found out to be spots, marked by the government, where cars went over the sides, killing the occupants. The more white crosses, the more dangerous the driving conditions. It seemed to me that a few signs and maybe some guardrails might have been a better way to go. When you stop and take a look over the side, it is a complete vertigo-inducing spectacle. Almost a mile straight down, on a narrow two-lane, two-direction highway with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour, and not many cars going that fast. And I must have seen thousands of those little white crosses.
It was late February, and I was not aware of the winter conditions in the mountainous areas of Arizona. They do get a fair amount of snow, and the roads get very icy. The mustang handled the corners like a snow leopard running down a goat on a mountain side. Pure agility, power and instant response; when you hit the gas pedal, you are thrown back in your seat, and it stops in a very short distance (I tried it out in a big shopping mall’s empty parking lot in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix). The stereo delivered what my, at the time rather young rock and roll ears required; a loud, crisp and clear sound with major seat-thumping bass. The Allman Brothers never sounded so good (except maybe in concert), and I was extremely happy. Unfortunately, the car blew it’s head gasket near Lake Havasu, a few hours drive north-west of Phoenix. I called the 1-800 service number for Enterprise rent a car, and they drove a replacement car out for me. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Mustangs available at the time, so they brought me a convertible Cadillac.
I didn’t understand until later the next day when Enterprise called me to see if I was okay with how my ordeal was dealt with by the Enterprise staff member that I dealt with. It seems that they do not rent convertible Cadillacs at Enterprise, they actually rented a car for me from another outfit and had it in my hands within two hours of my calling the 1-800 service number. No extra charge! Now, if that is not the epitome of excellent customer service, I don’t now what is. On the following weekend, I took the Cadillac up to the Grand Canyon National Park, to do a day hike down to the falls, where you can swim around underneath these beautiful, cascading waterfalls and their pools. Now, I’ve always preferred American/Canadian built cars, but the difference between the Mustang and the Cadillac was like comparing a rodeo horse to a team of Clydesdales pulling a luxurious royal wagon, minus the feel of the imperfections of the roads.
It really is peculiar how you feel different behind the wheels of different cars. With the Mustang, I felt all sporty and had to try and race whoever wanted to give me a challenge, and they were not in short supply.
For Enterprise rent a car, though, they were very understanding at check-out; you are supposed to park the car, go to the counter inside the airport terminal, and sign the rental termination papers, sign on all the dotted lines, and keep your receipt for your company’s human resources department. When we arrived at the airport ( I needed to give a work-mate a drive to the airport on our last day in Phoenix, but in the early morning he woke me up and said he just had to see the Grand Canyon in person).
On the way back from the Grand Canyon, we found that we were about an hour and a half’s drive away from the airport, but were about an hour away from our departure time. The Caddy made it to the airport with about 5 minutes to spare. We parked the car in front of the airport’s entrance, ran by the customer service desk, threw the keys to the attendant at the counter, told her we were late for the plane, and continued on to the boarding area. They were understanding and nothing more was said by them. Amazing customer service!