Budget Rent-A-Car: In the Summer of 1995 I left college and returned home to my parents house. This was a bit different, as the previous Summer was spent on my own in an apartment in Chagrin Falls, Ohio while my parents were in the process of relocating back to our hometown of Buffalo.
Other than the holiday breaks in Fall, Winter and Spring of ’94-95, I hadn’t spent much time back in Buffalo, and after this Summer I wouldn’t return for an extended period of time until 1998 for my internship, choosing instead to stay in Bowling Green for Summer classes and campus employment.
This Summer I was home and I needed a job. I ended up at Budget Rent-A-Car somehow. I really don’t know why, perhaps someone suggested it or knew someone that knew they were hiring, but that’s where I ended up. The job was fairly simple: wash and vaccuum returned cars, then drive clean cars from Point A to Point B. That was supposed to be it, a dumb Summer job, my last one, actually. But of course, that wasn’t it, because the older you get, the more you realize that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
Car washing was straight forward, just get ’em cleaned inside and out. It wasn’t unusual for people to leave stuff behind, which got sent off to a lost and found. The driving from A to B was less straight forward. Our location was on Genesee St. (or the 33) across the from Buffalo airport. At one end of the street across from Holtz Rd. was the service building, where the cleaning got done. It also served as a used car lot for vehicles Budget wanted to sell. I cannot stress enough that you should never, ever buy a used car from a rental car fleet. Here’s why.
Up the road just before the entrance to the Kensington Expressway is where the actual rental office was (is still?) located, which meant that all cleaned cars had to be moved up and down about a 3/4 mile strip of road. As the majority of the cleaning/driving crew was made up of guys my age (20ish), that meant that at times a group of us would hop into 1995 Ford’s (mostly Contours, Thunderbirds, Aspires, Windstars and Lincoln Town Cars) and drive as fast as humanly possible down the 3/4 mile strip of road.
Of course, there were stories of horrific accidents, though none occured during my time there. That’s not to say I didn’t bang up a car or two. Actually, two is the correct number. The first one was a Town Car, which I gently bumped (re: rammed) into a chain link fence. The facilty had a huge open lot in the back, and we lined up cars by model. Since this was the first Town Car for a new row, I backed it up and stopped late, tapping the fence that prevented cars from falling into a large, deep ravine. Which is exactly what someone else did, according to one of those horrific accident stories I heard.
The other is more embarrassing. It was the Friday night of my last day, and we had a request to bring a Thunderbird down to the rental office for a customer. Problem was, we didn’t have any on the lot, so we rushed over to the airport drop-off lot, found the lone Thunderbird, raced it back to the garage for a quick vaccuum and instead of hand washing it, opted to send it through the quicker automated wash. Hand washing the car got all the corners and curves, the automated wash was like your typical car wash – good but not great.
This would have meant getting this guy his car in no time, except as I started into the car wash, I noticed the radio was still on, which meant the retractable antenna was still up. At that moment, the first bristles smacked the thin, metal antenna and bent it like a tooth pick. I just wrecked the antenna on the only Thunderbird we had in stock for the night. So, I did what anyone else would do on the last shift of a job they know they’re never going back to: I turned off the radio, guided the bent antenna back into the small hole in the hood and delivered the car. Whoever got that car, I apologize.
Aside from these two incidents, the job was fairly easy. In addition to driving vehicles to the rental office, we also picked up and delivered from the airport lot and a satellite lots around the area. A few times I made it out to a hotel off Millersport, and once or twice got to take cars out to Orchard Park, which was over an hour round trip. Being able to throw a tape in the cassette desk, lean back and cruise around in a Town Car was not a bad job. There were two aspects that made me uncomfortable due to my naturally anti-social behavior. One was driving the Budget Shuttle. A few random nights I would have to fill-in on picking people up and shuttling them between the airport and either the rental office or the airport lot. It usually involved uncomfortable small talk and negotiating driving a shuttle bus, at which I had no experience or training mind you, in hectic airport traffic.
The second was the rare case in which a high profile customer had to be picked up at the airport in a Town Car and driven to the rental office to pick up their car. Usually this involved very strict rules like “have the most current USA Today for him in the back seat” or “don’t engage in small talk.” It all seemed ridiculous, I mean why make a show of it? Just have the car the guy wants waiting for him so he can hop in and drive off.
As I mentioned, this would be my last “Summer Job.” I worked through the Summers at BG as a night guard. It was soon on to regular employment, but first I had to complete my college internship.