They were indignant at our mistake.
We were sitting in the silver Toyota Camry they thought they had just rented from Hertz at the Phoenix airport. The husband held the paperwork in his hand like the deed to a castle that had been in his family for centuries. How dare we?
“Get out! Get out!” my husband, Howard, gestured. “We’re in the wrong car. We’re supposed to be in A-34. This is A-32.”
“Shit, shit, shit,” I thought. I hate inconveniencing other people above all things. Unless I hate them and then I’ll only inconvenience them in subtle, mind-fucking ways that no one can actually see. I would never inconvenience anyone in a way that would be observable to a normal person. I would never be rude. I would never sit in someone else’s car.
I was mortified.
I yanked my phone charger, grabbed my giant, ancient Coach bag, the one my husband bought me ten years ago when I told him I wanted a purse that would last me the rest of my life, and I fled to A-34, a white Toyota Camry in the next parking spot. Of course, I right away had to plug in my phone but the phone charger end was missing. I flew out of my seat, explaining to the Duke and Duchess that I thought my charger might still be in their car. I opened the door and rifled around but, feeling the injury of their stares, I gave up and decided we’d have to go to Target to get a replacement. Better that than to persist. The serfs searching the manor, it wouldn’t do.
Now the royal pair was in the car but sitting still. He was looking at his deed and she was staring straight ahead.
“Oh, my God!” I yelled. “My laptop!” Howard leapt like Robin Hood to A-32. “My wife thinks she left her laptop in your car.”
Stony duchess handed over the laptop and a pile of papers, reservations, confirmation numbers, that had been strewn on the floor of the car. I had been in the car 60 seconds but my detritus was everywhere.
Her disgust radiated through the parking structure. Who were these awful people, I could hear her thinking, people who leave their things in a stranger’s car, have no respect for the rental cars of others, take liberties with a Camry not their own?
Relieved beyond words that we’d retrieved my laptop, my buddy, my badge from the gnarled, bejeweled hands of Mrs. B-32, we buckled ourselves into our seats and started driving out of the parking structure to the world beyond. Phoenix was about to be ours.
But first we had to stop at the Hertz exit station. “Where are the rental papers?” my husband asked. “I put them in here,” motioning to the console compartment. I opened it and it was, of course empty.
“Our papers! They’re in A-32!”
Howard stopped the car and jumped out, leaving the door open while he waved his arms at the royal procession just started up behind us. In the car, I started making a series of ‘oh my, I’m such a ditz’ gestures, throwing my hands in the air, shaking my head, all the while feeling like Wilma Flintstone and thinking the Duchess might catch sight of me and be benevolent.
“What did you say to them?” I asked when he came back with the papers. “Did they think it was funny?”
“I said to the guy that maybe we should all just spend the week together. He kind of smiled but she didn’t. Then he said that they weren’t leaving until we did.”
At the Hertz exit station, the man asked for Howard’s drivers license. It was in his wallet.