Packing. Always, always packing.
I was in the final stages of preparing for a work trip to Universal in Orlando. The new Transformers 3D ride was set to open with explosions, jet planes and celebrities, and I was onboard to assist with the media in attendance (and ride 5 times in a row with Al Roker). I wanted my car, Sheila the Shark, to be in tip-top shape for the drive, so I took her in for an oil change the morning I was scheduled to depart.
It was my first visit to this particular Nissan dealership. I arrived promptly when the service department opened and filled out the necessary paperwork to get the process started. All routine, bland, back-to-real-life stuff.
About an hour after I arrived, a manager came to the waiting area where I was blazing through emails on the free WiFi. I followed him to his desk where I expected to hear the usual, “You need a new oil filter, blah blah blah.”
“I have some bad news about your car,” he said. Par for the course – it’s always something, right?
“Oh no, what is it?” I said.
“Well, ma’am, it’s… gone.” He shrugged apologetically.
“What do you mean it’s gone?” Message.does.not.compute.
“I am so sorry. We are pretty sure another customer thought it was his rental car and took it.”
“Someone stole my new car?” I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation.
“Yes, we’re so sorry!” He explained that an older gentleman had dropped his car off for repairs before work. The service technician pointed him to his rental car, which happened to be parked next to my shiny gorgeous Altima. He decided mine looked better, and since the technician left the keys in it, it only took him a few seconds to abscond with Sheila. “We’ve been trying to call him but he’s not answering. We will find it and get it back to you, but you know, we can’t reach the guy so it might take a little while.”
“Um, I actually need my car right now. I’m leaving for Orlando in 3 hours and I have a meeting with Steven Spielberg tomorrow!” (Ok, it wasn’t an actual meeting, but we were both at the same event so I think it counts.)
The manager offered a rental car for my Orlando trip if mine wasn’t recovered in time, but I didn’t want a rental car. I wanted Sheila the Shark, the hefty little investment I just paid cash for a few months ago, safely back in my possession – not with some random stranger who wasn’t observant enough to realize that rental cars do not come with high heels, magazines, hats and burned CDs featuring WOP by J. Dash!
The manager promised to do all he could to recover Sheila by noon, so I agreed to take the rental home and await the update.
Then the technician asked me for my insurance information so I could rent the car.
“It’s in my glove box, so yeah. Can’t really provide that for you at the moment.”
“Ok, well just sign here. You’ll need to bring it back with a full tank, too.” I gave him the most intense staredown I’ve ever given anyone in my life.
“How about you guys bring my car back to me at my apartment. With a full tank. And we’ll pretend this never happened.”
I mean. Really.
Pacing around my apartment, I spent an hour calling news stations around the country to alert them to the Transformers grand opening. PR responsibilities don’t stop due to personal crises, something I learned all too well in my years as an agency publicist, but I found that if you start your conversation with “Some giant idiot stole my car this morning,” assignment desk editors are much more interested in what you have to say.
In between pitch calls, I was on the phone with Mom and the Fella, who were both reacting in their own special ways to the situation. Mom thought it was the funniest thing she ever heard in her whole life, and I had to hold the phone away from my ear as she laughed maniacally.
The Fella was ready to storm the dealership for a variety of reasons, one, because he’s only the tiniest bit scarier than me and surely they’d be jumping a little higher and moving a little faster if he was in charge; and two, he’d left a very expensive, very important, very potentially problematic item in my console the night before. Let’s just say it’s not something you’d want to fall into the wrong hands.
Finally, the dealership called to say they’d driven all the way to the man’s office across town, found him inside and told him what had happened. Supposedly he had no idea, and to that I say, really? He didn’t see my mail sitting on the passenger seat? Or the Target bag on the floor? And all the shoes and whatnot in the back?
Some people really shouldn’t drive. That’s all I’m saying.
My cell rang and I ran downstairs to exchange the rental car for Sheila. The manager apologized again and thanked me for not going postal and yelling at everyone. I told him he was just lucky it was me and not the Fella. Then it would’ve been a little scary.
To compensate me for my totally unnecessary Tuesday morning panic attack, the dealership offered a $250 credit toward future service, $250 toward my next car purchase and many, many apologies. No harm, no foul, in the end. But wow. Not what I expected from an average Tuesday morning in Jacksonville.
I loaded my bags into freshly washed, changed and vacuumed Sheila and headed south on I-95. I made it to Orlando in plenty of time for my meeting, rode Transformers 3D with Al Roker, finally figured out how to tell a Decepticon from an Autobot, became BFFs with Steven Spielberg and experienced another one-of-a-kind Universal grand opening.
And ultimately I used that $250 credit for new tires, so in the end, it was more of a blessing than anything else. Whew!
Has anything like this ever happened to you? Not the car theft – that’s never happened to anyone!
But has your starring moment ever been blocked by Steven Spielberg’s head? Watch here!