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dimanche 28 août 2011

America is Certainly the MOST friendly country for a Frequent Traveler!

I am spending a few days in Miami, enjoying the sunshine, relaxing at the beaches and eating well. The last item brought me to the Whole Food Stores in Aventura, where shopping carefully for organic foods is always a pleasure.
But this post is not about eating well or organic food but about the kindness of Americans. I have been traveling to USA on so a regular basis that I no longer feel a stranger here, I am never here long enough to get deeply involved in the superficiality but long enough to understand the nature of the people who inhabit this country.
On this visit to the USA, I have already been to Seattle, Portland, Omaha, American Indians and now South Florida. This is the microcosm of the world, where the world is treated well. Immigrants in no other country can hope to be treated with such dignity as in the USA. I have been watching the Latins walking with their heads up high, whether they spent their childhoods in Pinar del Rio or Cochabamba! Somalis in Seattle, Asians so fresh to Portland that the mist of that continent still clung to their persons.. and South Florida where I can get by with Spanish and Portugese…
In a few years time, the “white” americans outside of the Midwest will have lost its meaning, the mixing of the immigrant population and the diversity is such that there would be an economic distinction between people, such as poor and rich , and the colour and national origin would be lost amidst that.
I had stocked the required food stuff from Whole Foods and walked towards the rented Avis car and deposited the various packages in the boot (trunk) of the car. Decided to pop into Best Buy for a minute, and within about a short span of time was back at the car.
That is when I realized that I had lost the keys to the car. Fortunately I had the local cellular phone that I use. Before making any frantic calls, I decided to go back to the shops I had been a few minutes earlier to enquire whether or not any one had turned in the keys. I went back to the car to check, to find out that the newer cars are virtually burglar proof and once they are locked, you do need a professional to come and open it.
Ah well, is this happening to me? I am in the parking lot of a shopping mall, not anywhere near a residential area, with a rental car full of food sitting there locked.
I am staying at the beach house of my sister just five miles away and the AVIS rent a car facility at the Fort Lauderdale airport is less than 10 miles away. And there was no help in sight, in terms of a taxi or a machinist or a person with knowledge of breaking into cars!
After waiting for a few minutes, I called the number of AVIS at Fort Lauderdale airport. The automated query system wanted to know whether I needed roadside assistance, I pressed 1 and very quickly a voice came over. I had difficulty understanding the accent, since it was a local American accent, very strong. He was not connected to AVIS but a contractor who does the roadside help for AVIS rent a car company. I knew that he was strange to the rental car business when he didn't understand anything about Frequent Renters or the AvisFirst Programme. Before I could explain, he was in a hurry to tell me how much his services would cost me. I tried not to be overcome by the magisterial pronouncements.
375 dollars for the lost key
150 dollars for towing the car to AVIS
Loss of the contract with the company or extra payment for bringing another car, which would mean an extra 200 dollars.
I said to myself without getting upset, I know that I am in the land of such exploitation of transport difficulties but 800 dollars is it a fine or punishment for loosing keys? Is this man telling me the truth or is it a joke?
As a recent practitioner of Classical Yoga Psychology, I said to myself, no need to get upset about this, but watch this as you are watching a movie, detach your self from this.
I felt I was in a theatrical production and I was trying to act my part, Boot for trunk, Z instead of Zee, so the other person on the phone knows and judges a foreigner.
But this parasite on the society, for those who exploit the situations such as this are parasite who do not provide a serive but they do it at an exaggerated price, was kind enough to listen to me
I am a frequent renter from Avis, could you please call them at Fort Lauderdale airport location and ask them what concessions I am entitled to.
If he had not made that telephone call, the story would have had a much sadder ending.
I was holding on to my telephone, hoping it had enough battery for this long, at times incoherent conversation. He comes back, Hello Sir, I spoke to them, they said someone in the area would bring the key to you. His name is Mr Edwards. Before I could ask for an explanation, the slimiest example of exploitative humanity had hung up to attend to other unfortunates. I thought, AVIS recognizing my status as a Frequent Renter is sending a man from Fort Lauderdale office, which is only a short distance away with a master key.
I had given the intermediary all the details, the car, the plate number, my mobile phone number, the vague address of Whole Foods ( US 1, across from Aventura hospital which I could see from the parking lot). I was wondering what will happen. Would Avis come? Would they send someone? At least I felt that I had escaped a shark who wanted to charge me close to 800 dollars and that I was in the safe hands of a legitimate business such as AVIS.
But I was not prepared for the surprise the next telephone call brought me.
The telephone rang a few minutes later. It was a sweet voice form Avis in Fort Lauderdale.
Hello, Sir, a Mr. Edwards who was in the parking lot of Whole Foods found the keys and he called us and he has volunteered to return back to the Whole Foods to bring you the keys.
Could this be really happening? Doesn't this happen only in the movies?
All Life’s but a stage, did Shakespeare said that?
I was astounded by this. This was better a solution than I had hoped for. Someone finding the keys and finding a way to return to me.
She also gave me a telephone number which I called. A gentle voice, American one, answered, he said, he will be at the Café at Whole Food in a few minutes.
He found the keys, I kept on thinking, he could easily find the car, since the keys are equipped with alarms, he could have driven away in it or taken what was inside, but this gentleman is not like that, otherwise why did he call Avis? Why didn't he just throw away the keys or just take it to one of the shops and go on with his business. Somehow, from the beginning I had a good feeling about mr E. that he had gone the extra mile to help a fellow human being.
What makes us want to help another person? A personal experience? A genuine desire? An empathy? Modern lives are so full of commitments and a time urgency that it is better not to get involved and go on your way. Obviously Mr. E was not like that.
A few minutes later, I met Mr. E at the café of the Whole Foods. He came over and he had the keys in his hands.
He found the keys in the parking lot, sure enough; it said AVIS and a toll free number, and also the license plates of the car. He looked around and he couldn't find a Chevrolet Impala nearby, so he decided to go home and went on line and was able to track the car down to Avis rent a car company in Fort Lauderdale. Remember, Avis is located in every single metropolitan area and there are thousands of Avis locations, but without his investigation, he couldn't have found out that this Chevrolet Impala with the said license plates belonged to Avis at Fort Lauderdale Airport.
He decided to call them and they confirmed his doubts, yes the car was Avis rental car and it matched the records and confirmed that it had been rented to me.
So this kind man, Mr. E, he must have been busy all the time since he left the parking lot, it was all well under one hour, decides to drive back to the Whole Foods and wait for me at the Café.
I am a traveler and I have been very lucky in my travels but Americans are just an unique breed of people. They are very kind to foreigners. And I can tell you this proudly, in my twenty years of traveling to this country, I am yet to have a bad experience, despite the locations I travel to, the frequency with which I travel.
Thank You, America the Beautiful.
The kindness was not to end there. When I went to return the car at the Avis Fort Lauderdale Airport Counter, the person behind the counter, with whom I had conversed in French earlier was efficient, professional and very very helpful. Thank you Avia, just for this gentleman and his efficiency I might even fly into Fort Lauderdale and rent from Avis there the next time, rather than Miami.
One thing for sure, after completing between 100 and 200 rentals with AVIS rent a car, there is no need for another choice for me, I am loyal to AVIS, because they are loyal to me…