Friday, August 8, 2008

Lack of Zipcar availability sends me Zipping in style

Were it not for Zipcar, I probably would not live in the city. I'm not even kidding. After getting over the cost factor the toughest part of moving to NYC was giving up my beloved SUV Hunk. You don't need a car in the city but sometimes I like to escape and the places I like to escape to require a car. Zipcar fills that need pretty nicely. They know their target audience well: the factor that pushed me over the top was that they have nice cars from recent model years. So long, Ford Focus rentals. Hello, Mazda 3 with a sunroof and nice sound system.

The downside is that it's really hard to get a Zipcar on the weekend days in the summer. You need to book your car two or three weeks in advance, and for some cars (Mini Coopers) further in advance than that. It speaks to both the popularity and the frustration of the company. I recently upgraded my plan from a pay as you go to a monthly plan but besides a small discount on my rentals I don't really get any perks. It would be nice to have some kind of preferential car access or something.

I love the Minis and always try to book them but so do a lot of other Zipsters. So lately I've been trying to broaden my horizons and try other cars. I was disappointed by the Jetta (though my sister owns one and loves it) and the Honda Fit was cool but a pain in the ass to park. My last rental was kind of a kick though. I was invited to an outdoor dinner party up in Connecticut but out of the range of Metro North. It was only 4 days before so I knew I'd need luck to find a car available near me.

Luck was sort of on my side: a car was available 4 blocks away. But that car was a BMW 328, which is pretty expensive to rent. And it's kind of big. And seriously, a BMW? When I think BMW I think 80s yuppie. But I suppose I am sort of a yup pup and so I booked it with a chuckle.

Come that Saturday I went to the garage to pick of the car. All the Zipcars are named with the same first letter of the car brand, so this car was Beaumont. I handed my Zipcard to the garage attendant and said "Beaumont please." He nodded and lowered a silver Beemer that was on a set of risers. I could not stop laughing at myself. The best was when I sat in the driver's seat. I am 5'8" and I could barely see over the dashboard. Whoever had the car before me had reclined the seat back pretty far to go cruising. The cockpit was so big and filled with so many instruments compared to cars I've driven that I really felt like I was about to fly a jet. I took a few minutes to reset the seat and my mirrors. Then I put the fob in the ignition and started the car. I half-expected a computerized voice to say "Welcome, Roxy."

I picked up friend M outside a subway station. I somehow managed to parallel park the car in one shot. When he came out of the station I beeped the horn and like I had before he started laughing. Doubled over, in fact. Once recovered he opened the rear passenger side door and said, "So, I ride in the back, right?" With a bit of convincing he moved up front and we spent a couple of minutes laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. "I feel underdressed driving this thing," I said.

Once on the highway I was trying not to speed because I felt really conspicuous. It was hard. M and I would start chatting and when I checked my speedometer I'd be going a lot faster than it felt like. I tried riding in the center lane but it didn't matter. Even the right lane does 70 in I-95. As soon as we got to Connecticut I left the highway for the back roads so I could control my speed better.

When we got to our friend's place I was exhausted from driving a big car. We had a great time and a great dinner. Once the party broke up, one of my friends asked "Who has the BMW?" I was blocking him in the driveway. "Oh, that would be Mademoiselle Roxy over there," said M helpfully. I gave a curtsy and reminded everyone that I only drive in style.

No comments: