Last night, Torsten and I booked a car for an hour and a half to buy groceries, as we do every week or two. After the shopping itself was done, I parked the car in the back driveway of our building and we brought the groceries upstairs to our apartment. We had some extra time before the car was due back, so we went ahead and unloaded the groceries with a mind to ice cream not melting, meat not going bad, etc.
And then we both just completely forgot about the car that didn't belong to us sitting down there in our driveway by itself. I don't know if it was our combined work and family stress that made us just totally put it out of our minds, but once we put the groceries away, we collapsed on the couch and watched Friends. Then we went to bed.
I even got an email about my car account and read it while sitting on the couch, and it still did not occur to me that the very overdue car was still chilling out downstairs.
Only this morning, on my way out the door to catch the bus to work, did I remember that I never returned the car last night. I have no idea what made me remember, but suddenly the events of the previous night played through in my head, and I realized that returning the car was not involved in those events.
To any of my neighbours who like to sleep past 7:50 in the morning, I'm sorry for waking you up with the loudest "Shit!" I have ever uttered.
I tore like a madwoman downstairs to the driveway, where thank God that sign about towing cars left longer than 15 minutes is clearly there for decorative purposes only. There was the car, just as I'd left it, sitting nonchalantly in the driveway. I couldn't get in, of course, because my reservation had expired. So I sprinted upstairs and booked the car for right then, then ran back downstairs, hopped in the car, drove it to its actual home, properly scanned out, and then ran for the bus. Which I made, by about three seconds.
When I got to work I checked my bill to see if we'd been charged hundreds of dollars in late fees. Because it's a minimum of $50 per hour if you return the car late. It has to be that high in order to make sure that people always return the cars on time. And it works. Everyone returns the cars on time. Except us, apparently.
I was trembling as I checked the site, totally prepared to call up and try to argue my way out of it. After all, the car had spent the night only about 100 yards from where it actually lives. I hadn't scanned out, though, and that's how you prove you dropped the car off on time.
It's obviously my lucky day, though, because there were no late fees. Thank god they do not have some sort of sophisticated, GPS-based system for knowing when you're late. Rather, they can tell if you've scanned out, they can tell if the car is being driven, and of course, when they get angry calls from whoever reserved the car after you, they can tell if it isn't where it's supposed to be. But that's all they know.
So I guess they gave me a free pass on the not scanning out part. But oh my god, I'm still shaking from the anticipation of seeing $500 in late fees charged to our credit card. I have never done something like that before. What the hell is wrong with me?
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