Sunday, June 13, 2010

A gamblin' we go with a win in the end!

On June 4, 2010, I took a day of vacation so that I could take Mama to the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Washington. Since we no longer go out of town in the Buick, we'd been renting a car, remember? But through talking with George, a man whom I have talked with on the morning bus, off and on for several years, I got firsthand information about using a Zipcar. So we signed up and became Zipsters! Meet Subaru Impreza "Ingersol." I've parked it in front of our building after driving it the block from its home parking space. Golly, what a delicious thought! Its home parking space. Oh, boy! And right there on the driver-side visor was a gas card to use while we had the car, no using our funds. The day rate was in line with renting a car, so I figured we'd come out ahead in the end. Plus, that gigantic, glorious carrot--the home parking space--glowed in my vision of the future.

She's rarin' to go. Well, with as much energy as she could muster. This was two days after the last Imuran from the first prescription of it. Her walker is in the back cargo space, the oxygen bottle she's using now is between her feet on the floor, her extra oxygen bottle is on the back floor board--we're ready to go!

By the way, how do you like my red Kate Spade handbag that I got at Goodwill for $9.99? I adore it!

First we stopped by the Bijou Cafe for a hearty breakfast. Always there is a beautiful flower arrangement on the counter. Are those pink flowers peonies?

My hearty breakfast, a buttermilk pancake, an omelette with bacon, goat cheese and onion, and pan-roasted potatoes. Sometimes I get fresh-squeezed orange juice, but I only had a little water this time because we were in for a two-hour drive.

We only stopped once on the way to the casino, to buy some gasoline. I think we were in Toledo, Washington. As far as the Zipcar goes, "Ingersol" drove just fine, but I am too wide for the molded seat. I mean I had to get myself situated just right, or I felt uncomfortable on the outside of my left thigh. I successfully used the cruise control--I like to do that on the interstate in light traffic and dry roads.


After several hours of playing the penny machines here and there during which I had doubled my money, we decided to walk over to the other side of the building and eat at the buffet--yes, we were hungry again. Turned out the buffet wasn't open yet because they had to set up for dinner. Instead we ate at a small cafe, the Scatter Creek Grill. Mama ordered a French dip sandwich with fries; I ordered nachos. Surprise, surprise. The food was really good. Those multi-colored chips were the thinnest, crispiest I can remember ever eating, plus they tasted good, too. I had a really good time piling the various side-dish-ingredients onto them and chowing down. Mama managed to eat about half of her sandwich and fries--we brought the rest of it home for later. She got a piece of chocolate cream pie, I got a piece of New York style cheese cake, then we headed for home.

On the drive back, traffic had picked up some, plus about Kelso, Washington, it started to sprinkle becoming full-blown rain by the time we got back to Portland. Not hard rain, not big drops of rain all of the time but enough to use the windshield wipers on the highest speed a couple of times. Once had crossed the Columbia River, I decided to head into the city on Interstate Avenue. We stopped at Lombard to buy gasoline again, mainly, it turned out because I was completely confused about what Zipcar wanted me to do about having gasoline in the car. If I had the teeniest bit of a logical mind, I would have realized that what Zipcar wanted me to do was to fill up the car, not put the minimum of a quarter of a tank in it. You should have seen the man who came out to pump gas for us when I said, "Just put three dollars worth in, I'm only supposed to have a quarter of a tank in it." Then, creature of habit that I am and/or dingbat, I handed him my own credit card. Thank goodness I realized that error quickly and said, "Oh, I was supposed to use the gas card. Can you cancel that?" He did, then took the Zipcar gas card, my Zipcard which has my pin number on it, and checked the mileage on the odometer--he needed to enter the pin number and the mileage when he pumped the gas--I'd found that out in Toledo where I had to pump my own gas which I haven't done since we were on vacation last fall and before that it had been over three years. The man asked, "Do you still just want three dollars?" "Yes," I told him. He gave me a quizzical look and said, "OK."

Since we still had an hour left on our reservation, I stopped at Fred Meyer on the way home to pick up some milk and fruit. As I got into line at the register, I watched the man in front of me putting his items on the conveyor belt--it was George, the man from the bus who gave me the info about Zipcars! When I told him we were about at the end of our first reservation, he mentioned that best of all I now knew where I would park it. Literally, a sort of glow feeling came over me at this thought. We smiled at each other, and I asked, "Do you need a ride, George? We've got a back seat!" He laughed and said he'd walk, then we told each other goodbye.

As we pulled up in front of the building I asked Mama if she could wait in the entryway, that I'd go park and be right back to help her get upstairs. (I took this photo earlier, before she got into the car--just had to show you how cute she really is!) I tootled along, made several right turns, and lo and behold, found an Infinity parked in my Zipcar's home parking space! Talk about all of the air going out of your balloon! Luckily there was a space two cars in front of it in a 30-minute zone, so I pulled in, got out my cell phone and started what I had no idea would turn into a mini-marathon of sorts.

Once I got through to a customer service rep, Mark I think, I explained what had happened. He asked me if I could find somewhere to park it legally overnight so that it wouldn't be towed, that the next time it was reserved was 8 a.m. I explained to him that our neighborhood has a restricted parking between 1-11 p.m. on Sundays, that there would be no where that I could park it on the street. I told him that I thought I could park it in a nearby parking garage, that it would take some time because I had to get my 84-year-old mother up to the apartment, put away some groceries, take care of the 16-and-a half-year-old dog, and go to the bathroom first. He extended my reservation for an hour and a half, at no cost to me, gave me an hour and a half driving time credit, and asked me to call and let Zipcar know where I left the car.

I got off the phone--it's illegal to talk on your cell phone and drive in Oregon unless you have a hands' free device--and drove the block to our building. Lo and behold, the first space nearest the entryway was open! If only it didn't have restricted parking, I would have been home free. Anyway that gave me plenty of time to take care of Mama, who sharp lady that she has had already guessed that someone had parked in the spot since it had taken such a long time for me to get back to her, getting the groceries in and put away, taking care of Duncan's needs and mine.

Once I got back into the car, I called Zipcar again to get them to clarify the gasoline thing since that man at the gas station had looked at me like I was crazy, and to ask about the parking garage which I thought closed at night and what if it wasn't open early enough for the next reservation or what if you had to have the receipt to put into a machine to make the gate open--I don't know, I had never parked there. Lo and behold, I got Mark again so at least I didn't have to repeat everything. He assured me that a parking garage would be open early enough, that I should send in the receipt and I would be reimbursed for whatever it cost, and then he explained that it would be so thoughtful of me to fill up the car with gasoline.

So after I hung up the phone and put it down on the seat, I drove to a nearby station and did just that. Then I drove into the parking garage, bought an evening ticket and sat back down in the car to make the call to tell Zipcar its location. As I read the ticket, I couldn't believe what I saw: Expires at 11 p.m. What! I couldn't leave it there all night! So I drove out and went to a street level parking lot that I had notice one time when I was cruising for a place to park the Buick. As I pulled in I saw a woman getting into her car and asked if cars could be parked there all night. She didn't know, so I parked and got out, read the machine which had a choice for eight hours, bought the ticket, got back into the car, and as I waited on the phone for the customer service representative, I read, "Expires at 7 a.m." Good grief! I

This time I got a woman whose name I don't remember. She listened and said that she could tell I was trying hard to do the right thing, that I should submit both receipts for reimbursement. I told her that I was going to drive by Ingersol's home parking space, just in case it was empty, that I guessed I could do that until the extended time they had given me ran out, that I could then call and get more time, maybe until 11 p.m. and then I could park the car anywhere except a 30-minute zone! She thanked me for being such a cooperative Zipster.

I left there and drove by Ingersol's home parking space where I saw a different car, a Honda, parked in it, illegally! As I turned left onto the street, I slowed down and stared at the car. Then in my rearview mirror I noticed the headlights come on. Quickly I turned left into a parking lot of a medical building (where it is illegal to park in the evening unless you pay rent for a space), left again, and the left onto our street, pulling to a stop beside the car, and rolling down the passenger window. The driver window of the car went down. There sat two young men.

"This car belongs in that space," I said, "so could you back out?" The passenger leaned toward the driver and said, "Yes." The driver looked at me and said, "Is it marked?" "Yes, it is," I said, and proceeded to read the sign to him as I pointed toward it. (I took the photo above on the next Saturday morning, not that night.) "Now I'm going to go around the corner and come back and park here." Which I did as quickly as I possibly could, legally, so that no third unauthorized car could park in "Ingersol's" home parking space.

You know how thrilled I was when I turned the corner and saw this--"Ingersol's" empty home parking space. (I took this photo on that same Saturday.) I turned off the motor, picked up my cell phone, called Zipcar, told them that I had lucked into properly parking the Zipcar, and accepted the customer representative's praise for a job well done.

How's that for a win in the end?


Anonymous said...

I can't believe I read the "whole" thing but I did, honestly. I never heard of a zipcar before and still am not sure was it is. I suppose it is like taking one of the public bicycles in Holland. It was interesting. I am surprised mama did so well.

Besides the eating, how did she do gambling? LOL

Lynette said...

Mama spent a quarter of the funds that she took with her--the last time we went, she didn't spend a cent and came home with $439!

Zipcar is a for-profit, membership-based carsharing company providing automobile rental to its members, billable by the hour or day. Members, whom the company calls “zipsters”, are able to view vehicle availability and reserve a self-service car via the internet, iPhone app, or telephone, in increments as short as one hour and pay only for time they reserve. Zipcar vehicles report their positions to a control center using in-car technology.[2] In the U.S., each reservation entitles the members up to 180 miles for each 24 hour period. Individual members can sign up for one of two different plans, the “Occasional Driving Plan” and the “Extra Value Plan.” Members are given a “Zipcard,” an access card containing a wireless chip that will open the vehicle they have reserved only at the time they have reserved it. The ignition key is attached to the dash on a retractible cord and always stays in the car. The reservation includes driver’s insurance, a gas card for the car, reimbursements for fuel obtained at gas stations that do not accept the included gas card, and up to $15 in reimbursements for typical car maintenance items like car washes and window wiper fluid refills. Zipcar maintains the cars otherwise, and if you find your reserved vehicle dirty, dented, etc. you are to report that immediately at the start of your reservation so that you are not held accountable. A member can reserve and use a Zipcar in any Zipcar city. All in all, for us in this neighborhood of sparse parking the Zipcar appears to be our best bet–it certainly beats having to go to a car rental office during their work hours. If I wanted to go somewhere in an hour, I could look online, see what’s available within walking distance, and make the reservation.

Anonymous said...

I am happy for you, because you discovered Zipcar. One of our adult children lives in NYC (Brooklyn). They chose not to own a car for obvious reasons.

Daughter's company where she works (very large company) has as one of its perks, Zipcar at a good discount. She and her husband use Zip for vacation travel, trips to local areas, beach, whatever. They love it. It's only two blocks from their apt. to the Zip lot.

I don't know why they don't advertise on TV and the other places you'd see ads.

If/when The Buick every fizzes out, just use Zipcar! No car insurance, no new tires to buy, no maintenance. Plus you already have public transportation.

I find it cute and hilarious that Mamma wants to go to a casino! Ha ha.