Post Rental Depression

WARNING: This post is long.  It also gives a glimpse into the deep dark reaches of my brain (and no one really wants that!) so you are warned and advised to avoid it.  If you do decide to read it, then you aren’t allowed to complain.

A couple of weeks ago, I was holidaying in California.  The first part of my trip was spent in San Francisco city, seeing all the sights and exploring.  For the second part though, I hired a car and drove to Yosemite where I spent two nights, then drove back to San Francisco.  This story is about that second part.

While planning my holiday someone had suggested to visit Yosemite.  From the distance I decided it was probably best to rent a car, and as I’d always wanted to drive a Mustang (and I knew these were very common and I could hire one in the USA) it seemed like a good fit.  Upon talking with an American colleague though, she suggested that the standard V6 convertible Mustang wouldn’t cut it through the hilly roads (as she had done the drive several years earlier in her Mustang back in the States).  So I then started looking to see if I could find a V8 Mustang….

Upon looking at one of the big rental car companies sites, I realised that had a class of various sports/muscle cars that you could hire.  This included the V8 Mustang GT, Dodge Challenger R/T, Chevy Camaro SS and a Corvette.  The site didn’t really tell me what cars were available in what cities, but after playing around it seemed like the only one I could book was the Challenger R/T, so I did.

The Dodge Challenger R/T is a 370 Horsepower, 5.7 litre V8, 2 door American Muscle car.  I got very excited about having it for 3 days to drive around.  It was going to be one of the highlights of the trip, and everyone was jealous.

When I arrived at the airport, the Trainee serving me asked if I would change to a convertible Camaro instead.  Obviously (as rental agencies seem to do) they hadn’t managed their bookings correctly [link to Jerry Seinfeld rental car video].  I was hesitant, thinking that the Camaro he was suggesting was just a standard model and a downgrade, but he put my fears to rest and brought it up on the screen.  It was the SS model and was part of their group of sports/muscle cars.  It had a bigger engine with more horsepower than the Challenger (the Camaro SS has a 6.2 litre V8 making 400 horsepower) and looked awesome.  He said he was jealous, as he wasn’t 25 yet and couldn’t even rent the car himself. Then he handed me the keys and told me to “have fun”.

So I headed down to the dark parking lot to find my car.  When I did the first realisation was that it wasn’t a convertible…  I checked with the staff and apparently they didn’t have any of the convertibles around and I hadn’t been incorrectly charged.  I then looked at the car and realised how awesome it looked.  It was brand new (2012 model) and looked tough.  I climbed inside (strangely for me into the left) and appreciated the fancy new interior with it’s leather seats, and myriad of gauges and controls.  I then turned the key to the sound of the V8 engine roaring.

As the car sat idling I began searching for the GPS navigation unit, so I would know how to get from the Airport to Yosemite (3-4 hours drive away), but was unable to find it.  I turned off the car and went back to the attendant to see whether they had forget to put a portable unit in.  She said that the particular vehicle I had didn’t have a GPS unit, I could change to another car that had one, but it wouldn’t be one of the premium V8s.  At that point I made the choice to just try and use a map and tough it out.  (On a funny side note, I later realised that the car had On-Star, this is a service that contacts you with an operator who uploads the navigation directions to the car).  So as I pulled out of the lot I asked for whatever maps I would need to get me to Yosemite, the gate attendant handed me 4 or 5 maps (most of which I would discover were useless) and I was off.

Within a couple of minutes I had gone from never driving a left hand drive car, never driving on American roads and never having driving a brand new car (let alone a 400 horsepower V8) to being thrown southbound onto the 101 Highway.  As I drove along the highway, trying my best to keep the car in my lane, I was enjoying every second of it.  I had no idea where I was going, no idea what the speed limit or driving conventions were and there was traffic surrounding me all around (moving at various speeds and without any discernible pattern).  Of of this was quite stressful, but at the same time, it was awesome.

Thoughts regarding my lack of direction and knowledge of the rules/conventions disappeared as I continued to embrace the moment inside the Camaro SS.  After (what seemed like) a while though, I peeled off the highway and pulled down a side street to try and work out how to get where I was going.  I checked the maps and came up with an action plan; a series of hops between various highways (which I was certain I would forget/miss) that would get me to my destination.

Sadly, that wasn’t enough, as I was now lost in a suburb and couldn’t find the highway again… Luckily I managed to find some shops and went into a local Pep Boys and bought a GPS.  Once I put in my destination I was off, cruising across the Californian countryside.  Stopping for lunch and other things along the way.  It all began to feel more natural, and by the time I reached Yosemite it almost felt like the car was mine.

The next day I drove into Yosemite National Park.  I had expected it took be fairly small, but I was quite wrong, the scale was staggering, and because of that, there was a lot of driving around between various destinations (with me stopping at each place to take photos of the scenery, and the Camaro).  By the end of the day I would’ve done almost another 3 hours of driving, with the last part being over dusk and the start of the night.

The Camaro SS handled beautifully, when in sports mode, the engine roared and the car pulled as I navigated al the hills of the park.  The only thing holding me back was my unfamiliarity with the car (and driving on the right side of the road) and the speed limits.

Finally the third (and final day of my time with the car) had arrived.  I checked out of the hotel and loaded up the Camaro.  After refuelling I was on my way back to the airport to drop the car off.  The route back was very different from the one I had taken to get there, and sadly I didn’t get a chance to mount my GoPro on the car or do anything ridiculous with it.  I may have slightly gone over some speed limits (not saying whether I did or didn’t), but if I had’ve I would probably say something like “it goes from 65mph to over 100 extremely quickly”.

And then, as quickly as it had all began, it was almost over. As I crossed the San Mateo bridge, it began to dawn on me that my time with the Camaro was coming to a close.  After feeling the power of the big V8 throw me into the seat a couple more times as I planted my foot on the 101; I had arrived at the airport.

As I pulled into the return bay, it felt like I was saying goodbye to a good friend.  I pulled the car to a stop and just let the engine idle, listening to the sweet sounds of the V8. And then I turned the key and it was over.  A couple of minutes later I had finalised everything and was walking across the airport with my bags to catch a Taxi.

It was around that time that my heart sank.  I’m not sure whether it was just that I no longer had that amazing machine in my possession (or whether it was that I was heading to the middle of nowhere for the next two nights with no fun/exciting activities planned), but I felt an emptiness inside.  I started to come back to reality, having the realisation that the previous 3 days had just been a once off thing, and wasn’t my real life.  I didn’t actually own a 400 Horsepower American Muscle car, and didn’t have the freedom to just drive through the Californian countryside at a whim, enjoying the car and the journey itself.  Part of my brain started thinking about my “real life” back home, and how I could change it to constantly have that feeling, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was unrealistic, and my life couldn’t be like those past couple of days.

After 2 nights in San Bruno (not really doing anything), I then headed to Vegas for a week.  My spirits once again were raised.  I visited the Grand Canyon (in a helicopter), saw the Las Vegas Strip, fired several fully automatic guns and visited Las Vegas Speedway; where I drove a Ferrari, Nissan GTR and Lamborghini.

As I got in those super cars and drove around the track, it began to make sense.  I’d never own a Ferrari.  I’d never get to spend all of my time completely free, having adventures.  I’d never get to be completely happy all the time.  Life isn’t like that.  In real life you get the good and the bad, you can’t just have the good all the time.  Sure, it’s mostly a question of money, but even without money society wouldn’t function if we all got to spend all our time completely happy; as there’d be no one to clean the toilets.

When I returned back from my trip I was like a new person (for a while at least).  Before long though, everything came crashing back to reality.  The solace I got though was the lesson that I learnt; with the good comes the bad, and the bad comes the good.  Before I left for my trip I believed that life basically averaged out, and after my trip the theory was proven.  I now know that I don’t get to be happy all the time, but if I’m unhappy it means that probably at some point in the future I will get to be happy again.

This raises two questions.  The first of these is what the average happiness level is.  This is a question that I have acknowledged for a long time, but refused to answer, as the answer could be extremely terrible.  I think I am better of not knowing.

The second question is how do I accept this fact? How can I tell myself that I don’t get to be happy all the time? This is something that I don’t yet have an answer for, but I guess this is the point of life; trying to accept reality.

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