Wheel mad in France
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ST KILDA, VICTORIA OURfriends (I’ll call them Ian and Helen) were driving down from a hill town in southern France when they had a puncture. They opened the boot of their hired Renault. No spare tyre. They just about turned the car upside down, but not even a jack.
Ian rang the car-hire emergency line. His French was limited and no one there spoke English. And they weren’t interested. The line kept cutting out. Ian and Helen pushed the car off the busy road, near a car wash.
‘‘Where are you now?’’ the car-hire agent asked. ‘‘ Lavage,’’ Ian replied. ‘‘Nearest street?’’ ‘‘There is no nearest street,’’ he insisted. Then the line cut out. Ian rang the number, oh, about 50 times. The sun went down. Ian did get through once and was sharply told: ‘‘A puncture is your responsibility . . . it’s in the contract.’’ The line cut out.
A Spaniard arrived with a tow-truck. He said new Renaults don’t have spare tyres. ‘‘Progress,’’ he declared, and hooked up the car. (Ian and Helen later learnt about tyre compressors.)
‘‘Where are you taking the car?’’ asked our friends. The man didn’t know. Finally, a friend picked them up.
The next day, Ian phoned the car-hire agency all through the morning, left messages and waited for a call.
Finally, someone rang him back. ‘‘You will have to go to Toulouse to get the car today.’’
Ian and Helen had planned to go to Toulouse, 200km away, the next day, anyway. ‘‘We’ll pick it up at the airport at 11am tomorrow,’’ advised Ian. ‘‘No, pick it up at 9am.’’
‘‘If it’s not still there at 11am, I’ll sue you,’’ Ian responded. Later that day, he got a call to say he should have picked it up at 3pm and he was late.
Arriving the next day at the airport at 11am, Ian and Helen were greeted effusively in English by a car-hire agent and shown to their new wideas-a-bus Range Rover.
‘‘No way . . . not in those narrow French village streets!’’ wailed Helen. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column: travel@theaustralian. com.au. Published columnists will receive a three-piece set for clothes, shoes and toiletries by F1 Spacepak, a compression packing system that maximises suitcase space. $98. More: flight001.com.au.