Who’s to blame for poverty, disease and everything bad? Jethro knows
‘Hire car companies and their bewildered staff might well be the root of all evil’
OF ALL THE JOBS IN THE WORLD, WHICH IS the one you’d love to try for a day? Test driver for Ferrari? Maybe an F1 or WRC driver? Living the dream, driving in a realm that’s completely beyond the reach of normal humans. Or perhaps the chance to climb into the mind of Adrian Newey and experience life through his unique gaze? Watching vortices swirl wherever you turn and calculating how next to destroy the sport you love so.
How about being Travis Pastrana? No worries about lap times or data. Just destroying tyres in cars designed to destroy tyres without a care. Maybe you’re a hormone-addled teenager and have other jobs you’d like to try for a day. Centred around the San Fernando Valley, for example. There are so many options. A bit like the ‘ten-car garage’ game, it’s one many of us have played in quiet moments of reflection.
Mine? I want to work at a European airport at a hire car desk. It’s fascinating. What do they do? What the actual f**k do they do? How can it take so long and be so complex? Why is it a different process for each and every customer? What traps are set for them in their computer systems that manage to baffle and delay them every single time? Where does all the information that you’ve laboriously inputted online in order to make the booking go? How can they not know your address that you supplied literally last week? Why is the car insurance they include in the fee not really car insurance at all? Maybe it is. In which case why are they asking everyone to take out many more insurances? And that thing about the petrol costing loads if you don’t replenish it yourself? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?
My hope is that it really is the most involved, taxing process imaginable. And not because of ludicrous systems dreamt up by the hire companies themselves. I pray that these things are imposed on them for sinister purposes by governments and shadowy agencies of which we know nothing. That somehow these people, these poor, besieged, hated people (for yes, we do hate you in the purest sense of the word as we wait in line, rage coming in great waves as you ask for driving licences already uploaded onto vanishing booking systems and hand people post-it notes and a cracked old biro to write their address down. Seriously? This is what it’s come to? Post-it notes?) are quietly fighting against impossible odds just to make our holidays better. They are sacrificing their own place in society for the greater good. Shunned by family, abandoned by former friends. Diligently and with great dignity, these heroes accept their lot and push ahead, feigning staggering incompetence. If this isn’t the case, then hire car companies and their bewildered staff might well be the root of all evil. Worse, they are actively slowing human evolution and technological advancement and are indirectly culpable for the deaths of millions.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but bear with me. The hire car market is projected to be worth $99.54 billion in 2023. Or, more pertinently, to be used by 616.5 million people. In a single year. Let’s assume each of these is spending 35 minutes at a desk waiting for their key and re-providing information and scrawling on post-it notes. That adds up to 21,577,500,000 minutes. Or 359,625,000 hours. That’s nearly 15 million days of human ingenuity, endeavour and utility lost to hire car queues in one year. Now add in the time to pointlessly pre-book online, the trudge back from the car park to the desk when you discover the pristine car for which you paid has three wheels and dents on every panel. It truly boggles the mind.
So you can blame the hire car behemoth for world famine. For the failure of humans to cure cancer and countless other diseases. For the spread of Covid (the spittle flung around by livid customers surely supercharged the global pandemic). For everything, as far as I can tell. No other industry cuts across every sector of society with such cripplingly time-hungry processes nor saps more mental energy. Funnily enough, I recently sat down with Christian Horner and he said the main difference between Adrian Newey and other F1 technical directors was that Newey had, since the age of 17, been wrapped in cotton wool and never, ever exposed to car hire.
Maybe the job swap isn’t such a good idea. Whether or not the staff are actually hidden heroes, the end result is the same. Human potential cut off at the knees, time and time again. Forget Dieselgate, this is the real scandal. They’re probably gassing monkeys somewhere, too.
This column was written in a queue of three people to collect a car at Milan Malpensa airport. It took 4 hours and 12 minutes to write. When finished, the queue was down to two people.