Since my stay over in the wilds of England is a temporary one, I've got a leased vehicle, rather than a purchased one. The lease is managed through the company, and all-in-all, it's a pretty trouble-free deal. Except that this car is apparently cursed.
First, let it be known that I am a Pretty Good Driver. I haven't had a speeding ticket since I was 18, and have been involved in only one minor (as in less-than-10-mph in a parking lot) fender-bender in the last 15 years of driving. I don't claim to be the world's best driver, but I'm competent at driving on either side of the road by this time.
Within 48 hours of receiving my leased vehicle (a Volvo ... because I love the Swedish Chef), I had two flat tires. (or 'tyres' in Brit-speak). Not one. Two. At the same time. Which makes my spare about as useful as an extra appendix. (See, it happened like this: I was on the phone, yes, but I was reaching for my hands free option, because it's illegal to be on the phone and not use hands-free over here, and I hit an evil Nazi curb. I can only assume it was an evil Nazi curb, as it had razors and rusty nails and active chain saws or something, which caused me to have two flat tires. Seriously, who gets two flat tires from curbing a car?)
Then, a month later, the car skidded on ice and into a hedge -- and I lost a mirror (The hedge was not an evil Nazi hedge, but the 4 people who were walking down the middle of the freaking road like ignorant chimps were. Hello people. Roads are for cars. That's why they make them that wide. Not so that you can walk 4-abreast arm in arm.)
A few weeks later, I hit a giant pothole and knocked a wheel out of alignment, which, because I am officially lazy, I drove around with for more weeks until the tire was worn down to the steel. You can be a good driver and still be lazy. It's in my Sure-I'm-Lazy-But-I'm-Still-A-Good-Driver handbook. (And by the way, how does a country that is obsessed with roadworks manage a giant lethal pothole? The village we live in has a road-crew that systematically tears up and repairs every inch of pavement in the area in a giant loop every year – they start at one end of the road and work their way to the end, just to start back at the beginning as soon as they've finished. It's like a job-security program or something.)
With all these problems mounting up, the car had finally had enough of me and lit up a cryptic message on the dashboard ('Anti-Skid Service Required' - I'm pretty sure 'Anti-Skid' is car code for 'please make this guy stop hurting me'). I called the lease company and tried to schedule it for service. Oops, only the fleet manager can do that. Ok, who's my fleet manager. "We can't tell you that."
Huh? Can't tell me? It's a secret? What the heck are they trying to protect? So I went to my HR group and asked if they could point me to the fleet manager. "Hmm.. I think maybe that's Terry. But maybe it's Ian." It's beginning to dawn on me why the lease company can't tell me: it's not a secret. It's a freaking mystery.
After a week of this (with the visible steel nubs on my tire now beginning to make evil noises when I drove) the receptionist (who turns out to be an acceptable facsimile of the fleet manager to the lease company ... who knew) gives me a ring and tells me I can now call the lease company to arrange service.
Problem solved. Oh wait. That would be too easy.
In the airport waiting to go to Venice, I called the lease company. They can authorize replacing the wing mirror and turning off the idiot light, and she thinks they can fix the wheel's alignment, but she can't authorize a new tire. I have to call a different company for that. Anyway, they'll try and book me into service for the following week, and can she please have my mobile phone number so she can text a confirmation to me?
Me:"Sure, it's a US number, are you ready?
Me: "OK, it's 001, 510 - "
Her: "Wait - that's a funny number"
Me: "It's a US number"
Her: "Oh, well, OK."
Me: "OK ... it's 001, 510 - "
Her: "Is that a mobile phone number? Doesn't it begin with 078 or 079?" [those are the standard mobile prefixes in the UK]
Me: "No. ... It's a US number. International."
Her: "Does that work in the UK?"
Me: "Well, I'm sitting in the Liverpool airport right now, and talking to you on it."
Her: "I've never heard of that kind of number before."
Me: "... 001, 510 ..."
Her:"That's a funny number."
In the end, she got past it enough to actually write the number down, and said that I should hear back by the following Monday.
By Tuesday of the next week, I'd heard nothing, so I took a stab in the dark and called the Volvo dealership directly. They had me booked, but only for the idiot light. No tire. No alignment. No mirror. But the sweet lady there took all the details and assured me they'd have all the parts necessary to make the car work again when I got there.
So here we are. It's service day. I've changed my tire into the spare now, because the steel wire on my tire has become angry and the tire has gone flat. I took the car into the service area, and the kind people there confirmed they had all the necessary bits before giving me a life to the office.
8 hours later, they give me a call.
Apparently they've been able to fix the wheel alignment and the idiot light, but were unable to fix the mirror or replace the angry tire. Not because they didn't have the parts of the time, but because the "funny number" monkey didn't actually enter those problems into the system, so they weren't yet authorized.
So I'm down one car for a few days until the monkeys hit "enter" on the authorization machine. Awesome. Just awesome.