Sunday, January 4, 2009


I did make it back to Rochester some time around 12:30 and, yes, it was by rental car. But, the story is more interesting than that. Allow me to explain.

Renting a car from the airport, especially without a reservation, for a one-way trip is a total ripoff. After retrieving my bag and making my way past ground transportation to the rental desks, I did a little "eeny meeny miney moe" and chose the one with a big E in the logo. A one day compact car rental would be $80, with a $100 transfer fee tacked on because it was a one-way trip. $180 dollars to drive the cheapest compact car 75 miles. For $180 dollars I could fly there (as it turns out, I almost could have - there was one more flight from MSP to RST that left at 10:25 pm, except that RST was by then closed for weather).

So I balk and go to another rental desk that uses red in their corporate letterhead. While waiting at the head of the line, I heard the woman behind the counter explain to a potential customer that their rate (again because of the one-way) would be something like $150. Better, but not great, and the customer thought so, too. The agent then said "If you're going to Rochester, I think there's a taxi service that has reduced rates for that."

This is where I pipe up and say that I, too, need to get to Rochester. So, that reduced the cost by half right away. The fact that our employer has a heft corporate discount with said rental agency dropped it further, to about $45/person. After making brief introductions, my new companion (who would be driving) and I made our way to our chariot: a Toyota Yaris sedan - a wholely unremarkable vehicle with automatic transmission and power nothing. I'm not even sure it had all-weather tires, which considering the inch of frozen muck on the unpaved roads to come was a little dicey.

So we make our way down rt 52 at about 45 mph, doing our best not to spin out, as several cars we passed on the way had done. The snow/freezing rain kept coming down the whole way. As it turns out, this woman was from coming back from visiting her family in Salzburg, Austria. She was a psychiatry researcher who was currently applying to residency programs in the U.S., and had a boyfriend who had already been accepted into a neurosurgery program in Alabama. Even more coincidental, it is likely I'll be working with the boyfriend in the near future, as he is soon to join a project I am doing some engineering work on.

The trip back, though long, was coming to an unremarkable close until, cresting a hill not one mile from our exit, the car started to fishtail and planed on some unplowed snow towards the right guard rail. The car kept its attitude, however, and there was a foot-thick berm piled up on the guard rail. That and our relatively slow speed by that point meant that we just slowly ricochetted off the side like bumper bowling. The last few miles to my door truly were unremarkable after that.

So, well past midnight, I stumble into the house that had been cold and vacant for two weeks. Though very empty of both possessions and family, it was very good to finally be home.

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