10 February 2007

Rental Car Marco Polo

It happens to us all. Leaving a school, heading towards the parking lot (of course it’s a commuter school, easily recognized by its ginormous and ever-extending seas of parking spaces), we realize for the twentieth time, “I have no idea what my car looks like.”

As road warriors, we spend our days skitting from campus to campus and our nights in different yet similar hotels, the only alteration being that tonight’s room is a mirror image of yesterday’s. I’ve been known to enter a hotel room and walk straight into the coat rack, intending to go into the bathroom. We collect the miniscule shampoos and lotions (less than three ounces, great for the plane!) and forget our phone chargers.

We wake up in one town, drive to another for our day’s labor, and drive to a third for the night, in a different car every few days. Each time we step off a plane, our wheels for the week might be different. One week a Chevy, the next a Ford. I hate Fords.

Yet we learn to cope. We go back to a select few chain restaurants for their comforting resemblance, the only hint of sanity in our fluid lives. Conserving our mental energy for students and for administrators, we choose the easiest path for the basic pleasures of eating and drinking. Panera, anyone? We learn the protocol for delivering pizzas to hotel rooms for late-night arrivals.

And so I play Marco Polo with each new car. Standing at the edge of the parking lot, I sharpen my senses for the game. “Marco,” beeps my keychain remote. A split second later, somewhere from the depths of the sea of metal, my car of the week honks its “Polo!”

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