June 7, 2010

The rental car and the mental tension

So going out to rent a car in France? Easy-peasy right? However, paperwork rules in this country and for all it's beautiful landscapes you'd better hope you can rent a car to enjoy it to the best possible extent. As we were going to Quiberon, this past weekend and we hoped to take in the coastal views and a lot more with the help of a rental car of course. So we waded down to the Hertz at the Rennes gare, armed with our reservation. There was a short line of 5 people before us. And a "scene" was just starting to unfold in front of us, given away by the exasperatedly angry voice of the front desk lady battling 3 just-arrived tourists from a different country. They had a reservation, a valid driving license from their country but no International license, so to speak of. And that was the problem. For those who've never heard of an International license, it may sound like a strange thing. But the knowledge of its existence in India gave me the slightest jitters. I too, had only an India driving license and no international license. But according to the French government rules, one can drive with the license of a different country so long as they are a student. Or so I believed. And the various car rentals over the past 2 years stood testament to my belief too. However the lady at the counter was real hardcore, unwilling to budge to any threats by the dissed clients and showed them the "rule book" and eventually the door. I pondered only for an instant if indeed they expected US state driving license holders to have an International license as well. It seemed highly unlikely. But I had better things to worry about at the juncture and painstakingly waited while the other 3 people ahead of us in the queue quickly furnished the required documents and sped away with their keys.

Come our turn. Cold sweat was threatening to appear on my forehead. And in the instant before we handed over my papers and our reservation to her, my mind flashed to me the million possibilities in case we too were shown the door - How would we get to Quiberon that was over 150km away? Take a bus/coach/train? Ditch the plan? Cancel the hotel? Camp around Rennes? Approach another car rental agency? However I smiled and uttered the golden passport - Bonjour to her and passed her all my IDs and documents all at once. And in return she uttered the words that held literally held the keys to our weekend getaway - Et voilà - vous avez tous! (There you go... you have everything that's required!)

Relief crept in at first and then filled all of us rapidly. We hadn't realized that we were indeed holding our breaths. Banished were the worst case scenarios. To top it all, we were given a gorgeous brand-new keyless entry, button controlled 7-seater Renault Scenic 2010. It was a bon voyage. On that finishing note, a picture postcard from Quiberon or the adjoining island of Belle Île shall follow soon... Happy sunshine and hello summer!


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