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The move part one – Getting the Truck

About 2 weeks ago, I started looking around for a truck to move our stuff from Milwaukee, WI to Port Wing, WI, a roughly 400 mile move.  Having had good experiences in the past using Penske and bad ones with u-haul, I started asking around and looking at websites to get price comparisons.  Everyone I talked to was saying that Penske has the best trucks and smoothest process, I was willing to take a certain amount of suggestion here because I have not rented a moving truck since my previous move 9 years ago.

I filled out a form for a quote on the Penske website and got a fairly reasonable quote.  They were a bit more than u-haul but the pick-up and drop-off locations were more favorable.  I did not complete the transaction that day figuring I would see if I could find any discounts online.

In the meantime, since we are selling our house, I needed to get some renters insurance to cover my stuff in storage.  While I was on the phone for 30 min with a USAA rep, that was a great 30 minutes by the way, she and I discussed what my coverages were for driving a moving truck.  Auto insurance specifically does not cover the cost of replacing a moving truck if I wreck it, but it does cover my liability while driving it.  Good to know, that I would need some supplemental coverage for the cost of the moving truck, I don’t have an extra $60K laying around so the $50 to cover the truck was a simple choice.

The next day I got a call from a Penske sales rep, that was why they asked for the email address and phone number on the quote form, I surmise.  We started talking about my needs and I asked about price.  The rep started asking me if I was a AAA member, and a bunch of other things till he got to student, which I am so that plus starting the inquiry on the web landed me a 20% discount.  Which I thought was pretty darn good.  I would be getting a 22ft truck with a tow dolly to tow the wife’s car, unlimited mileage, three days of travel, and two insurance policies, one to cover the truck and the car while I was towing it.  Really, it was all less than $600, totally reasonable for a 400 mile move.  One bad part is that I would not be able to drop the truck off on sunday as I hoped because all towing rigs have to be dropped off when they are open.  Not a huge problem just an extra two hours of driving.

About a week before the move, I started getting confirmation emails from Penske stating that my truck would be ready and everything was set.  I arranged a great group of friends by calling in every favor I could muster and figured I had a great crew assembled to make the move as easy as possible for them.  I had the pool table crated, and had boxed and packed just about everything I could.  I carried as much as I could to the first floor and garage that I could manage.  Everything was looking like it was going to be great, I picked up burgers to feed people from the butcher shop, things were packed, the house was ready to close.  I thought I had everything under control, until the day of the move…

About 8:30 am we got up and got ready to get the truck.  Skipping breakfast, and leaving my cell phone at home, will prove to make this story much more interesting.  I figured that the quick 10 mile trip to get the truck would take less than 30 minutes which proved to be my largest miscalculation of the entire move.  As we approached the Penske compound, yea it is that big, huge, with about 400 entrance points, we drove around a bit until we finally found the office and were greeted by a college aged kid, who looked like he would rather have stayed in bed on a saturday morning than hand out rental trucks.

They processed my drivers license and gave me a bunch of papers to sign as a big huge mountain of a man pulled a truck around.  It had a car trailer hooked up to it, when we had booked a dolly.  I figured this was no big deal, other than it would add a couple hundred pounds to the load and cost me more in fuel.  As we waited they were obviously messing around with something and then another guy came out, obviously a technician, from his blue shop cloths and  he started crawling around behind the truck messing with the trailer connector.   At this point the kid says that they are having trouble with the trailer lights and the service manager is working on it. About 10 minutes later they come and get us, and the service tech says that he had to clip the wires off the plug because it isn’t working right and he made a pigtail for it and walks me through how to unhook the trailer.

We go back inside and the kid takes us back out for a walk around to check out the truck.  He goes to start it and nothing happens but a loud alarm is going off.  Here comes the service manager again and that guy gets in and starts it right up.  I make some wisecrack about the damn kids not knowing anything about trucks, the service manager laughs and heads back to the shop.  The kid comes back and tries to start the truck again and nothing, I tell him that the service manager said it was not in park all the way and he curses about Big Mike, the guy who brought it around.  About this time Big Mike, comes back around and climbs into the truck and says the truck is displaying an error code, and they ask us to hang out in the drivers lounge.  We wait, I head off use the restroom, they have one of those rocket toilets there that could easily flush a christmas ham, I didn’t have any hams to flush so i headed back to wait.

The kid finally comes to get us about 10 am, and says the truck has “major electrical issues” and they don’t feel comfortable sending us in it.  Yea that is a pretty good idea.  So they give us a couple options.  Wait 2.5 hours for them to finish preventative maintenance on another truck that might or might not pass, or drive 30 min over to the north side and get a different truck and then drive another 6 miles away to get a trailer.  He tells me that they have a dolly at this location, which I tell him is what I wanted in the first place. At this point, my rental has somehow morphed into a 26ft truck, I am unsure how that happened but the extra space might be nice, despite the fuel costs. I choose to head to the north side.  Penske gives me a $150 discount for my troubles.

I am getting pretty pissed at this point, considering I have to get to the North side and back, an hours worth of driving on a good day, luckily it is saturday morning so traffic is light.  I pretty much speed the whole way over to 1900 W Silver Spring to a Mayfair Rent-a-car.  While pulling into the lot I have to contend with some jackass driving like a fool in a lincoln navigator in the lot.  They were driving so badly they had no place behind the wheel of any motor vehicle.  I downshift and race past them and park in the middle of the lot.

Matt, Branch Manager of Mayfair Rent-a-Car.

I head in and meet Matt, an attractive 30 something, branch manager of a rental car lot.  Strangely enough the office smells like shit, literally, it smells like Matt was out drinking all night and hit the taco bell at 3am on his way home from the bar.  He looks to be in pretty good shape, so I am hoping, he is on his game despite the path of destruction he laid in the back room.  He recognises me and greets me with a chipper, “Welcome Mr. Norton” and says ,”He just walked in, yes, yellow hat” into the phone.  An aside here, my hat is orange, blaze orange.  Matt’s style of dress leads me to believe that he should know his colors better, he has impeccable fashion sense.

Remember the jackass in the lot, it is a little old lady who comes in to ask Matt about how to use the CD player.  He tells her she has to hit the open button.  Working in tech support, I can feel his frustration.  We do some more paperwork and make small talk.  At this point I ask him if we are OK so my wife can get home to greet the people that should be arriving in less than 30 min to help me load the truck I still don’t have yet.  He says, no problems.  The wife leaves.  I head out with Matt, after he finds the keys, and he is going to hook up the trailer for me.  I notice the truck is positioned poorly for trying to turn around with a trailer on it, so I ask for the keys to back it up a bit before he puts the dolly on.  I unlock the truck, hop in, turn the key and let the glow plugs warm up, and the dash lights start to flicker.  I turn the key against all hope and click, nothing.

I inform Matt of this and he exclaims, “I just parked it there yesterday.”  I am pretty frustrated at this point so we head back in and he calls Penske dispatch, they are sending a tech over, who should be here in 10-15 min.  I ask to use the phone to call the wife, because I left my phone at home, remember, and I get her voicemail, I leave a message with the great news.  I still have hope that the tech will jump the truck and I will only be 15 minutes late for the 11am deadline to start loading.

About 15 minutes later Mr. Arthur Wilson comes in to rent a car, while his is in the shop.  I could give you his phone number too, insurance provider, and home phone but I will respect his privacy more than Matt, Branch Manager of Mayfair Rent-a-Car did, as he trumpeted it out at level 11 volume for Mr. Wilson’s and my hearing pleasure.  As he chats with Mr. Arthur Wilson, I learn that the toilet overflowed this morning, explaining the smell, in the office, but leaving more interesting questions about Matt’s epic movement being the cause of the overflow or just collateral damage.  I don’t learn any more about the cause of the lavatory expulsion, much to my dismay.

With Mr. Wilson gone,  Matt gets up and goes to the back room, and it sounds like he is doing some dishes back there.  Maybe he was cleaning up ground zero, but he returns shortly and picks up the phone.  He makes a call, to the jackass, and spends about 5 minutes trying to walk the lady through using the CD player and explaining all the features of satellite radio to her.  Feels alot like my job.  I feel bad for Matt.

Matt calls dispatch again and learns the technician, should be here any minute.  At this point, it is about 11:15.  Five minutes later the tech shows up and I head out to greet him.  He takes the keys and confirms that the truck needs a jump and goes about his business preparing to do so as we chat.  I look under the truck by coincidence see a bunch of bolts laying there.  I look up to see a portion of the exhaust pipe missing, and relay this information to the tech.  He laughs and says, “This truck isn’t going anywhere.”  At this point I realize that someone has stolen the catalytic convertor.  He tells me this happens all the time.  More conferring between him and Matt reveals this is a common occurrence at this location.  Matt even says that he specifically parked the truck in the hard to back out spot so it is more visible from the street.  I guess criminals with portable impact wrenches don’t take long enough to remove a catalytic converter to care where the truck is parked.

The Tech gets on his cell phone and locates me another truck about 35 minutes away.  I tell him I have no ride so he offers to take me over there and grabs the tow dolly and hooks it up to his truck because they don’t have one over there.  I run in and call the wife and let her know the amazing news.  I tell her I hope to be there by noon.

My ride over with the tech turns out to be one of the more pleasurable parts of my journey.  I am not sure why I relate to mechanics, laborers, or anyone who earns a living with their hands so well.  Perhaps with this guy it was the fact that he vacations where I am moving to.  I never got his name, but I really wish I had.  He went out of his way to help me out.  He could have told me tough shit and gone back to his job, but he drove me all the way across town and made this happen.  Well, we chatted about hunting and it turns out he used to own a bow shop and is really into archery and hunting.  Needless to say we hit it off.  I learned all sorts of interesting info, about catalytic converter thefts and how they cost $2200 a piece whenever this happens.  I am not sure how much they get at the scrapyard but I am sure it isn’t even half of that.  He was telling me about a bus company on the north side that got hit and had them stolen off of 40 trucks.  Talk about a bad day, coming into that mess.

We finally roll into another Mayfair Rent-a-Car and am “warmly” greeted by Angie, a petite asian woman, who does not look very happy to see me.  I make a quip about this being the third truck today and I really need to get on the road.  She tells me her day was going fine until I messed it up.  Woah, great service Penske affiliates!  Once she took an attitude I was on her, giving her the business about if the truck would start and she fired back that she had just moved it.  Of course my paperwork is all messed up in the computer so she has to call it in.

At this point a customer comes in, that knows “Ang” by first name.  He is driving a jacked up 4×4 truck with flames on the hood.  Not a crappy 2 color flame job.  “Real FIRE!” This was probably a $3000 paint job.  Why does someone like that need to rent a car, and with such frequency that he knows the sales lady by first name.  I never did get that info but he seemed sympathetic to my plight and listened intently to my story of woe and dismay.  He seemed particularly interested in the catalytic converter part of it.  Perhaps how he funded his ride?

The paint looked like this.

I signed my 3rd set of paperwork, the Tech hooked up the trailer as we headed out for a my 3rd walk around.  I pointed out the damage as “Ang” seemed annoyed to have to write anything down. I later looked and she only wrote down 1 of the 5 areas I had pointed out.  For you future truck renters, pay close attention to this.  You are the one holding the bag if they don’t write it down.  Double check their often careless, work.

She handed me the keys and I got in the truck.  I asked if she needed me to come back in, and she laughed and said no, you can go now, dismissively.  It was now 12:15 but I finally had a truck, and it started and ran.  I started the truck and headed out of the lot, realizing at this point, I had not been given any instructions on operating this truck at all.  I was so excited to get one that I had completely overlooked how to operate it.  Having driven fire-trucks and other moving equipment before I gave it my best but this truck was huge, and totally gutless.  I managed to weave my way through the construction and onto the freeway and made it home without damaging it or running anyone off the road at about 12:30pm.  A full hour and half later than I should have been.

I pulled to the side of the street, dropped the trailer, backed the truck into the driveway, blocking traffic and feeling glad that I would no longer need to back up a truck on this busy street again.  At this point I noticed all of the people there, and all of my stuff in the lawn.  They had moved everything to the yard while waiting for me and were now hanging around, putting a dent in two 30 packs of PBR the wife picked up to keep them busy.  I ran back said hi and made my way to the PBR, took out my leatherman and poked a hole in the side of the can.  I popped the top and chugged that cold, delicious macro brew.  We loaded the truck, drank, and cooked some burgers.  I was so glad that people showed up.  Loading took less than an hour, as it should have.

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