Home Rent a car How My Epic Vacation Fails has become a motto for this school year

How My Epic Vacation Fails has become a motto for this school year


I should probably have figured out transportation by now.

It’s been a part of my life in one way or another ever since my parents took me home from the hospital. And even.

I could fill a memoir with my stories of tows, tickets, and other jobs – all the result of my poor planning or wishful thinking. (“They won’t tow me if I just duck here for a few…oh wow, my car is going.”) That would be a sad memory, and it would quickly accumulate in the clearance bin next to “A Shore” by Snooki. Thing”, but at least it would be long.

Which brings me, believe it or not, to Los Angeles.

My son and I took a two day trip to see a Dodgers game and do some touristy stuff before school started and the pace of life got hectic again. I didn’t rent a car because LA is, the last time I checked, a real city, and everyone knows you don’t need a car in a real city.

We were on the ground for 45 seconds when it became apparent that in fact LA is nearly impossible without a car. I quickly arranged a rental from my phone and we hopped on a shuttle to the rental car parking lot.

Except it was the wrong batch of rental cars. And when we walked to the other rental car parking lot, it was no longer located there. And when we gave up our hands and canceled the rental and returned to the original rental parking lot, all rental companies had a four day rental minimum. And when we gave up and decided to rent a car there anyway and eat the cost of two unused days, I realized I didn’t have my driver’s license.

It was at O’Hare. Sitting in a bin at safety. Where I hastily dumped it to empty my pockets before being scanned full body.

I panicked briefly, after briefly (and unsuccessfully) begging the gentleman to accept a photo of my driver’s license which I store on my phone. And then I called an Uber. And when we got in the Uber and headed to our first destination, the driver suddenly stopped and informed us that oops, sorry, she wasn’t driving that far, and we would need to hop and to take another route.

Did I mention the trip was my son’s 13th birthday present?

“Literally, everything is bad,” he said, as we stood in billion-degree heat on scenic Airport Boulevard, waiting for a second Uber.

(Feel free to pause and calculate all the ways I could have easily avoided this whole debacle. Believe me, I did it.)

But if there’s one thing I have a lot of practice at, it’s looking on the bright side — and trying to convince my kids to join me there — after screwing up something, usually involving the transportation.

There was the time I took my son and his friend to a Northwest/Michigan football game and decided to take the “L” because who wants to park at a North West football game? northwest / Michigan, only to realize after waiting 30 minutes on the Diversey platform that the train we were waiting for was not running on Saturday.

There was the time I had my car towed in front of my son’s winter vacation concert.

There was a time when I decided we didn’t need to rent a car in Dallas when we were going there for my daughter’s gymnastics competition, only to learn once we landed that the competition was in “Dallas” similarly Allstate Arena or Sears Center or Hollywood Casino Amphitheater is in “Chicago”. Which is to say, not actually. That is to say, you need a car.

Unfortunately, this is just a small sample of my missteps. But before finding my children and introducing them to the process of emancipation, listen to me.

Each of the stories (colossal failures?) has a happy ending. OK, happy. Alright, funny. Well, memorable.

The Northwest/Michigan game? Two other poor souls were on the same platform that day, also waiting for the train which never arrived. They were from Michigan and had a much better excuse than me for not knowing the train schedule, but that’s beside the point. The thing is, we’ve all shared an Uber with Evanston, and one of them was a college basketball player. My son and his friend and I ended up having the best time talking to them about college sports.

Finding a last minute rental in Dallas took us on an adventure that included an impromptu visit to the Dallas Stars hockey stadium, and I distinctly remember my son ending the day singing in the hotel shower, which I took as a sign that I hadn’t sapped all the joy from her life.

The winter vacation concert tow is still too much of a pain to unpack here. Perhaps in memory.

“Not everything,” I said to my son, on the sidewalk of Airport Boulevard, sweating and furious and frantically transferring money from my savings account to cover Ubers’ next 48 hours. “Like three things. Maybe four. Everything else went well.

And that’s where I decided I’d stumbled upon our motto for the school year, which will no doubt include missteps and moments of poor planning and the occasional colossal failure (mine and my children).

All will be eminently more tolerable and rebound if we approach them with a little grace. And don’t forget to stack them next to all the things that haven’t gone bad. And know that they might even take us to an interesting place. And they will most likely make a good story.

And you can always choose, at the end of the day, no matter how ugly, to sing in the shower.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist at the Tribune News Service. You can reach her at [email protected], find her on Twitter @heidistevens13 or join her Facebook group Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act.