I was flying back from Perpignan or rather try I was trying to fly back from Perpignan. Having taken longer to get there than I anticipated my delay meant I had not just missed my flight, I had missed All The Flights ! …I should have realised half way there and taken the bus back to my friends place but no I carried on and thus….I was marooned.
Turning up at any small airport late at night is a bit disconcerting…a place normally (relatively speaking) teeming with people is as deserted as an old barn. No check-in desks open, no vendor kiosks, no shops – it was like a scene from 28 Days Later.
There was the odd person or so wandering about (and I mean odd in both senses of the word) and whilst not exactly menacing they would during daylight hours still be the type of people you’d probably cross the road to avoid (Wonder whether they were thinking exactly the same about me?).
So no flights, no drink and no food, even the toilets were locked shut ! Why on earth would there be anything open? I mean no sensible person would turn up at an airport without any ability to leave within the next 10 or so hours on purpose, only an idiot would do that…. oh yes that would be me then !
Now at this particular airport there’s no real place to sleep…sure there are airport hotels relatively close but as I was a poor student with very little money I couldn’t see myself being able to afford one of them (little did I know how easy it is to get cheap accommodation around midnight but that’s yet another story). Then there was a choice of seating none of which is comfortable to sit on never mind actually try to use in an attempt to sleep.
So faced with the prospect of a very uncomfortable night’s sleep, not forgetting a potentially dangerous one what with the night crawlers wandering around, I was for one of the few times in my life actually scared for my safety. I applied every ounce of brainpower I could muster…what could I sleep on/in that would be:
1. Comfortable when compared to a row of metal chairs
2. Cheaper than an airport hotel
And thus I made my way over to the Hertz desk …some things never close albeit I had to ring a number as there was no-one actually behind the counter. “How much is your cheapest car I asked politely”. Questions were raised such as “How long do you want it for”, “How many kilometres will you be driving” etc etc.
It confused the hell out of him when I said “less than 12 hours, less than 1 Km etc etc.” He couldn’t understand that all I wanted it for was to sleep in ! Eventually after 10 minutes of too-ing and fro-ing I was told most unpolitely to “go put my head in a bucket” or whatever the expression of a severely annoyed Frenchman who would probably have had to drive 20Kms to get to the airport amounted too.
So off I went in search of the next which happened to be the Avis desk and tried again – this time with success. 30 minutes later I had my car and to be fair to the guy who dealt with me obviously had been on their ‘must sell extras course’ as he even tried it on with ‘collision damage waiver’. I don’t know how well he had been listening as I repeated I wasn’t actually going to drive it anywhere just sleep in it – at which point the phrase this time was more “zut alors” but after exchange of a few francs I was the proud recipient of a set of keys to a Renault 5.
It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’d ever had but it beat the potential of being mugged in the airport and was warm and dry.
I made it to the desk the next morning to hand the keys back – unsurprisingly I got my fuel deposit back in full having only turned the engine on a couple of times to heat the car up – and as far as damage, well none of the other cars in the rental lot had started themselves up and driven into me so my decision to avoid the collision waiver fee had been vindicated.
So now you know…if you are seeking cheap airport accommodation don’t necessarily go and search last minute.com maybe just go straight to the car hire desks instead.