You’ve been warned to not hire a car when visiting the UK. However, in 1996, when we went to England for the first time, we hadn’t gotten that advice. But we were younger, dumber, and luckier so we managed to travel in a rented car without any major mishap. It was certainly more luck than skill.
We landed at Heathrow and took the airport shuttle to the appropriate car hire location. We were renting from the company with the green sign that seems to be at every airport in the western hemisphere. Said shuttle dropped us and several others at the green sign place. Everyone who got off had way-the-hell-too-much luggage, especially us.
We’re Americans and speak rudimentary English. The rental agent spoke a very proper English and we managed to communicate. Next, there was a young man who helped us find the car, trundled the luggage trolley, and helped us load the (not trunk, you moron. You’re in England) car boot. He was Asian and spoke proper English so again we had no problem understanding him and he managed to get the gist of our American language.
Twice, we were told, “See Albert before you leave and he’ll give you a map and directions to wherever you’re stopping next.” The rental agent had said it, the young fellow who had trundled the trolley said it, so leaving the kids in the hired Alfa-Romeo, we went in to get our map and directions from Albert.
He had a queue so it was several minutes before we became Albert’s next clients or victims, we aren’t sure which. Albert was a West Yorkshireman and had proudly maintained his regional accent. He was also very impatient with questions, repeats, tourists in general.
“We’re going to Stratford-Upon-Avon. They said you’d give us a map and directions.”
The reply was to our ears a mixture of a large dog’s growl and a Gloucesterman’s advice on what kind of bait to buy before going fishing.
“Huh? Sorry, could you say that again?”
This time it was a mastiff and the Gloucesterman; however, M-25 and M-40 both got mentioned. We were on to something. Albert punctuated this by pointing at several different places on the map while growling.
We asked, “That’s the M-25 to the M-40?”
An impatient New Foundland now joined the Gloucesterman, who thumped the map with a finger. This was followed with a withering glare and several definite growls.
“OK. M-25, then M-40. Where do we pick up the 25?”
The growl, this time, contained “Right out of here. Right, mind? Cross traffic.” Another thump.
Less than an hour later, while well within a mile of the green sign car hire, our son pointed and said, “There’s the M-40.”
We stumbled onto the high-speed highway in the correct direction. It was all down to Albert, a Gloucesterman, several dogs, and blind luck.