By Joe Rector

I’m around all makes and models of cars in my job. It’s fun to drive them without having to make a monthly payment or haggle with a salesperson. I’ve learned some surprising things about the rental car business during my nearly 3 month time at Avis/Budget.

First, the rental car business is a much more complex business than I ever thought possible. Knoxville is a small market, yet we still handle hundreds of cars each and every day. Vehicles are staged at the Avis lot near the airport. There, workers clean the insides and wash the outsides. Then they are filled with gas.  A set routine is demanded for the completion of each job, and if a car doesn’t pass muster, Mike sends it back for a second cleaning. That, however, doesn’t happen often since folks like Charlie have spent years making sure things are done right the first time.

Across Alcoa Highway, the Budget service center is located. It is there that all vehicles are serviced. Cory and Neff work on cars with surprising speed, and Hal oversees all the cars that arrive there. Most folks think that rental cars are driven until they simply fall apart. The truth is that the company takes care of them better than most private owners do. Part of each day is spent shuttling cars from the Avis to Budget lots for regular maintenance, replacement of some damaged parts, and recall orders. Then the vehicles are returned to locations in Knoxville for rental.

The workers are what make the job so enjoyable. During my teaching career, I was on my own when I closed my door. Contact with other teachers occurred during class changes, lunch, and planning period.

On this job, I am with fellow workers for much of the day. We deliver cars to locations and then wait for a van to pick us up for another trip. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, especially during the first week.

Guys like Jack, Ron, and Jim told me not to feel bad because they’d committed the same errors. On other occasions, they gave advice about the best way to complete a task. Such kindness from them shocked me.

Sometimes we have traveled to other cities to deliver cars, and then we pile into a van for the return trip. Friendships develop and grow as stories, jokes, and discussions arise. It’s crowded sometimes when eleven men try to fit into a twelve-passenger van. (Manufacturers calculate seat size the same way folks at Neyland Stadium do.) Still, we make the trip home tired, but not much worse for the wear.

If a person just walked into the Budget service center, he’d declare that havoc reigned. Yes, it turns hectic sometimes, but Nadine, John, and James, most of the time, manage to work out a way to get cars to the vendors in time for reservations. Even in all the chaos, I’m amazed at how they remain calm, something I could never do.

The offsite Budget rental centers are run by friendly folks. Sam, Fred, and Ted run the Clinton Highway store. Dave and Deborah are at Kingston Pike, Chris is at West Town, and Tony is at East Town. Every one of them is dedicated to helping customers.

out of their ways to be kind to us shuttlers. At one place we always look for a cookie or Rice Crispy square; at another we are offered bottles of cold water. Such kindness is appreciated and makes us want to meet their needs as best we can.

I work a couple of days a week and wake up each morning still enjoying the job. That has nothing to do with the employment but everything to do with the people with whom I work each day. Learning something from a vocation other than education is fun. Sharing the day with folks like Roy and Pat and Ray makes it even better. Sure, I’m tired at the end of the day, but I’m ready to go after a night’s sleep. All I can say is “thanks” to all who have made working a positive experience.