And That's Why They Call It Total


So I'm just walking back in from the hardware store, when I realize I missed a call from a Utah number. I call it back, the ringer goes all funny, and it turns out to be the cell phone of my mom's new husband Spence [congratulations, you guys!], and they're on the side of the road in Giverny, on their way to dinner when the bad tank of gas they bought finally does their Hertz car in, and it won't start.

Hertz France doesn't do jack, and the Hertz Paris office closed early, apparently, and while the Hertz US folks are helpful and promise to file a poor service report on their French counterparts, that still doesn't help them get back to their inn. American Express and their concierge service, for which they pay an inordinate annual fee, primarily on the off chance that, if they get stuck on the road somewhere, AmEx has their back, got disconnected just as they got all their info into the system, and that's right when I called back.

So I call Hertz Paris, and it's supposed to be open for another 45 minutes, but there's no answer. Then I go to, because really, their maps kill for Europe, and sure enough, there's their hotel, and I can map all the service stations nearby and even see how much gas is. But there are no phone numbers, so I Google up the closest one with a service bay--because in the country, they sometimes just have tiny little gas-only stations--and call.

And some guy answers, and I explain I'm calling from the US, and my mother's on the side of the road, trying to get back to the inn in whatever village, and he's all, "Is that the one run by Nicole?" And I'm like, "Je ne sais pas," but it's the one just off Rue du Port, and he's all, "Yeah, Nicole."

And I tell him what they're driving [grey Opel], and about where they are, and he says he'll call Nicole and let her know, then head out to pick them up. And so I call them back, and I'm like, "Do you know someone named Nicole?" And they're all, "Oh, she's the woman who runs our inn." And I'm all, "A guy from the Total station will be there in a few minutes."

And then I primed the inside of the closet and called them back, and they were at the inn, eating dinner, and the guy had told them, sure enough, "mauvais essence," and he's bringing their car back in the morning, pas de probleme.

And now I'm thinking it was only 1992 when we were freaking out over them monitoring the terrorist kill from Langley in real time in Patriot Games, and now here I am, literally watching paint dry while I give directions to the tow truck driver half way around the world. What a crazy world.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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first published: September 19, 2009.

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