We are driving through downtown Toronto, threading our way nervously through shadowed, narrow canyons formed by towering skyscrapers, the likes of which do not exist in LichVegas,
High above us we catch occasional glimpses of blue sky, slashed into aerial furrows by sunlit uplands of the upper-storeys of this bustling city’s impressive business buildings.
Several fast-flowing rivers of traffic throng the valley floor, sweeping us along and around like autumn leaves as we peer earnestly through our darkened windows, searching for any sign of the business address which satnav tells us we have already passed twice and are about to do so for a third time.
A brief interruption here to this atmospheric scene-setting, gentle reader, simply to state, quite categorically, that we are NOT in the Knumptywagen. As you’ll no doubt appreciate, it would have been both impractical and profligate to have shipped it to Canada for a three-week road trip, so instead we are cruising, seven-up, in a giant, black, shiny drug-dealer’s SUV rental, valued in the region of $55,000 (circa £48k in old money.)
I mention its value here simply to emphasise a point, since – according to an unrelated telephone conversation with the rental company a day previous (and having already driven The Beast, fully laden with trusting passengers and their luggage, over 1,000 miles across Eastern Canada) – we are totally, utterly and at-our-completely-own-risk, abjectly uninsured to do so.
How this scenario came about we are still uncertain, suffice it to say that car-hire in North America is clearly seasoned with allegedly ‘optional’ extras and presents a completely different ball-game to our own rigidly-legislated processes in the UK. After an initial frustratingly slow 70-minute’s ‘negotiation’ in the rental office to collect the vehicle we’d already pre-booked months previously (during which process they gallantly suggested we were to pay them 8,000 Canadian dollars), your genteel and otherwise infinitely patient author was proximal to losing his shit.
So by the time the pimpled operative behind the counter (barely grown-up enough to see over it) casually asked if we had our own insurance, I thrust our Certificate at him impatiently, clearly demonstrating we had more than adequate Collision Damage Waiver insurance; didn’t require theirs and just gimme the goddamn car.
Thus, a whole uninsured week later, and with tail ever-so-slightly between hind-legs we attempt to track down the Alamo Car Rental office – confusingly located, we are advised, in the midst of this fast-moving, cosmopolitan and busy city district. Here, we are also advised, is the only location we can make good our lack of ‘primary’ insurance because “nosiryoucannoteffectthistranscationwithmeduringthistelephonecallnorovertheinternetwe apologisefortheinconveniencebutyouneedtovisitoneofourmanyconvenientrentallocations inpersonandeffectthetansactionthankyouforyourcalltoAlamotoday”
So, by our third pass around the same block, both driver and passengers are becoming a tad frustrated, especially as the appointed time for our next visit is rapidly approaching and there seems no sign of our objective. Pulling into the kerb, we decide that myself and the similarly ever-patient Chief Navigating Officer should disembark and proceed on foot into our targeted skyscraper, with a view to tracking down the bloody Alamo office and giving them a piece of our minds while paying a yet-to-be disclosed vast sum in exchange for the reassurance of primary vehicle insurance for the rest of our stay.
And that, dear reader, is where the real story begins . . .