My colleague showed up, and it was off to Europcar to pick up our rental. The lady behind the counter asked him if he could drive a manual because they were low on automatics. He said, "No, I'd kill someone." She said the recent fuel shortage had caused them to be short on automatics, and she'd be happy to give him a larger manual for the same price as an automatic. He said, "No, I'd kill someone." She said they didn't have any automatics yet, but we should go over to the main rental counter.
We waited to take a bus to the main rental counter. We waited quite a while; Europcar certainly isn't causing the fuel shortage by running too many buses. We made it over there, where he was asked -- surprise, surprise -- whether he couldn't drive a manual. At this point, I was almost expecting them to offer free driving lessons to get him to take a manual. The guy behind the counter went into a long discourse about how the fuel shortage was causing them to be short of automatics. Frankly, I wasn't too convinced...the connection seemed a bit tenuous. It was almost as suspicious as if he had blamed lingering effects from the Y2K bug. He said that they hadn't been able to communicate to everyone to stop taking reservations in the past week because of the fuel shortage, which left them with no automatics. My colleague pointed out that the reservation had been made over a month ago, at which point the guy wandered off.
He came back a few minutes later with the paperwork for...an automatic. How did that happen? Are the rules that they can try to make it sound like you should go away, but they can't actually tell you to go away? If you see through it, you win the prize? Anyway, it's not only an automatic, it's a really cool car. Not one of those wimpy European cars, either -- this felt british A Rover Seventy-Five. Quite elegant, and quite the car for tooling down the M4 (and other roads) to Cheltenham. The only trouble we had with the left side of the road was when we got here, pulled into a driveway and almost hit some people who were on the wrong side of it (we recognized them from back home).
Checked into the Lypiatt House and wandered around town. More about that later (I don't know when), though, as the cybercafe is closing.