Our plan had been to pick up the car at the rental place at 11 or so and take a leisurely drive up to Kuala Lumpur and meet friends at 5 for a concert. The drive is about three and a half hours, so we had a ton of flex time.
According to Expedia, the car was available from Europcar at the Senai airport about 30 km north of Johor Bahru. I had intended to rent from someplace closer, but hadn't noticed the location. We took a 50 Ringgit taxi from JB. Once there, we discovered that Europcar had no counter there and would typically deliver the car instead once they had your flight info. We had no flight, so they happily canceled our reservation without letting us know.
We went back and forth with Expedia and Europcar for several hours trying to get things resolved. There were no cars available from the other agencies, so in the end, the only option was to take a taxi back to JB to get the last, and smaller, car Europcar had. We are running hopelessly late now, and another 50RM taxi fare in cost. Met with the guy at Europcar and signed all of the paperwork and got a tour of the car and rented a GPS. He gave us a couple of numbers to call if we had any problems.
There is an toll road which runs between KL and JB and we got on that. It was 3 by the time we got on the road, so we knew that the concert probably wasn't happening. At some point about 40 km outside KL, the GPS started telling us to get off the expressway and take a side road, so we did. After a bit of wondering why the GPS was taking us to the middle of nowhere, we hit a piece of wood in the road and it punctured the sidewall of the front left tire.
I called the 24 hour help line to get some roadside assistance. Apparently Europcar provides no such service, and they just told me to change the tire myself. I yelled at the guy on the phone for a bit using several choice words. I explained that we needed a fully functional car in the morning for a group trip to Melaka, and he explained that there were no available cars at all. I gave him several more choice words inquiring what kind of rental agency provides no roadside assistance and has no cars on reserve.
I crawled in thorny foliage to put on the spare and realized after lowering the car that it was very low. We decided to limp along on the flat to a gas station 4 km up the road in a town called Mantin. When we got there, the spare was off the rim. I called the Europcar guy and he was still useless. We were two obvious foreigners stuck in the middle of nowhere with no one to call for help. All of our money and luggage was with us, we were ripe for being taken advantage of. We were completely fucked.
About the time the gravity of our situation hit us, we met Dan Lee. Dan is a Chinese Malaysian trained as an electrical engineer working in QA at Bangi Plastics. He has a lovely Malay wife and a son who speeks 6 languages. Dan is also an absolute superhero. He happened to have stopped at the gas station with his family coming home from an event at his son's school. He went so far out of his way to help us that it has reaffirmed my faith in humanity. He made dozens of calls and drove all over Mantin trying to either find a replacement spare or normal tire. He was going to loan us his spare, but it wouldn't fit. He finally got in touch with someone he knew who owned a shop in the area and convinced him to come help. While waiting for him to come, we all went to a place next door to buy some drinks.. he wouldn't even let us get that tiny bill.
Knowing the guy would hike up the price to two desperate Americans, Dan made up a story about us being clients of his company and that it was his brother's car. We got a used tire which was far better than the near bald tire it replaced at a price half of what we would have been offered without his help.
By the time it was all done, Dan spent about four hours helping people who were complete strangers to him. He saw people who needed help and decided to do everything in his power to get us on the road again. Dan and his family are truly great people and I have no idea how I could ever thank them enough. I would like to think I would have done as much as he did if I came upon the same situation, but I'm not so sure I would have. I know for sure that I will from now on though.