Lies

Yep.

People lie. There’s no way around it, they lie to themselves, and they lie to their limousine driver.

The lies start small, and expand like insulating foam to fill the void. A common lie is “Oh, we’ll only be four hours, we want to be home by nine-thirty.”

This one happened Monday night. A man celebrating his 34th birthday with his wife and some friends began with the intention of being home early.

At 1:30 am, while I was in the car park of Cheetahs, I contemplated the change of mind. All along they knew it was to be a big night, but couldn’t bring themselves to admit it. When I collected them at 5:30 pm, and dropped their kids at Grandma’s place, it was clear they were out to do some damage. Especially the wife.

The other big lie that starts small is “We’re going to be the easiest customers you ever had.”

This, more than any other statement, puts me on edge. Why? Because one man’s “easy” is another man’s two hours on the back of the clock cleaning up the shit left by ferals lucky enough to scrape up the four hundred bucks to hire me for five hours.

These people use every glass in the limousine. They smoke. They put their feet on the ceiling – don’t ask me why. They insert crushed Goldfish into every seat crevice and still complain that the radio doesn’t tune correctly.

“You’ve been great,” they say, handing me a five and five ones. “Next time, we’re gonna ask for you.” * hic *

Yessir, and next time I’m unavailable.

The Alley

The whole story.

No Standing
Can you go to Miami tonight? Harry, breathless as ever when there’s a sniff of easy money.

Sure, who’s the customer?

There’s a lady you’re taking to the Ritz-Carlton, just pick her up and drive her there, I’ve already run the credit card. Her boyfriend is paying, he’s really missing her.

Boyfriend? Really?

Just get to the office, I’ll tell you more when you get here.

He really must have been missing her, because Harry charged him $400, a pretty decent innings even when you take out my cut, the gas and the tolls.

Unfortunately, the story isn’t quite as romantic as it appears. The young lady concerned was polite enough when I collected her, and she brought a friend. A very unhappy looking younger friend, I might add, whose own boyfriend was not pleased she was leaving. He gave me the stink eye, to which my response was to give him one of Harry’s cards, breezily telling him that any limousine hire he needed, we wanted the business.

Once under way, Beverly was on the phone. We found out that she:

-> Worked at Cheetahs (a strip joint), but didn’t really like it as much as her old club.

-> Had left her six month-old son to undertake this desperate journey.

-> The ‘boyfriend’ in Miami was some rich dude she’d met whilst stripping.

My guess at her age, confirmed by the driver who brought them back, was that she was 21, and the friend was 20.

I’m never sure of the current PC way to view strippers. Should we laud them for being independent women, living out their dreams, having complete control over their lives and bodies?

Or should we see them as victims of oppressive men, exploited for sex and their sexuality, unable to find decent paid work that an equivalent male would get easily?

Frankly, I couldn’t help but think of her baby. If you’re a father, you know you’ve fucked up when you find out your daughter’s a stripper. If you’re the child of a stripper, what do you think? In any case, the child obviously had no dad, and that is the worst part of the entire tale.

So, yes, I took two strippers to Miami, but it was a lesson in irresponsibility and the frailty of man. No glamour there.

Junkers

As it turns out, US car companies couldn’t survive without either overseas money or Obama money or Alan Mulally.

Fading Brands

Harry has three different brands of limousines in his stable; Lincolns, Cadillacs, and one stretch Excursion. In order, made by Ford, General Motors and Ford again. And they’re all pieces of shit.

The Lincolns are the best of the lot, but only by a small margin. Their engines are agricultural, the air-conditioning is cantankerous and overly complicated, and they all have problems with front disc rotor warping. The windscreen wipers are straight out of the 1930s. Useless.

The Cadillacs are even worse. They’re prone to stalling unexpectedly, and the check engine light is permanently illuminated. If there is a real problem under the hood, there will be no way of knowing. The worst thing is that they both have terrible front-wheel shimmy at moderate to high speeds. It must be bloody unnerving for the customers, but after telling Harry many times now, he still hasn’t fixed it.

I asked him whether he ever takes his own cars out for a test drive, and he looked at me like I was made of green slime.

I suggested to Harry that he’d be much better off with a fleet of used Lexuss (Lexii?) because they’re completely bulletproof, and supremely comfortable. Unfortunately, his hands are tied. To work in Hillsborough County, where Tampa Airport lives, limousine services can only use American branded cars.

Strange but true. The county determines what equipment the limousine entrepreneur can use.

It’s probably the only way US car companies can survive, given how they’ve been ruined by greedy unions and moronic management for so long. Like the fading politicians in the photo, Chevrolet and its cousins are deservedly dying brands.

Special Delivery

Yeeeeees. The quality side of life.

If I didn’t have to work tonight, I would tell you about the “rush delivery” I made last Thursday: two strippers from the sleepy side of Florida to Miami.

FedEx might do parcels, but we at The Boss’s Limousine deliver the flesh.

What’s their tracking code, I wonder?

Bang

I bought the gun for an entirely different reason.

Even in my snoozy Gulf-side town, there is a bad neighbourhood problem. Naturally, that’s where The Boss’s office and warehouse resides, because it’s cheap, and he’s cheap. Late at night, after the clients are dropped off, we chauffeurs still have work to do. The car must be refueled, cleaned and prepared for the next adventure. It’s a complete pain in the butt after a long day, I can tell you, a chore made worse by the lowlife pondscum hanging around the place.

Soon after I started driving, it was clear that these very late night stops at even well-lit gas stations were the points of greatest risk. The ones closest to our place are the worst of the worst, and yet we are obliged to use them. They are populated with a mix of the drugged, the drunk, the indigent, the violent and the criminal. The individuals who worry me most are the drunk mental cases, who are likely schizophrenic. Who knows what the voices will tell them to do next.

I have discovered that the single best determinant for a bad neighbourhood is adult men riding bicycles at night. Think about it: it is 3:00 am, when normal people are at home in bed. If men, and not just one or two, are riding around fully awake at that time of the night, what the heck are they doing?

No good, says I. Which is why I bought, and carry, a gun, in case one of those motherfuckers decides to try something.

Cheapskates

Sods. Cheap bastards.

Here’s how it works: for fixed-price jobs, mostly airport runs, drivers receive a fixed amount. For hourly runs, drivers receive an hourly amount.

That’s simple enough. Where it gets sloppy is in the tipping. Because the limousine business is cut-throat, all the company websites say “gratuity included”.

Wrong. Basically it’s a ruse in which drivers are screwed at the hands of the operators. It’s an attempt to attract the marginal business that can stretch to taking a limousine rather than a taxi, as long as there are no extra costs.

It was inevitable that eventually The Boss would call me. A seemingly pleasant couple from Savannah hired us to drive them from Tampa to their beach resort. I was fortunate enough to collect them. We appeared to get along famously, and, because they were so nice, we stopped twice -that is two times in a one-hour journey – so they could have their cigarettes. No smoking in the cars, you see.

Remember that I’m on a fixed dollar reward here, so the extra hour we spent accumulating them cancer points was effectively on my dime. The gentleman was kind enough to palm me twenty dollars upon arrival, and we parted in good humour.

Now they where asking Bossman for their tip back. After checking the website, they figured I had ripped them off. They wanted me to drive to their hotel, and leave the double note with the front desk.

There’s a part of me that is happy they smoke.

Crapper

Costanza would be proud of this post.

Spending large amounts of time away from home as I do, finding nice facilities assumes some importance. Coffee can be your enemy. Mexican food can also be your enemy. But when you have to go, you have to go. Knowing in advance where the clean, quiet public crappers are, takes…….a load off.

Men’s rooms at airports have a different feeling thesdays. After a United States senator allegedly went looking for homosexual sex in Minneapolis, I’m leery of – how can I put this delicately – attending, unless absolutely necessary.

So it was with great happiness that I discovered the Marriott hotel attached to Tampa airport has superior rest rooms. As any international traveller knows, if you want a peaceful, relaxing experience, find a large American style hostelry, where clean porcelain and real hand-towels await.

Best of all, one can have the entire room to onesself, negating the potentially dangerous consequences of having a wide stance.

Here is a picture of some graffiti from the Marriott, fully representative of all male toilet art. Classy, isn’t it?

Crappergraffiti

Blind

Fair enough. Weird, but there you are.

Early evening of Thanksgiving Day last year, I idled up the driveway of a large house near the beach. The Boss insists that we are at least ten minutes early for pickups. And so I was.

Unusually, there was a knot of people waiting.

Good evening, I said to the middle-aged man. I am Wombat from The Boss’s Limousine service.

Hello Wombat, I am Stuart Little, thank you for being so prompt.

You’re welcome sir.

You know you’re taking my mother back to St Petersburg?

Yessir, I have the address.

Good, I’ll just go get her. Oh, by the way she’s blind.

She was indeed a blind woman, white cane and all, but certainly didn’t need the help of all fifteen members of the family to negotiate the stairs down to my car.

As I opened the rear door, she asked where she needed to sit, and I said to her:

I have opened the right rear door, ma’am, that will give you the most comfortable ride with the most legroom.

I want to sit in the front with you. I like knowing where I’m going.

Very good ma’am, just let me adjust the seat.

And with that she plonked herself up with me.

As I was about to leave, the son leant in close and whispered,

If you get lost, she’ll tell you the way.

Which is exactly what she did. I described every intersection to her as we approached and she gave precise guidance to the front door of her nursing home.

If only the sighted people could give equally coherent directions.

The drawing of life metaphors I’ll leave to you.

Plastics

People suck.

Especially god-doctors.
In south-west Florida, where I live, there’s big business in plastic surgery. Let me amend that: there’s big business in all medical procedures. This guy, along with many of his colleagues, even advertises on billboards, in case you have urgent need for sterilization as you drive the interstate.

Doctors, therefore, form a considerable chunk of The Boss’s Limousine’s clientele, a mixed blessing for we drivers. The qualities you want in a medical professional often make them pains in the arse as passengers – decisiveness, attention to detail and thoroughness are great in the operating room. In the back seat of a limousine those characteristics become peremptory, crabby and thoroughgoing, which makes for a horrible drive.

Prior to collecting one doctor, a woman, from Tampa airport, The Boss said to be careful, because none of the other drivers liked her. Jessica, our only lesbian chauffeur, even called her a cow – in fact, she called her a fucking cow. Holding my sign at the base of the escalators, Madam Doctor made herself known, and I nearly burst out laughing. She had one of the worst face-lifts I have ever seen, rivalling even this little shop of horrors.

[Redacted photo of that Wildenstein woman or similar.]

In one of God’s little jokes, it turned out that she is herself a plastic surgeon, a decision she must contemplate with irony looking in the mirror every morning.

My laughter soon turned to salty tears as she berated me first for activating the air conditioning, and then for the roadworks that were slowing our progress along I-275.

“How long will this last for?” she asked in exasperated tone.

“I’m sorry Doctor Botch, I’ll phone the folks in charge and get it stopped immediately.”

As I said, simultaneously controlling, impatient and stupid. Just what you want in your medical professional.

Lesbo Bonk

Hetero-hijinx. Awesome.

There is a particular combination of people and circumstance that makes for a good night’s limousine driving.

The people need to be rich enough not to notice the $78 per hour rate for a car exactly like the one above. They need to be relaxed enough to be looking for a good time, so preferably they’re not going to a formal event. And they need to drink.

So it was with great happiness I collected two couples from a town an hour south, noting they were casually dressed, and came equipped with a well-provisioned cooler, to wit: beer, wine, vodka, bourbon and B&B. These folks were in for a good time.

Just how good a time became clear after the dinner stop. (We first went to a sunset drinks place, then a tiki bar, so they were fairly humming by then.) The conversation had gone from mildly rude to flat out pornographic. (It’s always interesting to note the progression of these things, and how alcohol is both a truth serum and horn-dog releaser.)

The guys were almost as keen as the women to snap photos of the wives kissing each other. Fifteen minutes of sophomoric screaming later the deed was done, the blokes had witnessed their wives demonstrate lesbonicness. Not that I saw any of this, mind you. My evidence is strictly aural, because they didn’t raise the privacy screen and I wasn’t interested in looking. It’s possible that was part of the game, to “do it” in front of the driver.

Wow, daring.

It’s amazing what people reveal when they think no-one is listening. I learnt that both the women were running commando, that they had made several novelty purchases in the sex-toy dept in the last week, and that they both wanted to buy strap-ons to “do him” so he knows what it feels like (presumably pointing at husbands.) (The husbands, for the record, weren’t keen.)

That’s the end of the tale, although they spent most of the hour home taking more pics of the women topless, bottomless, headless and – for all I know – in coitus, but I had completely lost interest by then.

Whatever it is about limousines that inspires people to get their hump on, I heartily encourage it. A $150 tip will do that to you.