Fold

Clean.

Last evening I spent three hours in the back of one of our cars. It wasn’t glamorous, there was no booze involved, but it was a productive time nevertheless.

A large hotel chain had a cocktail party launching their planned hotel and condo complex out on one of the keys. I was there in an eleven-seat limousine as a static prop for a magnetic sign advertising the place. Apparently large white cars used as billboards get passersby to part with three quarters of a million dollars.

This was the easiest gig in the world: three hours, no driving, no CUSTOMERS and nothing to do. So I cranked up the air, rolled up my sleeves and went about cleaning the interior of that thing with a vengeance.

No-one could see in, thanks to tinted windows and strong sunlight, although it must have looked odd with the thing bouncing on its springs while the engine ran the air conditioner. Oh well.

The final touch that makes The Boss happy is well presented glasses. That means making nice with the decorations.

Here’s the result. Looks pretty good, I think. And I have a new skill: origami with multiple napkins.

Yay me.

Boink

Cruising.

What a difference a week makes.

After the messy start to their vacation, the eighty-something couple eventually arrived back in Tampa last Sunday morning. I was schedule to collect them. Something must have happened onboard that ship. It might have been the sea air, the cheap booze or even the Mexican food, but they were a different pair.

When we left, Matt was dressed in a vest and cargo shorts, black socks and brown lace-up shoes. His wife was in expando-pants and droopy top. Altogether uninspiring.

Looking for similarly attired people at the pick-up point, I hardly recognized them. Matt was in stylish white jeans, short-sleeved shirt and natty shoes. His wife (I can’t remember her name) was looking almost hot (in an eighty-something Florida way). Not only were they looking tanned and chic, but there was something in the air. And it wasn’t just her new perfume.

Yep, I think Mr and Mrs had revisited the carnal side of their relationship. There is an air about a guy when he’s proven his manliness again, and Matt had it. He swaggered. And she was kittenish, not a bad feat for an arthritic oldster.

Anyway, it was a fantastic advertisement for the cruise line, and one I’ll be bearing in mind in the coming decades.

I can’t believe I wrote that.

Clean

Clean it.

The Boss is obsessed with the cleanliness of his cars. Not the inside, mind you. That he could give two hoots about, but all the cars’ outsides are cleaned at least twice a week.

The theory is that at the end of each run, we drivers will clean the interior of our car. Therefore, Bossman need not spend money on it, as it is in our interest (read: larger tips) if the customer thinks he is travelling in a sparkling environment.

Two problems with this:

One is that everybody has a different standard of cleanliness.

The other is that the link between freshly cleaned carpet and tip size is weak.

If it was Wombat’s Limousine Service, I would worry less about the way the cars look to everyone else, and spend much more on keeping the insides looking and smelling pristine. That is what the customer sees most of; the seat backs, the cabinets and the carpets. Surely this is where to make an impression.

There is only one other driver apart from me who I know cleans after each run. Apparently all the others cannot see white sand on black carpet – and all the cars have black carpet.

Truthfully, our shop vacuum really isn’t up to the job. Poor thing should have retired years ago. Sometimes I understand why drivers just don’t bother.

Work

Working stiff.

 

In my former life, I worked for a company that provided taxi and limousine transport for its employees. Once the ego-high of being driven around the place wears off, it becomes routine and just another part of the drudgery of making a living.

As I remember, the limousine drivers were all good guys and girls, who stuck by a maxim I now use: speak when you are spoken too, converse when the customer converses, and remain silent when they do. Simple, right? Not necessarily.

It is easy to slip into the conversational habit of talking about yourself when a customer gets chatty. But the relationship is very different than if you and I were talking. The limo customer truly isn’t interested in what I think, unless they specifically ask. The best response comes when I keep the conversation centred around them. It’s a basic technique of reflecting what they say back to them, and asking open-ended questions.

Occasionally, someone will connect on a personal level, at which point it’s clear that they want my opinion. But most people don’t get my humour, so I gave up doing my bits in the first month.

It’s the constriction of the role that is the problem – the context. People see a driver as only a driver. And what driver could possibly know more than sports, weather, and road conditions? Revealing interesting experiences from my life flummoxes them, because it jars with their vision of what a driver should be.

So much of my time is spent biting my tongue, smiling, and licking arse, like every other working stiff.

I Know

Tell tales.

Put me behind a car on the Interstate, and I can tell you – with 90% accuracy – the sex, ethnicity and age of the driver. Not only that, but I’ll tell you if they’re using a cellphone, although deciphering their service provider is more difficult.

Now that I’m a professional road user, I can look down haughtily upon my fellow travellers. With a keen eye for detail, deducing basic facts about people from the model and age of car is infant’s recreation. The manner in which people careen about the place is a dead give-away; combine the two and you have an unbeatable system.

Late model Camry in the fast lane steadfastly doing two mph under the speed limit?

White male over 55.

New Honda Civic changing lanes erratically at ten mph over?

Female on cellphone under age 27.

Tricked out eighties GM product, driver so far back he’s practically in the rear seat?

Black male under 35.

This is too easy. I need a challenge.

Bespoke

Dress for success, young man.

Cool Men

At The Boss’s Limousine Service, the stated uniform is black suit, black tie, black shoes and white shirt.

I am the only mug in Bossman’s memory who actually took this to heart. On the day he gave me the job, I duly purchased a (cheap, oversize) black suit. Nobody employed since has done anything like that.

Susan, until this week our only female chauffeur, sports what amounts to a tuxedo when she drives. Black trousers, black waist-length jacket, white shirt with studs and a bowtie. Frankly I think the stiff shirt and bowtie are over-the-top, but she always looks the business.

Today, I want to present the best looking limousine drivers I have yet seen. These guys were in the west coast of Florida’s limousine Mecca: the cellphone waiting lot at Tampa airport. Glamorous, eh?

As I drove in, their cool threads and Crockett and Tubbs demenour shouted at me to take their photo. So I did.