Old

The good thing about old people is that they’re often ready to leave early.

Because we have to be at the pickup address ten to fifteen minutes before the requested departure time, that means no waiting around. On the road early, job’s finished early.

The not so good thing about old people is that they can tell you the same thing five times in two hours.

Sigh.

Beotch

It should have been the simplest of runs. Collect two “ladies” from one address, then one more at a second address, and drive them to the Port of Tampa. Yep, they were off on a cruise.

I have never cruised, unless you count the odd day trip along the Rhine or the Mosel. The phenomenon of modern cruising appears to be a sea-borne religion of gluttony, a cult of conspicuous consumption beyond that which any reasonable person would want. It looks ugly to me.

And so, indeed were these ladies. It turned out they were sisters on some kind of sibling satiation sabbatical. It all started happily enough. They were, after all, going on what should have been a happy vacation.

I was early, with my usual happy “chauffeur face” on, and it was a beautiful Sunday morning. The downhill slide started while navigating to the second pick-up. No, I don’t know your sister’s condo complex by name, there are quite a few in Florida. (Der. Me rolling eyes.) An address would make things much easier.

They didn’t know the address. Fair enough, but if you are directing me in a large beast like a six-passenger Cadillac, turns are easier when pointed out ahead of time. Not as they disappear behind.

But we made it.

Off we went towards the port, along what I knew was the quickest and smoothest route. Mr TomTom agreed with my local knowledge, so it came as a shock when, about ten minutes short, one of them piped up with “Which way are we going?”

It could only have been a rhetorical question. There are only two freeways in our part of the world, and we were on one of them, about eight miles short of downtown Tampa. What could she mean, “Which way are we going?”?

Of course, she added “I think we should have gone via (State Route) 41. It’s quicker.”

I was silent. We were almost at our destination, and to take the road she described required us to make adjustments forty minutes and the entire Tampa Bay ago. And it wasn’t like she was paying by the hour – it was a fixed price trip.

Mindreading isn’t a skill I have. Divining which way you want me to drive you is only possible if you open your yap and communicate in the customary way; by speaking. (You stupid bitch.)

Florida False

Yeah, its a crappy photograph, but it reminds me of the funny naming game that Floridians play. Whomever dreams up names for new developments think that the more portentious (pretentious?) the title, the greater its desireability.

The Links at Palmer Creek.
Venetian Crossing.
The Meadowbanks of Florida.

Etcetera. The fact that the whole place is more or less a swamp doesn’t stop those marketing geniuses.

Seinfeld memorably poked fun at this by having his parents live at a development called Del Boca Vista Phase II.

As always, the truth is more interesting. Boca Raton (from the Spanish, rat’s mouth) was known as that from at least the 18th century, and this place, too was known to the Iberians. In any case, my wanderings took me to Boca Grande this week, for the first time. It is beautiful. Now I know what they mean by “old Florida” with houses that match the climate, people on bikes instead of cars, and water as good as any I’ve seen in Florida.

Wedding Predictor

This is a photo of last Saturday’s wedding. More accurately, this is after the ceremony, during the ritual Trial by Photographer.

There is much I could write about wedding day dynamics, but I think that I have discovered a new universal law: as the wedding goes, so goes the marriage.

If everyone’s reasonably chill and smiling, and the bride and groom have a half-fun time, I figure the marriage will last. If she is screaming at him before arriving at the reception, there’s little hope. But if the bride can get through the inevitable stuff-ups with her smile intact, and the groom loses the wide-eyed what the hell have I done look, I figure they have a shot at it.

These two will be alright. She was calm and low-key. He was uptight because of his useless best man, but came through despite that. In fact, when I said goodbye, I think he stood a little taller in his patent oxfords. That augurs well.

Motion

Saturday.

There is no perpetual motion machine, but if it the secret is ever discovered, I believe it will be powered by sexual energy. It’s the excitation source that never stops.

Saturday nights in my small Florida town, are like Saturday nights everywhere. Young – or in Florida’s case, old – people are out and about, looking for the one. Whether it’s the one for one night or one lifetime is not clear, but mostly the need is immediate. The smell of elevated hormone levels is eye-watering, everyone’s heightened level of awareness of everyone else eye-popping.

It’s always been this way, but now I’m an observer of the game, at least when I’m out working. The twenty-somethings like this place, Horse Feathers. It’s an okay restuarant by day, with a good wine list, but on the weekends, it turns into a zoo. Lurking around outside waiting for my customers, one thing strikes me as different from when I was twenty-odd. Thesedays the girls dress up; sky-high heels, skirts, expensive blouses, hot dresses, make-up, hair, nails. They’re walking Vogues. But the guys are slobs. Jeans, sneakers and untucked shirts, trucker hats – the contrast is jarring.

It makes me wonder if men even think about trying any more. Maybe they don’t need to.

Oh, how things have changed.

To Serve

It goes like this:

Me: Hey boss, what’s up (answering cellphone)

Boss: Hey, Wombat. Got an interesting one for you.

Me: Should I get in the shower?

Boss: Yep. Then call me back.

Me: Okay.

I’m the go-to guy. Being single and childless (although not without family entirely), The Boss sees me as the last minute driver of choice, and I have almost always responded. Flexibility is a virtue, and makes you money.

This job is all about how you approach it. I have found that people respond to you, in more ways than I might have imagined. A smile is the best weapon. A smile, that most simple of expressions, can make the most uptight person melt just a little, creating goodwill all around.

Once you understand the value of a big, goofy, welcoming grin, it can change your life. It’s like being a kid again, because so few people SMILE anymore. Service is perfunctory everywhere…

…have a good day….

…thanks for shopping here…

…we appreciate your custom…

Yes, but your actions don’t match the words. Genuinely being grateful for someone’s business, and showing it, makes being a servant that much easier, and trust me, people do notice.

Channeling Costanza

Bathrooms.

Finicky is a word for it. Environmentally sensitive is a phrase for it. But the bottom line – ahem – is that clean bathrooms are important to me.

After some time driving now, I’ve pinpointed the quality public facilities close to our customers’ regular haunts. Hotels are always a good choice. Starbucks form a decent second-tier. Gas stations run the gamut. Interstate highway rest stops are just nasty.

Ask me about Tampa Airport, and I’ll send you to the Marriott Hotel ballroom facilities. (Very good. I’ve even been known to take a newspaper in there and spend a happy twenty minutes.)
On the way to Miami, there is a very clean Comfort Inn Suites at exit 110. Off I-595, take the Nob Hill exit, go north about two miles, and the facilities at Starbucks on the left are acceptable. But I always feel obliged to buy coffee there, dammit.

Given our weird hours, there is always the possibility that one might be caught short. I nearly found myself behind a bush in a gated golf-course community Sunday morning. You know the feeling, when something from the night before disagreed with the system, and you have to go.

NOW.

Luckily I applied the mind over matter principle, and avoided the furtive squat behind the herbaceous border. But it almost happened.

The best thing? Knowing I had the forethought to have some TP in the bag. Just in case.

Importing Driving Skillz

Juan and Betsy.

Apparently the driving rules have changed. I’m wistful that no-one thought to let lots of we road-users know, but oh well. Here’s the basic modification as interpreted by me:

1. On an interstate highway, or other decent multi-lane road, no longer does the convention of “slowest on the right, fastest on the left” apply.*

2. a) If you have a slow-accelerating, slow-stopping vehicle – choose the “old” fast lane.

b) If you are towing anything – an open trailer, an oil tanker, your house – always choose the “old” fast lane.

c) If you are a landscaper, (yes, that’s you, Juan) with a trailer full of untethered shit – always choose the “old” fast lane.

d) If you’re a tradesman quoting jobs on your cellphone and/or you also have untethered ladders, cement mixers, iron bedsteads etc in the bed of your truck – always choose the “old” fast lane.

e) If you have no clue where you’re going – always choose the “old” fast lane.

3. If you’ve rented a U-Haul, and basically encompass all of the above categories – always choose the “old” fast lane.

4. If you’re old, dopey, lost, and in Florida looking for a cheap condo – always choose the “old” fast lane.

Yep, I think that’s the extent of the change.

*reverse for LHS driving countries

Space

Personal Space.

The distance between the front and back seats of a Lincoln Towncar is about five feet. I haven’t measured it, but that seems about right. Yet that distance appears to vary according to whomever sits back there.

I think it’s a personal space issue, but there’s more to it than that. The nature of the relationship between the driver and the drivee changes the feel of the gap. Oftentimes, a kind of electric charge exists between the two of us, and after some experimentation, I’ve found that I can control it.

By now you probably think I’m nuts. I’ll have you know I’ve been certified 95% sane by a registered veterinarian. It’s just that an unusual energy forms when two unrelated, otherwise distant people are cooped up in tin can for a long time.

Like the International Space Station, but at .0000000002% of the cost.

Spring

Steen.
The Super Bowl, the Grand Final of the American Football season, was played in Tampa this year. Bruce Springsteen, who, in real life, isn’t very springy at all, was the half-time entertainment. And how do I know he needs some boing in his shocks, you ask….

Well, wonder of wonders, our limo service somehow ended up with the contract to transport Bruce, Bruce’s family, most of the band, the band’s families, the management and all their hangers-on around for the week prior to the game. For whatever reason, the whole smash was accommodated not in Tampa, but in our sleepy hollow an hour south. We do have one really swish hotel, so that probably did the trick.

So, by going to and from three rehearsal sessions, the media interviews, making various morning McDonald’s runs, fulfilling odd personal grooming requests and, oh, the game day, we merry limo drivers saw the insides of big time rock’n’roll.

As you might suspect, there was nothing glamorous about the job at all. It was just hard work. My take is that the entertainment business is just like McDonalds; it might be tasty to eat, but you don’t want to know how it’s made.

And no, I don’t want fries with that.