WELL, ALMOST PERFECT: Client service was delivered flawlessly. Behind the scenes issues were handled swiftly and the highlight of my day was meeting Goldie Hawn. See my photo gallery below. . .
The Bakersfield Business Conference came and went like a tornado through a small town. Weeks of planning and preparation were delivered over a 48-hour window of time with little sleep but great satisfaction. We were entrusted with the lives of world-class business leaders such as Rudy Guilliani, former vice president Dick Cheney and even a “hero,” Capt. Chesley `Sully of the Hudson River airliner landing.' Sullenberger III
The speakers began arriving at noon on Friday for the all-day conference on Saturday. While keeping track of the arrivals at LAX and our own hometown airport, we had to physically move our office to the grounds of the conference set in the middle of a soccer field inside of a tent that would hold 10,000 people the following day. Working in a tiny room in a trailer located at the foot of the steps leading to the stage, we began our set-up and technology nightmares. I concluded that technology has passed me by and without my assistant, Treanna Maddox, I would have been behind the proverbial eight ball as we could not get our laptops to connect to the wi-fi system setup. We also had broadband “sticks” that was to be our backup communications. I let Treanna deal with that mess while I installed a two-way base radio that didn’t work as planned. I was missing one little piece that plugs into the back of the radio. It was 16:55 when I called Motorola and they brought me the part. Meanwhile, Treanna got both wi-fi and broadband networks up and running. Thank goodness, since the wi-fi failed us in the middle of the day and we became briefly disconnected from our server. Next it was on to set up a hospitality trailer for our chauffeurs located about a mile away. We stocked it with lunchmeat, snacks, water, sodas and supplies for the next day, including hundreds of pounds of ice, car wash supplies and other needs. We left at about 21:00 with a plan of being back at 05:45.
At 06:30, we assumed dispatching for the entire fleet from our makeshift office. Treanna and I would handle all dispatching including non-conference related trips. Yes, I was foolish enough to take a handful of weddings and other jobs to add to the excitement. It was show time! In addition to our own radio system, we were also provided with other radios that connected us to the stage manager, security, groundskeeping, the police, and a greeting crew from the conference management that would meet each speaker as they arrived through communication with us. We had a lot to listen to as speakers would be taken by golf cart to a book signing tent and we would have to listen to their radio to see when they were bringing them back to us to have the vehicle in position and ready to go.
The day was filled with ego-laden agents and managers representing the speakers who made last minute changes to their orders and made the usual special requests that make us jump through hoops. One speaker wanted to have dinner after the conference but at a place that allowed the smoking of cigars during dinner. That had to be a private club and I made arrangements to get he and his party in for dinner. Cheney needed a wheelchair for the duration of his trip and requested it upon landing Friday. I made it happen and he had a brand new wheelchair that was left sitting in the loading area when he left. Many speakers were running late causing the stage manager to nearly have a heart attack.
Each car entering the grounds had to be swept by bomb sniffing dogs and inspected before entering the grounds. At some points, I was begging the police to please hurry as the speaker was late, yet, knowing they had a job to do too. Having been coached by my mentor, Dean Schuler of Signature Livery in New Orleans, I added two extra limousines and two extra Town Cars that would be called upon many times during the day to handle last minute changes. In some cases, I called for extra cars to the backstage area because of something I would hear on the conference radios. Three times I got lucky when management asked how soon I could have a car ready to go. “How is thirty seconds?” I asked. They were amazed. I was trained.
There were times that chauffeurs had panic in their voices as they got bogged down in traffic or their passenger didn’t get in the car at the appointed time and they had other trips that were coming up. Treanna and I did our best to maintain a monotone and comforting voice on the air to keep the field team calm and not allow panic to ever set in. I was very proud of the professionalism we displayed as many agents came and thanked us and one in particular that represented Guilliani and Palin sought us out to tell us she deals with limo companies from coast-to-coast and our service was “fantastic.” She said she was so grateful to work with such professionals.
The highlight of my day was when I made a quick run to the restroom and came out just in time to see Goldie Hawn exiting her vehicle. As a side note, if either Treanna or I had to go to the restroom, we would do so with a walkie-talkie so we never fell out of the loop of what our fleet was doing. As Hawn exited the car, she said hello. I said hello. The manger greeting her told her I was responsible for all transportation and she told me it was a great ride and shook my hand. Because of the nature of our business, I am not starstruck by any means and I don’t care what the name of a passenger is. They are all treated equally and they are all people that just need a ride. But, Goldie, well, she’s hot!
At the end of the day, we packed everything up that was left in my Ford Expedition. It was packed in every inch but the driver seat. On Sunday I unpacked everything and put it all back in its place so when we opened the office on Monday, it would be as if the conference had never happened. I went home, kicked back on the couch, and had my night ruined when Treanna called me to tell me she was at the office and the window was shattered and my office had been ransacked. This was the worst ending imaginable for a stressful weekend. I am just glad they didn’t find the server as we would have been crippled on Monday morning.
— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
A Bakersfield police officer with a bomb squad dog.
My son, chauffeur Jeff Luff, with Sarah Palin, as they wait through a vehicle inspection before her appearance.
Chauffeurs wait at a hospitality trailer Saturday for assignments.
Actress Jane Seymour with an unidentified attendee.
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