Getting Back in The Chauffeur’s Seat

Posted on March 16, 2011 by - Also by this author

A refresher on chauffeur challenges — my BIG adventure:
Despite recent advice from industry veteran Scott Solombrino to never go out in the field and drive, I did it last week. Solombrino, president and CEO of Dav-El Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation Network, recently explained to me why my time is better spent marketing, dealing with financial matters, and running the company. I believed him.
But, as luck would have it, I have had a rash of employees with medical issues. None are work-related but all have left key employees unable to drive. When Wednesday came along, we could see clearly we had a problem, or “situation” as I like to call it.  I was informed on Tuesday that we had no more chauffeurs available for Wednesday. After that message, three more farm-in orders arrived. Somehow, some way we figured out how to do make it work. I blurted out: “I don’t care if I have to go out and drive myself, as long as we have vehicles available, take orders.” Then, another order arrived and I was assigned to drive.
I began my trip by reporting to the garage to obtain the keys to the vehicle from our detailer. He handed me the keys to one of the oldest cars in the fleet. I asked him about the brand new Chrysler 300 he was washing. He said he wasn’t quite finished. I walked to the phone and called our dispatcher to ask when that 300 would go out again. I would be back long before the next run for that vehicle so I asked her to change it in the dispatch computer system. Yet, I hate it when chauffeurs ask to change cars.
I checked the car out, completed my starting paperwork, and headed out. In my mind, I knew exactly where I was going:  A mobile home park at 400 E. Roberts Lane. I arrived at what I believed to be my destination and carefully keyed in the gate code. The gate failed to open. It was this security gate that I remembered from my previous days of driving that lead me here. I quickly realized that I am at 811 Roberts Lane. I headed to the 400 block where I found a run-down apartment complex with no security gate. I started to panic. I asked on the radio if anyone was familiar with 400 Roberts Lane.  I figured someone would recognize the address and be able to help.  By the way, I did not use GPS as I believed I knew where I was going so I didn’t need navigation.  I asked our dispatcher for help by radio in finding the pickup point. I could almost hear laughter in her voice as she asked me to confirm I was at 400 EAST Roberts Lane.  I rush eastbound until I got to E. Roberts Lane. I completely passed the mobile home park and hit a dead end. Upon retracing, I saw a large mobile home park but there was no entrance on E. Roberts. Luckily, a car entered the gated community and I followed through arriving with two minutes to spare.
Upon opening the door a snooty old lady barked at me and asked, “Who are you? You’ve never driven me before!” I introduced myself and walked with her to the car as she used a walker. I placed her in the car and attempted to put her walker in the trunk. I nearly broke it trying to get the trunk closed. Who knew it folded up? I did get it figured out, jumped in the car and started driving.  My route selection was not the same as other chauffeurs. She asked me if I knew where I was going. I informed her that I did. She asked if I was new. I told her that I worked in the office. She asked, “Are you the Jim that the drivers talk about?” I told her that I was indeed. She said she knew I was the boss and was honored that I was driving her.
The destination was 1801 Oak Street. I figured if I go west on 18th Street, it ends at Oak Street and the building is bound to be on the corner. Wrong! The building was on the west side of Oak Street with entrances on the left or right but right smack in the middle of a funky three-way intersection forcing me to have to cut someone off to make a left turn followed by a quick right from the wrong lane. She didn’t notice.
I parked the car, jumped out, and ran to the trunk to get the walker. Wouldn’t you know that the brake handles of the walker were all tangled in the trunk cargo netting? She opened her own door and snapped at me to bring her walker. I got there as quick as I could and opened the walker up. I don’t know if something is supposed to snap in place or it is good to go. I had visions of her bearing weight on it and it collapsing. I let her know I would be in the same spot waiting for her. She told me not to be “stupid” and go get something to eat and be back at 2 p.m. sharp!  I was. The return trip home was uneventful.
The following day, a young lady in my office who processes the daily paperwork for billing came in and scolded me that my paperwork was incorrectly prepared. She admonished that it must be corrected “if I want to get paid.” I’m hanging up that driving cap again. Scott Solombrino is right.

-- Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor 

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