When You Need a Bus — STAT!

Posted on July 18, 2012 by - Also by this author

This past Saturday, I went to bed a little early at about 9 p.m. with the help of a little Ambien. At 9:30 I hear my phone vibrating on the nightstand. I was too tired to answer it, so I ignored it. A few minutes later, it vibrated again. I looked at it and it said, “Dispatch.” Around here, we rotate who is in charge at night. It wasn’t my night so I wasn’t going to answer. Then, the home phone started ringing. The Caller ID said, “Limousine Scene.” About the same time, my cell phone rang again and it was the “MOD” (Manager on Duty) calling. You just know the story is going to go bad from here.

I forced myself out of bed to call our dispatcher. She informed me that one of our buses had blown an airbag in the suspension system. The bus had an 11:50 p.m. pickup at LAX, a two-and-a-half hour journey. This bus would not be able to go, and on a Saturday night, we had nothing to send for 18 passengers with luggage. What a nightmare. Remember, I was on Ambien as I am dealt with this situation.

I had a window of opportunity of about two and a half hours. I knew that whomever I got to help must be based in Los Angeles. The first person I called was Mo Garkani from Continental Limousine, our first tier affiliate for Los Angeles. Mo always bails me out of problems in the Los Angeles market. He was doubtful as most of his equipment was in San Diego working the Comi-Con convention. But he made calls for me. I next called Chris Hundley at Limousine Connection. He immediately started making calls as well.  I called my friend, Jamie Weiss with Arc Drivers, who started making calls. Meanwhile, I sent my driver on his way in a van. Although I couldn’t take everyone, I figured if I could round up three limousines and we could put their luggage in the van. In a worst case scenario, I would have one of my employees at the airport to meet the arriving group even if we had to shuttle them to a local hotel. 
Jamie was able to find LAX VIP Limousine with a bus and a driver ready to go and be there on time. The only problem I had was that I was in no position to negotiate as it was now 10:20 p.m. So, those nice people at LAX VIP were nice enough to help me out but they just couldn’t resist kicking the big dawg when he was down. They charged me a whopping $260 an hour! But, as we say, it is the cost of doing business, and of course he wanted payment up front so I had to pony up a credit card. Remember, I’m still on Ambien and transacting this business while sedated. 
I am a different breed of operator. I got a call one day from a limo company that told me they had a stretch broke down about an hour out of Bakersfield and wanted to know how soon I could get a rescue car to them. I looked at my dispatch screen, saw a limo returning from a drop off at LAX would arrive at the breakdown location in about 20 minutes. I called the driver, set up the meeting, and swooped in to pick up the clients.  There was no paperwork, no invoice and no charge. My car had to come back to Bakersfield anyway. I had to pay my driver an extra $10. Big deal. I figured the company with the broke down car would have towing, repairs and client adjustment to deal with.  Why not lend a hand to help? That’s how I roll!

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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