Tight parking, narrow streets, and gawking crowds highlights 3,268-mile French journey
Paris, Versailles, Dunkirk, Lyon. Is this the whirlwind European tour of a major rock group? Hardly. A chauffeur's dream job? Definitely.
When Roy Lawrence was first approached to take this assignment, he couldn't believe his luck Lawrence had been happily chauffeuring for Arizona Limousines in Phoenix, A7, for six years when one of his regular clients decided he needed a private driver for a month long business trip to France.
The initial problem was that his new employer did not have a limousine for the trip Lawrence's first assignment was finding the perfect car. He and his now employer, Jean Godzich, CEO of Regent Transportation Services in Phoenix, and president of Groupement Europe o do Professionals de Marketing - a French direct marketing company --worked with Krystal Koach in Anaheim, CA, to design the limousine for the trip.
After 3,268 miles of narrow roads, French scenery, and tight parking spots, Lawrence has returned to the US to work for a transportation company for his new employer.
Building the Perfect Beast
“I had been driving Godzich for a couple of years, so I knew what his preferences were he wanted to do able to stretch out on the long road trips, so we chose to have big wrap-around couches installed. The car is beautiful," Lawrence says. The 110-inch double-cut limousine is also equipped with a gold package, two televisions instead of one, a remote controlled 10-disc compact disc player, extra storage, and two separate telephone lines. "I was very impressed with the limousine. After 6,000 miles, I didn't have one problem with it I was on top of the vehicle, keeping up the oil and tire pressure. It worked perfectly," he adds.
Lawrence and Godzich both decided they wanted to put some miles on the car before it went to France. To accomplish this, Lawrence set out from Phoenix to Baltimore where the car would be put in a 40-foot cargo container and shipped to La Hauve, France. He then flew from New York to Paris. "During the 10 days I spent waiting for the limousine to arrive, I rented a car and tried to learn the roads, signs, and driving habits of the French -- plus I got in a little sightseeing," admits Lawrence.
Finally, Lawrence and his employer were ready to begin a 16-cily, 22-day, 3,268-mile tour through France where Godzich and two other companions had scheduled promotional speaking engagements. While Lawrence was busy driving, his employer was preparing for upcoming speeches, making phone calls, and resting up for the engagements. "We had to have a portable French cellular hooked up because my American cellular phones didn't work over there," he says.
Lawrence was in the middle of a three-car caravan which also included a lead car and luggage van. The three vehicles were in constant hand held radio communication at all times. The lead car driver spoke French and English and acted as a translator for Lawrence.
"The roads are very narrow over there. The French park on sidewalks, the turn of the road, generally, wherever they want. This made right-hand turns in the limousine almost impossible," says Lawrence. "We knew that in advance so we had our local people plan a route that would avoid these turns. The country roads and highways were no problem at all. The other vehicles occasionally had to block traffic when I had to make a turn. Sometimes it would take five or six maneuvers to make a normal one maneuver turn. "
A French Celebrity?
"Every time the car came to a stop, people would come up, and the first thing they tried to do was peer in through the dark windows. My windows constantly had to be cleaned," Lawrence explains.
Lawrence classifies parking in France as a real challenge. “There were probably four hotels that couldn't accommodate the limousine at all. Some of the interesting spots I found to park included a police station, museum, car showroom, mechanic's garage, and someone's backyard, "he says. "Two of the parking lots that could accommodate the vehicle were underground and had to be backed into I always drew a crowd when doing this because it usually took me 25 to 30 minutes to get the car in the spot. I felt like a celebrity because people were taking pictures, pointing, and applauding."
French intersections were an adventure for Lawrence. Many intersections consisted of a large circle with four streets coming off it. "If you want to make a light-hand turn, you get off on the first turn. To go straight, you get off at the second turn, etc.," he adds. Since his return to the United States, Lawrence is trying to get used to driving at American speeds. "The posted speed is 80 mph, but most people drive faster than that," he says.
Follows Three Ideals
Lawrence believes in three ideals that make up a good chauffeur — appearance, attitude, and anticipation. "Appearance of both myself and my vehicle is number one." Even though it rained during 10 days of the tour, Lawrence made sure the vehicle was spotless before each days trip. Every day he washed the car, scrubbed the white walls, Armoralled the tires, and vacuumed it.
"My philosophy was that my employer got in a clean vehicle every day," Lawrence admits. He also made it a point to keep the vehicle well stocked in anticipation of his employers needs. "The French tend to not use ice, so it was a real challenge getting some for the car every day," he adds.
Lawrence worked hard while in France but he also had time to enjoy himself. “Many times I worked three days in a row and then had an entire day off. I'm an avid golfer, so on my days off I went golfing I also did a lot of sightseeing. All you have to do over there is walk outside your hotel to see a museum or cathedral. There is so much to see. My job always came first, but it was nice to be able to visit another country," Lawrence admits.
Now that he is back in the United States, Lawrence is trying to adjust to his new position. Since his employer has the limousine, he decided to try his hand at the livery business. "I'll be heading up his transportation service," says Lawrence.
"I've heard that the company has ordered a bus which should be here soon. So, I'll be back in the transportation business. Everything is so new and I've been gone so long. The business over here is just getting started."
For the last three years Lawrence was with Arizona Limousines he was head chauffeur. In that capacity, he was in charge of all high-end work plus training new chauffeurs. "As a trainer, I worked on the service level. I taught the other chauffeurs the three A's - appearance, attitude, and anticipation. If you look good, the vehicle looks good, you've got a good attitude, and you want to service your clients with care, your going to be a successful chauffeur," he explains.
Lawrence has been involved in the service industry for 18 years doing everything from working in a restaurant to dealing at casinos to being a hotel bell captain. "Gene [Pierpoint, of Arizona Limousines] hired me because of my ability to deal with high-end five-star clients. He taught me the mechanical end of being a good chauffeur and made me an excellent chauffeur. That is the reason I got the job I'm in now. Jean Godzich, being a world-wide traveler noticed the qualities of a good chauffeur," Lawrence explains.
In his new position, Lawrence anticipates he will be not only driving, but handling the limousine and other vehicles as well as setting up procedures and training. Lawrence's time spent in France was more than just a working vacation. "I thought I was a good handler of a limousine, but I got much better over there. By the end of the total trip I had driven the car over 6,000 miles I put the car in spots that at first I didn't think it would go. We got through the trip without a scratch," he proclaims.