A Chauffeur’s Nightmare
By: Felix L. Perry
All of us, in our chosen professions, have had days in our careers that we thought would never end.As a chauffeur dealing with the public and sometimes quite eccentric public I have had a few of my own. One day in particular though will remain etched into my memory banks for a long time in the future and now that I am committing it to this white screen page it will probably be around even a lot longer then I can imagine. Anyway welcome to my “Chauffeur’s Nightmare”.
The blaring of the phone woke me from my cozy little catnap, that I had taken as a reward for…well no not as a reward, just because as a retiree I can take one whenever I want. My first reaction was to violently throw the plastic piece of crap out the window. However being the gentlemen I am I picked up the receiver and after knocking over lamps, glasses, bottles and a funny little teddy bear my granddaughter had left there, I politely asked:
“Who the hell is this and what the hell do you want?”
After a pregnant pause of about a minute and a half a kindly female voice soft and low whispered:
“Felix is that you?”
By now fully awake I recognized the voice of the dear senior lady who was the dispatcher for the limousine company I worked for part-time, and promptly tried to get the foot out of my mouth by apologizing for the way I answered the phone. She told me not to worry as a dispatcher she had heard worst and started to tell me another of her long drawn out but pointless stories before I gently asked her how I could help her.
Delta, a little put off by my refusal to hear her story began to tell me in an almost gruff truckers voice now what the assignment was for me that evening. She needed some one to pick up a lady who would have a broken leg and cast from waist to toe and deliver them to Dalhousie, New Brunswick. It would be a drive of almost six hours there and another six hours back, no hotels for the drivers we were supposed to be tough and have stamina behind the wheel. Needless to say before I had a chance to refuse I had hastily grabbed my trusty Bic pen and notepad from my night table and started jotting down the particulars before I had even realized I had said I would do it. Hmmmnnn, come to think of it I don’t think I even did agree to do it. Delta hung up the phone with a simple “Good Luck” which worried me. Would I need luck for some reason on this run?
As I struggled through my closet for some dress clothes to wear, if this lady could afford a stretch limo at $150 an hour she must have big bucks so I figured I’d better look at least respectable. I dug out my formal black suit, a collarless tux shirt and after a quick shower was soon dressed and on my way to pick up the car. At the limo office they quickly recapped my trip, showed me the route and entrusted my with a gas card and a map for the province I would have to drive clear across and again wished me good luck.
I checked the stretch out, stopped and filled the tank, and headed for the airport, things weren’t too bad so far still on time and would wait about ten minutes for her flight if on schedule.
Waiting limos, taxi’s, vans etc. wait in an area called the pit at the airport for a dispatcher at the actual terminal to call down and say their fare was in. When the tinny voice on the outside speaker called World Class 15, I straightened my shirt, brushed off the lint from my jacket and drove smoothly and effortless out of my parking spot to go pick up Mrs. B. (sorry can not use actual names as usual). The security up top flagged me with their pretty little orange flashlights and directed me not to where I would normally park but to the doors directly in front of the airport. Wow, I thought to myself, do they like me that much out here or does this women have that much scratch, visions of a hefty tip floating in my greedy little mind.
I stood by the open door of the car waiting for this woman appear looking over the top of a little boy in a wheelchair. He looked about eight or so and so sad I wanted to start doing clown tricks or something to cheer him up, but he was rescused by his father who asked: “Are you our driver from World Class?” First big surprise. Apparently this man’s first name was one of those French names that are seemingly to an Anglophone sexless so the dispatcher’s screw up was at least understandable. Still didn’t account for her failure to find out it was a father and son and that he would have special needs.
But…a good driver adapts and it wasn’t long before we had him nestled in the back of the car with his leg up, their baggage safely stowed and even the wheelchair once dismantled fit quite nicely in the trunk of my Lincoln.
Once we pulled away from the airport I introduced myself, gave them an idea how long the run would be and politely offered that if there was anything I could do to make their ride more comfortable to let me know, which Mr. B., for the want of a better name, told me what he would like. We, he informed me, would need to go directly to the nearest Mac Donalds for burgers and fries for his son, then he would like to go to the nearest beer store for his supper. Here we go I thought to myself. Big surprise number two. I pulled off the next major off ramp which luckily for me had both a Mickie Dees and a booze outlet, no problem except you can’t exactly fit a stretch limo through a drive thru so I had to park down the road and in a garage while Mr. B went for his boys supper. I had to admire the little guy he just sat there quietly while he waited for his Dad, no complaints from him.
While I was waiting I decided to set up the small DVD player they had provided me to let them use for entertainment for the long journey. Amazing twenty feet of stretch and not a cigarette lighter to plug in the player in the whole of it. I did mange to plug it in up front and lay it on the window divider ledge but looking at a three inch screen from twenty feet away is kinda crazy so we gave up on that ides and turned it off once we hit the highway again. Next stop booze store and as Mr. B came out lugging a dozen I accepted his statement that he wasn’t planning to drink all twelve….okay. Then it was a stop at the local Coffee shop for me and back on the highway with only an hour taken added to that 12 hour run, not bad.
For the next three hours the little boy slept and his father moved further up in the limo so we could talk through the divider instead of using the telephones equipped in the car and cab. The time passed quickly as we talked about common bands we liked, the drive, our families etc he sipping his beer and I my coffee. As we neared Moncton which is about a fourth of the trip completed I estimated I thought I should start looking for a place to fill the tank. The company I work for only deal with one service station so that is the only credit card they issue us. After a quick drive around in the city which was another fifteen minutes off our route, I stopped at another garage to ask directions which the clerk assisted me with, but pay attention here is where things get dicy again.
As I talked to the clerk, Mr. B. entered the service station and smiling and calling me Felix, said he was going for a leak, nice that we are now such good buds I thought again to myself.(I do that a lot, think to myself that is.). I was still talking to the clerk when Mr. B. returned walked behind me and out to the running car and his son. I thanked the clerk went to have a pee of my own, then after a farewell to the helpful clerk I jumped into my car and was off to the garage, gas and the open highway, or so I thought. I found the garage, shut off the moter, filled the tank and when I got back in to check the mileage for the credit card slip, I called back to my passengers. “Only be a sec guys and we’ll be back on the road.” No one replied, I asked if they were asleep, no reply, then a tiny voice in the dark of the limo spoke up and said “He’s not here.” “Big, big surprise number three.”
Yes, yes you guessed it right, I lost my passenger. Hastily to say the least I paid my bill, and nearly took out two gas pumps and a lamppost trying to turn that stretch into a u-turn to go search for the missing dad. My phone was ringing off the hook and when I grabbed it the dispatcher who had been so quiet when asking me to do the job was now screaming in my ear calling me some unflattering names referring to my mental capacity because I had lost my client. Luckily I have a great sense of humour and could not help to see the humour in this situation and was doing my best not to outright bellow with laughter in her poor ear. I was soon at the first garage and my errand father was soon tucked safely into the back seat with his boy while we hastily exited that town that no doubt would give the father terrors for years to come.
Okay so now we are running about two hours behind which means this driver has already clocked over four hours and Mr. B. informs me only about four more to go…
Four more hours of the loneliest, emptiest forests now in nighttime were as black as the bottom of a well. No houses, few towns, and Moose crossing signs every twenty or thirty feet along the highway which Mr. B. informed me I better take seriously because so many people killed by running into or being run into by moose, sure opened my eyes wider as we left civilization in the rear view mirror.
Anyway to make a long story short we had no more surprises for the next four hours and I was relieved when he finally directed me into his driveway of a house far off the beaten and lonely highway. Taking our time we finally got the little guy into his chair, into his house and I’m sure I heard him breathe a sigh of relief as he looked back at me with a wary eye. I thanked the man for a generous tip he gave me and soon after only getting lost for a few minutes was back on the highway at last and headed home…or was I? Nothing looked familiar for a while and I would have sworn to myself I was going north instead of south. Pulling to side of road and checking road maps, as one tree and one moose crossing sign looks the same as the next, I decided I was on the right highway and put the petal to the metal so to speak and with visions of a warm bed and a soft pillow in a few hours time I came once again to the city of the lost fathers and tried to find gas for the hungry monster I was sitting in, no such luck, the gas station I needed was closed and I started a battle of nerves with myself to see whether I would find somewhere on that highway that would have a garage that took my company’s credit card, I lost. When the needle started showing fumes only I pulled into the first town and using my tip fed the beast a snack before another cup of coffee (around fourteen/fifteen cups by now) and continued.
Two hours away from home my eyes started losing the battle to stay awake, coffee wasn’t cutting it so I figured the only sensible thing to do was pull off the highway and grab forty winks. Good plan but…after try sleeping in the back of a car in ten degrees below zero weather, after twenty minutes shivering I gave up and headed back to the cab, putting my key in the ignition I turned it and guess what? “Another surprise, the car wouldn’t start!”
Two hours later and with most of my teeth lose from shivering so hard a ride showed up to drive me home, a service truck would come for the car later. So that was my “Limo
The end (Unless I get sued by the child for losing the father.)