I worked as a chauffeur for a few years. Yes, I rubbed elbows with a couple famous people during my tour of duty, but not too many. I drove a Lincoln Town Car, and most famous people don’t want to ride around in Town Cars- they want stretch limos or Escalades or whatever. They want something fabulous with booze and ice; where they can relax, smoke pot and get blowjobs.
Most of my old friends, the ones who drove the big cars for a living, agree on a few things. The first time Queen Latifah throws a temper tantrum and breaks a window in your car it’s a curiosity, a war story to be shared with friends and family over drinks. By the second or third time, it’s gotten old. By the fourth time, you’re desperately scanning the want ads for new jobs. By the fifth time- another coked-up nut job calls you an idiot or something, breaks your DVD player, stiffs you on the tip- you’re seriously considering homicide.
These days, with escalating fuel costs and price cutters flooding the industry, most limo drivers work around 70 hours per week and take home maybe $8 or $10 per hour.
With no health care benefits.
Guy I knew- in the midst of another lousy day behind the wheel- pulled his stretch into a McDonald’s parking lot, got out, tossed the keys into some bushes and walked home. The passengers were still in the back of the car, relaxing, smoking pot and getting blowjobs.
The job sucks.
THE OTHER HALF
CEOs and old money people are different. They want Town Cars. They don’t want anything ostentatious. Because I spoke fluent English, showered on a semi-regular basis and knew my way around Chicago, I drove a lot of these people over the years. I wore deodorant, and CEOs want a chauffeur who smells good.
They’d pay me $50 an hour to drive them around town. I got to know some of the most important people in international business on a first name basis. Met their wives, eavesdropped on their conversations, and rifled through their stuff while they were in meetings. I picked up dry cleaning for them and drove the kids to school or soccer. Became friendly with their body guards.
Yes, some of them have body guards, but they’re called “Personal Assistants” or something like that. Personal Assistants with backgrounds in the FBI or other areas of law enforcement. Personal Assistants who carry guns.
Some of my old clients are names you might recognize. They ran companies we’ve all patronized at some point in our lives. Some of these people are still in positions of power, while others have retired to France or Barbados or wherever. Some of the people I used to drive around town for $50 an hour are currently locked up in jail.
THE LIMO LIFE
I can’t imagine anybody really cares, but I figured I’d make a short list of things you might not know about being a chauffeur, anyway. Feel free to use any of these little factoids in the course of your everyday conversations, like after church or at the grocery store.
1. Almost every chauffeur has crapped in their pants at least once while on the job.
2. Almost every chauffeur has had a client crap in their car at one point or another.
3. Driving a limousine is a really crappy job.
I don’t miss it too much.