Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Day I Became a Limo Driver

I have been getting requests for more of my most embarrassing moments. These are hard for me to write as they deconstruct the image I’ve tried so hard to create for myself... and for you. Though I don’t want anyone to know, it turns out I am not always smart or assertive at the right times. I am certainly not the best judge of character. Still, I am who I am, and I do get myself into some pretty strange situations. If they make you laugh, then so be it.

Last February I arrived at the Houston airport and went looking for a cab to my location. As I read the signs, a man in a black suit approached me to ask if I needed help.

“I’m trying to figure out where I catch a taxi,” I replied.

“Great come with me.”

Before I knew it, he was loading my things into a shiny black limo.

“How much is this going to cost me? I asked. “I’m cheaper than a regular cab,” was his reply. Knowing what a taxi would cost, I asked him again for the price.“It will be $70.00.”

He opened the door and I got in. As he drove, we talked. He told me about the country he came from, his 6-year-old son and his ex-wife. He asked about my family and my work and then he took a call. I could not understand him as he conversed in his native language, but I could tell he looked worried. He frantically called a few people. The lilt at the end of each sentence told me he was asking for a favor. The look on his face told me no-one would oblige.

We were 20 minutes into the ride when the driver explained that he needed to go back to the airport and get his regular passenger.

"I never let anyone down,he said. “He caught an earlier plane than I expected. I thought I could get you to your hotel and get back, but now it won’t work. I called everyone who can go for me, but no one is available. Do you mind if we turn around and go back? I will drop him at home and then take you right to your hotel."

"Of course I mind," I thought but didn't say. I just want to get to my hotel and get some dinner and go to bed. My brain said no. My mouth said, "Ok, I’m fine with that.” I let out a sigh. He seemed to be a nice, responsible guy and I really had nothing to do but sit in a hotel room.

He took the next exit and we started heading back. As we crossed through some scary neighborhoods, I will admit that I started worry. Perhaps I’d been had. Maybe he planned to kidnap me? I thought about the news reporting on a "middleaged lady nap" and it seemed less likely. Still, I took a photo of his Limo ID texted to my husband and breathed a sigh of relief when we were back on the freeway and obviously heading back to George Bush Intercontinental.

As we arrived back at the airport, he turned to look at me. “Thank you," he said in a thick accent. “Now we’ve got to think about how we are going to do this.”

Do what? I thought, but before I could say it….

“I need you to come in with me. You can’t wait in the car, that would look strange and you can’t be another customer.”

He looked concerned. “I’ve got it! He clapped his hands together and almost sang, "You can be my cousin!”


Silently, I processed the crazy talk coming from the front seat.

“Yes, you can be my cousin. We will get Mr. Garmin, drop him off and then I will take you!

“No!” I blurted, starting to realize this was ridiculous. This was going too far. Besides, how would he explain his dark skin and accent compared to my, at this point, VERY PALE skin, and befuddled stutter?

“I can't be your cousin” I blurted.

“We don't look at all related. And why...?

He cut me off with a worried look and agreed I was right. By this time, we were out of the car and he started to pace. I looked at the trunk longingly, the place my bags were stored. If I could get to them, I knew I could run quickly. I could hurdle the short garage wall and get to the yellow cabs. I would jump in and yell, “Go, GO NOW!”

“ No! You can be my trainee." His voice interrupted my plan. “You will be my limo driver in training.” He was moving my bags out of the trunk and hiding them in the 3rd seat.

What the hell?

Brain still processing....almost finished….Damn! Since when did my mouth become Quickdraw McGraw?

I said, “OK."

Once in the airport, we discovered the plane was delayed. Again he looked at me worried. "I am so sorry. We probably could have made it to your hotel. You are the nicest woman I've ever met."

At this point, I should have told him to jump in a lake. At the very least, I should have asked him to give me my bags so I could take a simpler cab ride.

I didn’t.

A security guard was heading our way. Franko turned to me, this time his skin was almost as pale as mine. "I'm sorry, I can't talk to you when he is around...I could get into a lot of trouble."

Oh, good grief. This has to be one of the dumber things I have done. As I sat chastising myself, a stream of people spilled into the waiting area. Mr. Garmin recognized Franko. His seven-foot frame lumbered toward us. He still seemed half a block away when he grabbed Franko by the hand. “Thanks for coming! His fist was pumping wildly, I’m so very glad to see you despite all the confusion.”

“No problem!” Franko beamed.

As we headed for the door, Mr. Garmin noticed me following close behind and Franco introduced me as his trainee.

Mr. Garmin stopped and looked me over. "Really?" He looked skeptical. Perhaps it was the suit I was wearing, or the heels, or the fresh face. Who knows?

I said nothing and hurried into my place at the front seat of the car, pre-determined by Franko before Garmin had arrived.

Franko dropped Garmins' bags in the trunk and crawled into the driversseat. As he started the engine, he turned to me with a look of apology and terror. "Well Ms. Blakemore...we will drop off Mr. Garmin and then our day is almost over."

Silence and a weary smile is all I could muster in return.

Franko turned the engine and I sighed with relief. Twenty minutes and the idiocy would be over!!!

I started to relax.

From the back seat, Mr. Garmin broke my moment of repose. "So Ms. Blakemore…

He knows my name! Why didn’t we come up with a fake name????

…tell me a little about yourself. Why did you decide to become a limo driver and how long have you been in training?"

I gulped, tried to keep from throwing up, and gave a meek smile.

“ I just started today, I said. I just started today...”