From "Driving Ms. Bateman"
Justine Bateman can fuck herself with her skis. And the same goes for her sister, I thought to myself as I sat in the driver’s seat of my limo –scratch that, town car - outside of Killer Shrimp waiting for the ‘80’s sitcom star to finish eating her hour long dinner. She and her sister were taking full advantage of the two hour ride maximum while I stayed behind in the car starving to death and nursing sore muscles from carrying their ski trip gear the length of Burbank airport, out through the parking garage and loading it into the trunk. It wasn’t looking good for me to make a quick drop-off, call dispatch and grab another client and it seemed more than likely this would be another twenty-six dollar day.
I desperately needed a full body massage after the crap week I’d had, but obviously I couldn’t afford it. So far, I’d received a single paycheck which was somewhere in the neighborhood of $185 –and that was for two weeks’ work –after taxes. So I was pulling in about ninety bucks a week, which would have been awesome in 1920 but it wasn’t going to afford me even a decent foot rub in 1994.
To be fair to Justine, it wasn’t really her fault. Carrying luggage was part of the driver’s job and clients were full within their rights to make use of their two hour trip paid for by the studio any way they wanted. But sitting around waiting for someone to finish eating an expensive dinner while other drivers were getting assigned the good trips, wasn’t what I’d signed up for. Driving celebrities around was supposed to be the cool part of the job; the perk, a possible networking opportunity, or so I’d thought when I applied for the job. And to make matters worse, it was becoming clear I’d have to decide between the job and my dog.
I’d shown up at the limo company after seeing an ad in the paper advertising for drivers who could work odd hours. Obviously, I needed a little time apart from waitressing, but I also required a flexible schedule so I could do stand-up at night and also care for my new puppy. Georgia, a half Pit/half Lab stray I’d adopted from the pound was proving to be a major challenge, maybe more than I could handle. Like most relationships, she was turning out to be a completely different mutt from the scruffy, lovable one I’d fallen for when we first met. When I first laid eyes on her at the shelter, she’d been downright quiet and coy, which I took to indicate a mellow and sweet disposition. I was naturally excited to take our relationship to the next level. But I now believe she’d been sedated with a heavy dose of doggy valium. Within a day of moving in with me, her true personality began to show itself. It started with attacking power cords as if she were wrestling pythons leaving me with very few working appliances, but I told myself she’d calm down and go back to that lovable pooch that had swept me off my feet.
Within weeks she’d escalated to more troubling behavior, such as growling and aggression towards little children at the dog park. Now, at this point of my life, I was not a huge fan of most of the precious studio executive spawn who terrorized the parks of the Hollywood Hills, so when I snapped Georgia off her leash and she charged a four-year-old from a hundred yards, pinning him screaming in fear under her paws, I pretended to be horrified even though I was secretly on her side. After all, when you really got into the details, who could really say who started it? But the parents were not too understanding and we were threatened with a lawsuit if we returned.
I’d also just started dating a new guy and I didn’t want something as tedious as a job getting in the way of what little Georgia-free time I had left in my schedule.
When it came to my new career in the prestigious ground transportation industry, I figured I had three big things going for me: 1) a perfect driving record, 2) I looked adorable in a chauffeur cap and, 3) I drove a stick. Really the only strike against me going into it was a poor sense of direction and an inability to read a map but I figured the key to being a good driver was instinct anyway.
When I called the company to see about an interview they just said, “Come in tomorrow and we’ll run your driver’s license.” They didn’t specify a time so to be conscientious I arrived bright and early at noon. After running my license and answering a few perfunctory questions to screen out violent ex-cons and hard-core drug users (they didn’t need to hear about the accidental freebasing in my past until at least the company Christmas party) I was offered a job. This did not come as a surprise to me; after so many job interviews, I had the whole process down to a science. The only glitch? In my zeal to make a good impression, I hadn’t blinked an eye when my new boss told me I’d need to arrive for my first day at five a.m.
The next morning it was still dark when I was assigned to ride along with “Big Al,” a husky Italian grampa type who was one of the few drivers trusted to drive a stretch. Big Al was in charge of all of Chevy Chase’s transportation. Our limousine company had accounts with the major studios and a broadcast network, so a big chunk of their trade was schlepping celebrities on the studio’s tab. I’d heard stories that Chevy Chase could be difficult to deal with and possibly a Vicodin addict. “Horseshit,” said Big Al, when I mentioned the rumors. “I drive the man almost every day and I’ve never found Mr. Chase to be anything but delightful.”
We parked outside of Chevy’s gated driveway at 6:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. pick-up to take him to LAX. From the moment Chevy stepped into the car at 7:45 a.m., he joked around, engaged us in conversation and, as I can attest from my constant surveillance in the visor vanity mirror, the man didn’t pop a single pain killer. He kept up the banter until we let him out at the Delta terminal approximately twenty minutes later. And then when Big Al handed Chevy his luggage from the trunk, Chevy handed Big Al a fifty dollar bill.