Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Baby You Can Drive My Car

A family friend has a favorite driver she likes to use to take her to the airport. His name is Leonid. He's a middle-aged Russian, who listens to a Russian radio station while he drives. She likes him so much, I was invited to join her in his van to catch my flight and save myself a penny or two as her guest. For that I was very grateful. Thank you very much.  
          The problem for me is that he doesn't seem to drive a van that belongs to a cab company. First of all, it's entirely too clean. Secondly, it isn't one of those vehicles plastered with company logos and phone numbers all over it. 
          He drives a metallic gold family van like yours or mine, assuming I had one. His is a lot like the new one my brother and sister-in-law recently bought, just not as tricked out for little kids. 
          I also noticed that he didn't get calls from a dispatcher on a two-way radio either. Since he doesn't have a two-way radio. Or a dispatcher. My friend said that the number you call to schedule him is his cell phone. So there's no fifty-year-old gum-chewing babe with a cigarette voice waiting to take your order. Or, like some companies, a guy named Jumar in India, who's sending out cars from 5000 miles away.  
          The van isn't a limo van either, with a distinctive blue license plate that says "livery." It has an ordinary, run-of-the-mill plate, like anybody else driving carpool on your block.
          I noticed that Leonid's wheels also don't have a village sticker on the windshield like the rest of us living in the suburbs have to have. Or don't have, depending on what you think you can get away with. 
          In addition, when he comes to the airport to pick you up, he wants you to meet him at door A, B, or C, out in the third lane, the one reserved for use by family members and other civilians, so the cops have easy pickin's, when you've been sitting around too long. Apparently Leonid never waits at door G or uses the middle lane like all the other cab/limo services are required to do at O'Hare. 
          I began to wonder whether he's even got a chauffeurs' license. To my chagrin, it turns out a driver doesn't have to have one to haul people in the suburbs. Only for the city. Okay, then, what about insurance in case there's an accident? Hmmmm. Got me.
            The good news is that Leonid only charges about half the price of the other services, which naturally makes him an attractive financial option in these belt-tightening times. 
          I do know that when we landed back in town today, expecting him to pick us up at the curb by door B, he was a no-show. Arrangements had been made by my friend when he dropped us off several days ago. She has said she never has to call him to confirm, because he makes such a big deal out of writing the flight arrival info in his little schedule book so he won't forget. But something happened. Because he never got there. 
            Instead we called another cab service and got a ride home in a van with all the hallmarks of a legitimate cab service. First, we were provided with an interior that was just one date shy of a gang bang. Additionally, I was gratified to notice that the exterior was reassuringly covered with a dent or two, along with the smarmy colors and lettering of a genuine cab company. But the piece de resistance was the driver himself, who spoke with an accent that rendered him nearly impossible to understand, no matter how many times he repeated himself. And there was more. Yes, he had a two way radio, but, no, we couldn't use a charge card, because his card reader was broken, probably during the first Gulf War. Fortunately, we had cash. I know that by the time we got to the tollway, my comfort level was at an all-time high. 
          Naturally, being an entrepreneurial sort, he was hoping to get future business from one or both of us, but I felt I had to disabuse him of that notion. "Why should we hire a dirty van with a card reader doesn't work?" I asked. He took the time to explain why, but, as much as I might have wanted to consider his many valid reasons, I have no idea what he said. 
           Meanwhile, I can't wait to hear what happened to our man from Russia, Leonid. 

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