Hey, how you doing?
I’m Art, I’ll be your driver.
You alright back there, buddy? You want some water? There are some bottles in the console here. Gum? You need to charge your phone before you hit the flight? Course you don’t.
You look like a seasoned traveler to me. I can tell. You want to know a trick I just heard about? You like to drink when you fly? Okay, okay, I gotta ask, don’t want to offend people. Anyway -- what I heard was: you can bring all the booze you want on a flight. Would you believe it? The TSA, they made the liquid limit 3.4 ounces. How I know that? My son, he works security at Newark, terminal C. TSA for about three years now. Damn proud of him. Hey you see a good looking kid named Chris, he’s got a goatee, you tell him his pops says he should call him back... ungrateful schnook! Anyway, he’s a smart guy. He told me those little single serving bottles, you see ‘em in the little baskets in liquor stores -- well, 3.4 ounces exactly. They’re like a buck a pop. Airline charges, what, like 5, 6 dollars for a drink? You roll up through security with a handful of those things... 3.4 ounces, TSA can’t touch ‘em. And you’re gonna have a good flight my friend. A real good flight.
I been driving a long, long time. My day job, I sold cars down in Weehawken. Yeah, but I got out of that about four years back. The money’s no good no more! These car dealerships, they don’t incentivize the salesmen. It used to be a people job, you know, talking, shooting the shit. Then, hey, sure I’ll sell you this car. Your wife wants one? How old’s your kid? Cuz he’s gonna need one soon. Maybe your kid’s a she. Whatever. You call Art. But now, it’s just a numbers game. Yeah, I had to get out of there. I’m all about people you know. Hey, you from around here? Take my number down. It’s 973-727-9451. You need a ride anywhere, any time, you call Art. I’m serious. 3 in the morning, you’re in bad shape, you call me. I’ll be there faster than a cab. I do it all the time.
What’s that? Me? No, I’m not that busy. Everyone else is busy! It’s almost Christmas. Tell you the truth, really, though, you’re my first customer. Yes sir, you are the first ride hired at Art’s Livery. Can you believe it? Hey, how’d you hear about us? See? I told you my kid was smart. It was his idea to make one of those Facebook pages. Huh? Ah, you’re a good listener my friend. That goes a long way with the ladies -- eh? I did say I’d been driving for a while. Nearly 20 years, you know. But you are the very first customer of this particular limosine service. I used to be with Catena Livery. No, no, of course you haven’t heard of it. Catena’s. Yeah it’s closed now. Ray’s done.
But like I said, I been driving for around twenty years and let me say one thing that you won’t hear any guys like me saying to their clients -- driving is hard work. I’m sure you’ve taken long car trips before, you know. But every day is like one long car trip for me. You have to concentrate on the road. You have to be aware at all times. Anything could go wrong. Now, a guy like Ray Catena, he had a whole fleet of guys like me. He’d rotate us around, make sure we didn’t work more than 12 hours. 12 on, 12 off. That was his rule. I was so good when I started, man. I had people calling Catena just to request me. He says to me, what kinda racket you running, huh, Art? You selling drugs or something? I says, Ray, no, I’m just good with people. I talk to them, I listen to them. What’d I do right when you got in here, huh? I gave you my number. Go ahead, call it. Whatever. I do that for every person I drive. And I’ve gotten those calls man. I’ve gotten them at 3, 4 in the morning. “I want Art. Get me Art.” I never ask for anything in return. I guess the price you pay is listening to me talk, talk -- on and on.
This one woman, uh, well on second thought, are you busy? No, I mean I don’t want to bore you or anything. I can appreciate that, sure. Okay. Well, if you’re sure you want to hear me ramble -- there was this woman, Mrs. Shaw. She was a real upper crust woman, I used to drive she and her husband back and forth to their penthouse in New York out to the country in Far Hills, Chester area. Anyway, her husband died about 10 years ago, but he lived a full life. She was all alone. I kept driving her, she was still a nice woman. One day, I start to notice her mind’s going. She can’t remember things, she’s getting frustrated all the time. I stopped seeing her for a little while, but then I get this call from her daughter, Marianne -- inviting me over for dinner. She says her mother’s been asking for me, she won’t shut up. “I want Art,” she’s been saying. So I go over for dinner -- and there’s Mrs. Shaw. She got no friggin’ idea who any of these people are, her own family, but as soon as I walk in the door, she remembers me. She gives me a big hug, she asks me all about my son. Her family’s amazed. Her daughter starts crying, she’s so happy. She starts paying me to do nothing but drive her mother around, running errands with her, just talking. They thought she got better around me, but the truth was she just remembered me. Mrs. Shaw still struggled with everything else. It was hard. The one good thing that came out of this was Marianne. She and I became real close. I’d drop Mrs. S off at her house, she goes for a nap. It started over coffee, then moved to kissing. Ah-ha, I told you I’m a people person, man! Yeah, she’s got a kid from another marriage too. He and Chris get along real well too. It was going good.
Then, one night, she calls me -- Mrs. Shaw. She never called me. It was always Marianne. But she was really upset, she was really confused. She kept asking me to take her to Marianne, and I explained how late it was, etcetera.
She was really going through something, like a panic attack or something. I could hear it in her voice. It was time to get her some real help. And I was close enough with the family to be honest with them. So I called Mare, finally get her on the phone, she’d been sleeping. And she agrees. But she also asks me to bring her over, her kid’s sick, otherwise she would have gone.
Now. I’d just worked a shift for Ray, this was about this time last year. You know, it was crazy. I was real tired. Bone tired. But I’d do anything for this woman, you know. I tell Mare how tired I am. She asks me if I think I can make it -- the drive’s about 45 minutes to 1 hour round trip. “You can pass out here.” And I thought about it real hard. I’d done that drive so many times I’d lost count. So I made a judgement call and said yes.
I shoulda called the shop, had Ray send someone else out there. But he woulda charged her account. I thought she was confused enough as it was. She needed me. So I went over there, and I was okay for that leg, I didn’t fall asleep or nothing. And she recognized me when I knocked on the door. She smiled at me. She seemed alright, to be honest, with a familiar face around.
Anyway, I got Mrs. Shaw into the car and we head out. And I’m just so tired, my man. Because driving is hard work. I dozed off. When I came to, Mrs. S was screaming and we were headed into a ditch. Skidded right off the side of the road. The car rolled seven times. I broke my arm. This one. Mrs. S... we got her to the hospital, we sure did. She died three days later. Head trauma, they said. There was nothing they could do.
Yeah, it was pretty rough. First, I got in all sorts of trouble for driving the company car when I was off the clock. They’re liable in this case. Ray, he had to let me go. It was about to get real bad, but Mare, she decided not to press charges or anything. It was an honest mistake. She blamed herself as much as me. We don’t talk no more.
What’s that? Oh, hey, I’m fully rested and caffeinated my friend. You got nothing to worry about. Look at me when I say this and tell me if you think I’m lying -- I’ll never make that mistake again in my life. What happened was that, Catena, he got hit bad by the insurance. It got out about what I’d done. Words were passed, and his business took a dive. Perception is everything, you know. I wish it had been different. Some people, they’ll tell you Ray’s shop was on the decline, that this was just the nail in the coffin. And there’s some truth to that. The world’s changing, with Uber and whatnot. We’re all just trying to stay afloat. What’s that? How’d I get this going? Oh, well with my own spit and polish. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m up for the task, man. I’m good at this because I love it.
What airline? You bet, terminal C. What time? Oh, you got plenty, man. Take your time, get something to eat... Here we are, buddy.
Hey, just one second. Thanks for letting me share that with you. That means a lot. You know, you being my first customer and all -- let me get this ride. Nah, nah, come on. What’d I say? You’re dealing with a former car salesman here. There will be no negotiation, my friend. It’s on me. Yeah, but you get on Yelp and write a review or something, tell your friends.
You got my number. Just call Art.