Monday, April 04, 2011

Behind the Wheel, pt. 2: The Rathbones

The bread and butter of the limousine business is prom season and weddings.

I only did one prom (another story for another time). We just didn't do prom runs - too tough on the car and too much liability. As a chauffeur, though, the worst jobs were weddings. Paradoxically, weddings were the easiest money as well.  A typical wedding day run involved picking up the bride and her party from a home or hotel, drive them to the venue, wait, drive the newlyweds to the reception and either wait there and drive them to a hotel after or leave them at the reception where they have their own transportation. A lot of waiting and a lot of inebriated fathers-of-the-bride throwing tip money at you.

My problem with the wedding run is that I never wanted to be the guy who ruined some woman's wedding day. That is a day for the bride. Say what you will about the bride and groom, the wedding is a woman's affair and I was in a constant state of anxiety that that day would be remembered for whatever error happened on my watch.

I would go over the route from home to church over and over in my map and mind, worried that I'd take her to the wrong place. Once there, and as the ceremony was being performed, I'd stand at the back of the car, sweating in my suit and the Florida sun, opening and closing the door in practice, worried that when the couple came out and ran down the path through storms of rice and flashbulbs, that they'd arrive to find that I'd locked the keys in the car.

I desperately didn't want to be someone's anecdote for the next fifty years.

I had a run one day that begin as usual - bridal party to church. The wedding was on the beach side of Panama City with the reception across the bridge in the city. From the church to the reception, about 30 minutes including the stop they needed to make at an ATM, the newlyweds, Mr. & Mrs. Rathbone, fought. It wasn't so much a fight, as it was the groom berating the bride. The problem, from what I could overhear, stemmed from Mr. Rathbone thinking Mrs. Rathbone lingered a bit long on the congratulatory kiss and hug from his uncle.

It was absurd and it was maddening to hear this new bride crying behind me on her day.

With most weddings, the first time I came face to face with the groom was after the wedding, so I didn't know him and he didn't know me, and if I wasn't a scrawny six-feet and 140 lbs. back then I would have pulled over and snatched his ass out of the car to teach him some manners. Instead, I drove them to the reception where I left them, glad to be rid of the scene.

Hopefully that was just the tension of the day playing out, albeit sadly. I like to think he apologized during their dance at the reception and that they both left the party laughing and in each others arms. Maybe they're even still together despite that start, and their first fight is but one anecdote from their long life together.