Once upon a time I saw an ad in a penny saver newspaper. Hiring Drivers at a nearby Mercedes dealership. I figured, why not? I needed a job and the listing only required that I had a clean driving record. I called the number, interviewed for the job, had my driving record pulled and received two navy blue outfits with embroidered Mercedes logos. Mind you I still have the jacket all of these years later as pictured below.
I had one of three functions: pick-up customer cars, drop-off customer cars and help at the dealer’s car wash if I didn’t have any runs. We did not have GPS (unless we had a newer Benz), cell phone calls were expensive and I was paid $8/hour plus tips.
This was one of my top three favorite jobs because I really got to see New England in a way I had never done in all the years I had lived there prior to the job. This job was about people and it was my own personal PBS special about the fascinating people of New England that I met as a driver.
I traveled all throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but my journey as a driver provided an interesting view from a blue-collar service perspective. An appreciation for people at all levels from all walks of life.
It was a unique position to have as a woman and as a woman of color. There was one other woman that worked with me and she was 76 years old at the time. I loved that lady.
I don’t know where she is today or how she is doing, but I will never forget her and I want to share her story here with the world. Her name was Leslie. She introduced herself to me with the following line: “I’m 76, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink except for two drinks I’ve had in my life (both were champagne) and I love trucks.”
She was a graduate of Suffolk Law School in Boston, but she always loved trucks. So like anyone who knows what they want, she left law to become a truck driver. She drove trucks almost her entire adult life and even when it was time to retire, she semi-retired by teaching truck driving to others and I wished I could’ve taken her class because she spoke about trucks with such zeal that I wanted to do it too.
I remember our supervisor having to remind her to cash her paychecks, but she never needed them because she loved driving period. Leslie would take her lunches watching trucks at a local depot if she was nearby. It was crazy to me at the time, but in retrospect this woman had found her passion and it made her glow.
She inspired me to aspire for something I wanted in life, but had no idea at the time what that was or even any clue where I could find it. It took me a decade to figure out to find my passion.
As a driver I had many interesting experiences. I was once told to “leave the car in the service area behind the house” when I dropped a car off at an ocean side mansion by the cliffs. I left that car next to the loaner in the front. If the loaner was in the service area or I had received a tip for my forty-five minute trip I would have dropped it off in the service area.
The people who lived in mansions never tipped, while the people who lived in small cape cods or ranch homes would tip big time. It was the oddest thing to me. I loved talking with people about their cars and how it felt when I drove them to their homes. I remember a guy who spent $10K rebuilding his 190E Benz and I asked him why not get a new car? He told me the car was apart of their family and it was the memories that he was paying for, not the repairs.
I met an older woman who lived by herself next to ocean. She had a mid-size ranch home with a large green beautiful backyard with a cliff ocean view as her fence. It was amazing and I asked her if I could take a walk to see the view. She was so happy I asked and told me stories about how her neighborhood changed. How her son only visited once in a while and how the modern mansion being built next door was an atrocity. We had lemonade and I took my time not returning to the dealership with the loaner.
Sure I made just above minimum wage, but I received payment to collect social skills I never knew I would use later in life as well as my life’s story building blocks. Feel free to ask me about Rebe The Driver if ever you meet me as there are so many stories from that time in my life.