In The Beginning…
I woke up this morning to the realization that I have been in the limousine business for 30 years this month. If memory serves me correctly, it was near the end of June, 1983 that I took the job as a part-time “driver”, as a way to pay the bills after my attempt at starting a home improvement business (during a nasty recession) failed…miserably I might add.
I had never been inside a limo before I came to work for O’Hare-Midway Limousine Service. In fact, I had probably seen more limousines on TV than I had in real life. I equated limos with weddings, celebrities and Hollywood, death and funerals. I had no idea people used them to get to airports, sporting events, or for a night on the town.
A friend got me the job with OML, a company that catered to clients in the northern suburbs. I was a south side guy, and in my mere 24 years of existence, I only knew there were northern suburbs because I drove through them on my way to the northern reaches or Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan. I was completely and hopelessly lost. However, I was determined to be as good as I could be, so I studied maps, plotted trips, and asked customers their opinions of various routes to or from their homes. Eventually, I had a thorough knowledge of the area, and even today can plot routes and quote times to addresses I haven’t been to in the 20 years since I stopped driving. This is what led me into dispatching.
I spent a lot of years as a dispatcher. I feel it is a position I was built for…prolonged periods of extreme stress, interspersed with mind-numbing boredom. It became a mission for me to master the job, and I feel that I was able to so after several years of dispatching mixed in with full-time driving. Ultimately, the strain of working the equivalent of two full-time jobs took its toll on my brain, and I stopped driving and focused on dispatching.
Working for a Chicago limo service in the 1980’s was a vastly different situation than it is today, at least as far as OML is concerned. Our market was driven by high demand and low supply, and although limo services were springing up like weeds, we had so much business we could barely handle it. As a driver, it meant long hours in the car and rushing to get to each pickup. Sleep was a cherished commodity, and as a result of stress, lack of sleep, and a poor diet, my weight ballooned from the mid-180’s to a robust 260(+). Yet it was this period of my life that was setting the stage for my future with the company.
Part 2: Climbing Through the Ranks