Drivers Can’t Be Choosers

Transportation Tech Editor
6 min readMar 22, 2024
Richard Ramis, AYS Dispatch, Inc.

Since the day after I graduated high school I have been in the limousine industry. All parts, all levels, all positions. The first lesson I learned was that you take what you are given and do not say no. The word no is not in the industry vocabulary. I also learned that a regular does not have to be a big tipper to be a preferred client as many bad or low tippers frankly I preferred. Don’t get me wrong I always wanted larger tips but the personalities that came with them were often condescending. I once drove a regular who lived in a wealthy North Shore suburb. He was as nice as the day is long, I enjoyed his company and he was always complimentary of the service I provided. At the end of each trip, he would hand me a crisp clean $1.00 bill. It really never bothered me. Back in the day tips were not mandatory and the average tip on that trip in the day would have only been $5.00 to $6.00. One day I was chatting with some fellow chauffeurs, and one proclaims he is putting in a request to dispatch that he never has to drive this person anymore. I ask him why and he says, “I am fed up with his 50 cent tips”. I guess it is all relative.

Then we had the luggage lady. A tiny senior citizen who would take 2 cruises a year and bring enough luggage to clothe a small middle school. Granted she was a total sweetheart. Didn’t mind luggage in the car and always dropped a Grant on a routine trip or a Benjamin on holidays or bad weather. We only had formal limos in the day and loading and unloading her bags took forever. Then you hope your back doesn’t go out.

Now, let’s fast forward to present day society and the issues one must face. I have two school bus drivers Davis and Margaret who live across the alley from me. They are a married couple who both drive school buses for the same district and really enjoy the job. They get summers off. They clean up like fat rats at Christmas time and basically life is good. Davis tells me a fascinating story that happened not too long ago. He and his wife arrive for work and they both have post it notes on their lockers to see management. They are clueless but go to the office and are warmly welcomed. The manager explains he has a special charter that he would like them both to do. They would leave Saturday morning in a procession with several other buses and head to a town in the southern part of Texas.

They would be given a phone number to call when they hit a certain landmark, and a transportation coordinator would give them final specific pick up location and details. They would then load their buses with migrants and the entire turnaround would be 30 minutes. The manager also “suggested” that the Texas portion of the drive would equal around 35% of the route and they will not be bothered by anybody.

Davis was the first to start firing off questions. Why us? The manager explains that their union will not allow shared hotel rooms and the budget does not allow migrant housing. This bus company has 1200 drivers and by choosing roommates, couples, known friends etc.. They can eliminate hotel stopovers because one can sleep while one drives. I am not authorized to discuss driver pay but a major news source published that Texas was paying $1650.00 per person. This bus company’s fleet has a 72-person maximum capacity, but they would only take 50 people since they had no luggage bays. That brings the round trip to roughly $82,500.00. That is some serious scratch.

Davis was not impressed. I am not saying he owns a red hat. Truth is he owns 2 red hats. Margaret on the other hand was very quiet and just absorbing all this. Everyone likes an occasional windfall, but this was strangely personal to them on a lot of levels. After some thought and analysis, they issued a joint no to management.

I had my own similar situation many years ago when I first went on my own. At the time Metropolitan Limousine was the number one service in Chicago. They were simply above and beyond everything a limousine service should be. Luckily, I had a in with the company. The owners and I grew up in the same suburb and we both started with a legacy Chicago limousine service across the street from my junior high school. I had two simple goals to fuel my growth. Firstly, I wanted first right of refusal whenever they sold a car. Secondly, I wanted their farm out work exclusively. The farm out work was a tough sell. They did not farm out. They did not believe in the concept of it, and we used to go round and round as I tried to explain the benefits of such. I got somewhat lucky on their used cars. Some I kept some I re-sold.

As time went on one morning, I get a call out of the blue from the dispatch manager Genna. I knew of her but never actually met her. She begins “Mr. Ramis” I acknowledge yes how can I be of assistance. I need a 200pm order covered from Harpo Studios to Archer Heights. I was floored, my foot was in the door! I maintained my composure and said sure just a one-way drop. Yes, she replied and asked if I was ready to write. (remember this was the early 80’s) She explains I should be at the East Garage door of Harpo, security would be expecting me and I will pick up Mr.X and his security detail for a total of 4 people.

Something was amiss. I never heard of this guy, and he is on Oprah, has bodyguards and no disrespect to the fine people of Archer Heights but it is far from the high rent district. So, I ask Genna who he is. She replies, “The Imperial Wizard of the KKK”, I was stunned, completely shell shocked. Why I ask did she call me. Her answer was simple and direct. “All of my chauffeurs have refused this job.”

The gun was pointed at my head I had seconds to confirm or deny. I paused then said simply, I will be there. I completed the job and never looked back for one reason.

--

--