Following on from Week in the life of a chauffeur – Day 4, find out what David our professional chauffeur encountered, as he navigates in some sensitive waters.
Playing it safe
My pick up this morning is at 8:00H but the little boy and his family live about 150 miles away from the Harley Street Hospital. So I have to leave in the next hour so I can be sure I arrive at their home in good time.
I know that I did a thorough clean of the car last night, but as I mentioned this little boy is shielding, and I grab all my sanitising products and spend the next 30 minutes thoroughly cleaning the car. Focussing on any part of the car that my previous Clients may have had contact with.
Satisfied that the car is safe, I manage to grab some coffee, my packed meals for the day, extra masks and sanitising wipes and head off west towards the M40.
Usually I would stay overnight in an Airbnb close to where my Clients live. This means that I would be able to work longer through the day should I need to and still be fine to drive. However, my Client is shielding, and I feel that it is safer that I stay at my place the night before. When Andy, our Head of Ops and I discussed the job we both felt that this was the best option, and we agreed that I would not take on any late night jobs today given my very early start.
M6 toll road
As you probably know by now I absolutely love my job, I get to travel, meet new people and no two days are the same. I also simply love driving. What I really don’t like is heavy motorway traffic, being stuck bumper to bumper on the M25, is no-one’s idea of a great time. That’s why I am such a big fan of the M6 toll motorway. For less than the cost of a couple of cappuccinos I can travel almost 30 miles and avoid the roadworks and traffic jams. I have long given up on the idea of driving on the non toll alternative route, every time I tried this I added at least an extra 45 minutes to my journey.
I arrive at the Scott family residence 30 minutes ahead of the pick up time and send a quick text to say I am outside and ready. Mrs Scott thoughtfully comes outside and offers me a refill for my now empty coffee mug which I gratefully accept. Often I am invited inside but my rule is always to keep some distance between myself and our Clients, and especially now with COVID. It is safer for me and my Clients if I do not go inside their homes.
Mum and Simon (her son) appear 20 minutes later – I open the doors for them and check that they have their seat belts on and then head down to London.
Experience and going the extra mile
I drop mum and son outside the main entrance for their appointment and manage to find a parking space that gives me a clear view of the front entrance. This is great as it means I can simply wait in my car and as usual be ready to open the doors as soon as I catch sight of them leaving the building.
I settle in to listen to the news, as I know I have at least an hour before they will come out. About 30 minutes into my wait I get a call from Mr Scott who tells me of a big surprise they have arranged for Simon and he wants to know if I can help out.
As you know Simon had been very ill, but fortunately the pioneering treatment he received means that today’s visit for scans to check that his tumours have not reappeared. Simon’s parents have arranged for Simon to meet up (outside of course) with his hero, a VERY famous football manager (who will remain anonymous to protect his privacy). The football manager’s PA has just confirmed that her boss will be waiting at a hotel about 20 miles away from the Scott’s home at 16:30 this afternoon.
To be honest it could be 100 miles away, and it would still be no problem. Our mission is to provide the best service for our Clients, and if it means a detour to make Simon’s day, it is the least we can do .
I call the office and speak with Alex who is managing the office that day. He and I agree that it will still be safe for me to drive home despite my early start so I work out my new route to the Scott residence via a rather smart hotel in the north west.
Mum and Simon appear from the red bricked building ‘s rather elegant entrance – to be honest the clinic looks more like a 6* hotel than a clinic, with its uniformed doorman replete, with top hat and valet uniform and red carpet entrance!
I jump out of my car and open the back door ready for my Clients.
Mrs Scott asks me in a rather conspiratorial way whether I know about the detour we need to make to pick up ‘groceries’. I smile to myself, and catch her eye in my rear view mirror, and reply affirmatively, giving her a knowing wink to let her know I am in on the surprise.
Traffic is quite heavy, Londoners are getting back to work after the lockdown and so I use a few cheeky shortcuts to enable us to get out of town and to the motorway.
Simon, his mother and I chat about the visit which went well and then we turn to the next subject which for Simon is always football. He talks excitedly about the premier league going back, we discuss the merits of key players and managers, and inevitably the name of the manager we are meeting later comes up. He and I discuss how amazing the man is and what a great footballing mind he has (although I am more of a rugby man, I still like to follow the Premiership) and soon we are back on my favourite motorway, the M6 toll.
A Hero’s welcome
At around 16:20 we arrive at the hotel. I have been given instructions to drive to the Orangerie so that Simon can meet his hero outside on the terrace there.
As I turn the corner of the drive and head to the designated location I can see balloons and banners displayed and there is Simon’s hero, complete with a couple of top England players ready to meet with him.
Most children I think would be overwhelmed, but not Simon. This little boy who has been through so much literally jumps out of the car when I open the door for him and rushes to meet his hero.
With social distancing, Simon can’t have a hug or even shake hands with his hero, but that does not seem to alter anyone’s mood.
At times like this the role of a chauffeur is to be seen but not heard, and I hang back and watch the excited boy chat animatedly with the football trio, with his parents standing close by.
I discreetly take some photographs, managing to get everyone in shot and send them to the office so that Alex can forward them onto Mr and Mrs Scott. Even though everyone is wearing masks it is clear to see who the famous footballers and manager are – great playground bragging rights for Simon!
At around 17:30H it is time to head back so I open the doors for Simon and mum, and we set off to their home.
It is not everyday a little boy gets to meet his hero, and what I was most surprised about is that the football manager and the 2 players did not want any publicity, they did this because they heard about Simon and wanted to make him feel like a hero for bravely going through the treatments for his illness.
I pull up to the Scott’s house and open the passenger doors for the last time today and Simon and mum go inside (armed with a signed England shirt and various mugs and even a set of England pyjamas in Simon’s size).
What an amazing day for Simon and his family and what a privilege for me to be involved in their surprise.
It has been a long day, and I realise once again I have forgotten to eat so I head to one of my favourite service stations (on the M6 toll motorway of course) and park up. I give the office a quick call and speak to Alex about the day. Alex is a big football fan and is a passionate supporter of Man U and so he is really jealous of my day.
Lunch finished (or should I say supper) I leave the service station and drive home. It’s past 21:00H when I get back, but I still need to fully sanitise my car ready for tomorrow.
45 minutes later, my car perfectly clean and shining I finally go inside.
Another long day behind me, I start the preparation for tomorrow, looking at my journeys, checking the itineraries to make sure that I know exactly where I need to be before finally making it to bed just before midnight.