Following on from A week in the life of a chauffeur – Day 5, find out how David used his years of experience and know how to remedy a situation with a VIP. Our professional chauffeur now faces a new challenge.
A labour of love
My first job starts at 18:00 today. I am collecting a famous French businessman from St Pancras. Mr Devereaux owns a Gin Distillery which he planning to visit and then dining with his biggest Client (the MD of a rather large hospitality group).
I had planned with the office to keep the day time free as I have some work to do on my car. It gets washed around 250 times a year, and even with the precautions I take (remember I am the chauffeur with a favourite car wash) Inevitably this does have an effect and leaves swirl marks (which, in all truth, may be imperceptible to the untrained eye) that never really go away. Though most people wouldn’t notice these tiny marks, our clients pay for and expect the best iChauffeur service, which means my car must be immaculate, always.
I will spend the day polishing my car with an automatic polisher. This is going to take me at least 4 hours.
My car looks amazing, but I can’t spend too long admiring my handy work and head indoors to prepare for my first (and only) job of the day. I also need to sanitise my car again, even though it is highly polished, it is just as important that my car is as sterile as possible, both inside and out.
Vive la difference
My Client is a regular into St Pancras and visits the UK at least twice a month. He is the CEO of a well known beverage company, and is pretty famous, and really values discretion and privacy. He has agreed for me to give him an alias for my blog so we agreed on the name Mr Devereaux! As with all my regular Clients, I know exactly where my Client wants to meet up with me.
The parking at St Pancras is situated at least six minutes walk from the Eurostar terminal, so clients prefer to meet me at the side entrance, rather than parking up, and be on the concourse with a name-board.
My Client is no different and I follow my tried and tested routine at St Pancras. First, I drive down the road at the side of the station which is closest to the Eurostar check in. I am looking for traffic wardens and TFL (Transport for London) officials who could issue me with a fine for parking illegally.
The coast is clear so I do a circuit around the station and park by the side door which gives me great visibility into the station. I am now on high alert, looking out for both my Client, and any officials.
My Client has already sent me a message advising me he is alighting the train, and he usually takes four minutes to get from the front of the train (Business Premier Class) through the concourse and customs before meeting me at the side door. The moment I get the SMS I am out of the car and standing by the passenger door ready to open it. Again, my route is planned so that when I park up I am on the correct side of the road, meaning my Client does not have to cross a road to get to me.
We glide off towards our first destination on the outskirts of Islington; the traffic is not too bad (on a Saturday evening the majority of traffic seems to be minicabs and black cabs). My Client connects automatically to the Wi-Fi in my car and starts to work, using my car as an extension of his office as usual.
Just like the three wise monkeys
I believe this is a major factor for many C Suite executives using iChauffeur – they need a degree of separation from their business and go to great lengths to ensure privacy is maintained – basically, whatever is discussed in the car, stays in the car. It is a prerequisite of iChauffeur that their chauffeurs sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement and my clients know they have complete autonomy in safety and privacy whilst in my car.
Although many large organisations have chauffeurs employed by the business, these chauffeurs mix with a cross-section of the business employees, and the risk of Chinese Whispers is just too great for some of our clients; especially when discussing company restructures / M&A activity and other sensitive operational matters.
When in Rome
We arrive at the distillery and my Client tells me he will be 30 minutes maximum. Fortunately, there is ample parking in the distillery, so I wait for him in his reserved space, closest to the entrance.
Our next stop is Otto’s, based on the Grays Inn Road. It really surprises me that, given the amazing array of different world class culinary experiences available in London, my Client always chooses to eat in a French restaurant.
I check to see the route to Otto’s is clear – no road closures or deviations – and I sit patiently waiting for my Client. For me, this is a rare opportunity not to be on super high alert – the distillery is a glass structure. My client’s office is on the second floor and I know that when I see him approach the staircase, I have at least two minutes before he’ll be exiting the building; ample time to be out of the car ready to open the passenger door!
*Otto’s has been reviewed as one of the best French restaurants in London by top food journalists and critics throughout the UK.
Lost and Found
True to his word, exactly 30 minutes later, my client emerges from the building. Soon we are headed towards Otto’s. My Client is hosting a formal dinner this evening and so wants to get there early to make sure the private room is perfectly prepared.
As I drive through the city I notice my Client becoming increasingly concerned and it transpires he has left his wallet in his office. As I said earlier our role is often to be seen and not heard, but we also need to be problem solvers and be able to think on our feet, and make our Clients’ lives as stress free as possible.
He tells me that he knows exactly where he left his wallet, on his desk, however the office building is locked and alarmed now and there is no one in the office. I ascertain that his PA lives nearby in Bermondsey.
I can see my Client processing my offer, and he excitedly agrees with me, and asks if I can manage the process as he needs to be in the restaurant. I know his PA, Celia very well, and I have her number in my mobile and so I advise him not to worry and that I will get his wallet to him before the meal is finished. “Good thinking David, I will let you sort this our directly with Celia” he says as he literally runs out of the car, anxious to get inside the restaurant.
I close the door after my Client and then grab my mobile and contact Celia, Mr Devereaux’s PA. Bear in mind it is a Saturday night and I have no idea where she is, but I do know I need to get the wallet back with my Client by the end of his meal, so I know I have a window of about 3 hours. Fingers crossed I call Celia, hoping she is in London and, importantly free to help her boss out. Celia answers almost immediately, she knows my number as I do quite a ot of work for her boss, and often she calls me directly to advise on any changes to the job in hand. I explain the situation to her and we agree that the best plan will be for me to meet her at the office, and rerieve the wallet and then head back to Ottos.
Usually I would pick Celia up from her flat, but given COVID-19 she and I agree that it is best if she does not get in the car, as I need to allow 45 mins to sanitise the car, prior to her getting in the vehicle, and then again once she leaves the car. Given tonight’s timings, I cannot take the risk that I will be late in dropping off the wallet, and so I point the S-Class in the direction of the distillery and drive.
Once I have arrived at the offices I put on a fresh mask and some disposable gloves. Celia hands over the wallet which I then sanitize, once I am happy the wallet is germ free, I dispose of my gloves and then set off back to Otto’s.
I chat with the maitre d at the restaurant and ask him to discreetly hand over the walet to Mr Devereaux.
Crisis averted, Mr Devereaux’s guests are none the wiser, and I spy my Client through the restaurant window handing over his credit card to the waiter, mission accomplished!
The rest of the evening is uneventful and at around 22:00 my Client appears from the restaurant ready to be taken to his Mayfair hotel. I drop him off just prior to 22:30 and then it is home time for me.
Once home I get all my various santisers and spays for car. The car’s interior is beautiful creme nappa leather and so harsh sanitisers can really damage the hide. Fortunately soap and warm water are perfect for removing germs and will not cause any damage.
My itinerary for tomorrow starts from the Goring hotel. I know the Head Concierge, George, very well and give him a call to request a reserved parking space for 08:40. I put a reminder on my mobile to pick up coffee and cakes for the concierge team enroute, complete my planning and head to bed.