Following on from Week in the life of a chauffeur – Day 1, find out what the second day has in store for David, our professional chauffeur, as he navigates London in his Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We hope you enjoy the ride.
A Later Start
Today in theory is a later start. I need to be at London City airport by 07:00H. However, when I checked last night the roadworks on the main artery into London City Airport were still in full flow. So I need to allow an extra hour in case traffic has already built up. Unless you live east of City Airport (which I do not) this airport is always a challenge to get too. Again, this is a trade secret, there is a tiny little known backstreet behind the airport where parking is still reasonable. I head over there and find the last space.
Before leaving for the airport I spend 30 minutes thoroughly sanitising my car, and as always, pay special attention to areas in the car my Client from yesterday may have been in contact with. Once I am finally satisfied that the car is thoroughly cleaned I grab a new sterile mask and head off.
I arrive at my secret street just after 6am – an hour before my Client is due to arrive. I listen to the headlines and check my flight app and see the flight is scheduled to arrive slightly ahead of time. I find it more useful to use a specific airport flight app rather than a generic one covering all UK airports. So if i’m picking up at Heathrow I will use the Heathrow app and at London city airport I will use their app. I don’t want to be stuck in a queue getting into the car park, so I wait another 20 minutes, and then make the short 3 minute drive to airport parking.
Above and beyond duty
I park up, grab my iPad (which I also use as a name board) put my mask on, and walk over to the Arrivals Hall, with 15 minutes to spare before the flight lands.
As per protocol, I send an SMS to my Client advising them of my exact location in arrivals, and ask them whether they would like a tea or coffee.
I can see that the flight has landed and hear the familiar ring tone advising me that I have received an SMS. It is from my Client. She would love a green tea and a fruit salad, oh and then the bombshell; she tells me that she needed to bring all the Expo stand equipment with her, and could my car accommodate an additional 15 pieces of luggage as well as her own overnight case!?
I pride myself on being on available to help every Client, but I know that attempting to get 15 large pieces of luggage into my Mercedes-Benz S-Class, is never going to happen. From my experience, I have about 15 minutes before she will clear security, and so I call the office and relay the situation to Andy who is our Head Controller.
Today is my lucky day, or rather my Client’s lucky day. Another iChauffeur driver in a Mercedes V-Class, has just left LCA and is only 10 minutes away from the car park, and is now heading back to the airport to avert the luggage crisis.
Another tactic I deploy often, is rather than taking the Client to his/her hotel and then onto their meeting, I take the Client directly to their meeting and then head over to their hotel with their luggage and leave it with the concierge.
We managed to get right to the front at the arrivals hall, so that we could help the Client at the earliest opportunity, with what is clearly going to be a lot of luggage.
My Client is absolutely delighted that we have managed to organise transport for her luggage, and even more impressed that she will get to her first meeting with plenty of time to spare.
A new breed of lady chauffeurs
Today the V-Class colleague is one of the few lady chauffeurs I know in London. Having worked with her for many years, I know she is as capable as any of us in handling heavy and awkwardly shaped luggage, but that doesn’t stop my Client from looking slightly shocked that this elegant beautifully dressed lady I am with is actually a chauffeur.
She and I together quickly split up the luggage and arrange to meet in an hour at the hotel.
Safely ensconced in the comfort of the back seat of my car, my Client eats the fruit salad I purchased for her earlier. I have no objections to Clients eating in my car at all – we all need to eat, but even the slightest spillage of either her tea or fruit salad will make a terrible stain on the pristine cream leather seats.
The Gin and Tonic test
One thing my Father impressed upon me (and before you ask, yes he was a chauffeur also) was the ability to pass the gin and tonic test! My father said Clients should be able to sip a gin and tonic in the car whilst you are driving without causing any spillage. This means that literally my Clients should not be able to feel any sudden braking or acceleration, the journey has to be smooth from start to finish.
Generations of experience
Fortunately, my Father taught me well, and we arrive at the offices with breakfast eaten and the back seat of my car remains spotless. I park outside the offices and let the Client out directly onto the pavement. Again, a tiny detail, but I planned my route to ensure that when I arrived at the offices for the meeting, my Client would be able to exit the car directly onto the pavement (rather than run the risk of standing in the middle of a busy road opening the car door expecting my Client to negotiate her walk to the pavement whilst dodging cars and cabs).
I head over to the hotel in Shoreditch and meet up with a V-Class Chauffeur. She and I both manage to get a parking spot in the hotel courtyard, but are given strict instructions by the hotel’s Head concierge, that we can only stay in the bays for 15 minutes as a V.I.P is due to arrive.
Hotels, Concierge, Service
In this job we work a lot with hotels, and having a good relationship with all the concierges across the many 5 and 6* hotels in the capital is vital. The concierge know where the traffic cameras are hidden and the routines of police and traffic wardens around the hotel.
The role of a concierge is remarkably similar to that of a Chauffeur, the needs of our Clients are paramount. From securing a table at the newest most popular restaurant in town, to getting tickets for the finals at Roland Garros, no request is too much trouble. Being part of the iChauffeur family means I also have a great network of other chauffeurs and office personnel to go to. I remember last summer in early July a new Client decided on a Saturday morning that he and his wife wanted to see the Wimbledon’s Men’s tennis final the following day. I managed to organise this (in less than 3 hours) with the help of Andy and the team in HO.
By the time the luggage has been deposited with the concierge, it is already 10:00H, and I know my Client has requested a pickup in 3 hours to take her to her hotel.
I arrive at my gym in good time for my session which today will only be an hour.
A Chauffeur should eat well
I mentioned earlier about diet and the fact that this job can be very sedentary. I have seen chauffeurs start in the industry looking in pretty good shape, and after 5 years of being a chauffeur, they have gone up 3 suit sizes. I try to visit the gym at least 4 times a week, and the great thing about a career as a chauffeur, is that I can plan my days to include gym time and usually my gym time is when all the 9-5 people are in their offices , so I usually almost have the gym to myself.
There is nothing worse than being hungry in a remote business park waiting for a Client with nothing to eat. Usually in the morning, I take enough food for at least 2 meals, plus some healthy snacks. My job is quite sedentary and so I try to have healthy food in my car so I can avoid snacking on sugary foods.
Even if I am just doing a simple airport run, and will be away from my house for 2 hours, I still pack extra meals as I never know what is going to happen during the day (case in point from last night when I got home six and a half hours later than I originally envisaged).
Most of my fellow iChauffeur chauffeurs follow the same routine, and often if we are on a job with multiple cars, we all sit together outside tucking into our home-made meals and comparing notes. This does not work for everyone though, I know of a couple of chauffeurs who cannot resist the temptation of having food in their car, and have had their breakfast, lunch and supper by 11 am ….
The car wash
Workout completed, I drive back to collect my Client, and take her to her hotel. My next job is not until this evening and so I head home via my favourite car wash. It may sound a bit extreme having a favourite car wash. However I think that there are only 3 car wash locations across the whole of London I would use, and I can spot immediately if the car wash is going to be good.
The secret is in the bucket the car wash guys use. If the buckets in the car wash are just regular buckets, then that’s my sign to turn the car around sharpish, and find another car wash. The reason is quite simple, the car accumulates lots of tiny pieces of grit and stones which get washed off with sponges and cleaning cloths. If the buckets do not have a special grill to collect the grit, when the cloths are being rinsed, then all that happens is that the grit and grime gets retransferred back onto the car causing lots of minute scratches, just like skates on ice.
The guys in the car wash know me well and I chat with them whilst they do an amazing job of making my car sparkle and gleam. I have been coming to this car wash for over 10 years and so we are almost like family. I recommend this car wash to all my fellow iChauffeur chauffeurs, who are equally as meticulous about their cars, and over the years I must have sent over 20 chauffeurs to them. During this time of COVID -19 they wear disposable gloves and masks which they change before each client to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Bicester Village VIP
Now back at home I catch up with my administration and start planning for tomorrow. I have a Chinese couple who have booked an 8 hour ‘as directed’ hire via Bicester Village to include lunch. As an iChauffeur Client, the Chinese couple will be given free VIP passes to the Village, and it also means I get to park in the VIP parking which is the closest to the Village entrance. I know the area very well, and also know the managers of the best restaurants and afternoon tea spots in the are,a and so I can always get a table for my Clients no matter how busy the eatery is.
Having a VIP pass also means my Clients will get additional discounts as well as hands free shopping, a personal shopper and exclusive access to the Apartment, a super luxurious lounge area nestled in the heart of Bicester Village.
I book a table for 14:30H the following day for lunch and for my Clients, have a check on roadworks and any possible trouble spots for my journey tomorrow and then have a quick 40 winks.
I know many chauffeurs can sleep in their cars but it is not something I can do. My car is essentially my place of work and for me it just doesn’t feel right sleeping in the office. Tonight should not be too late, but I have had a couple of early starts this week, and so I grab the chance for an energising power nap.
Having showered and put on a fresh shirt, I grab some fruit, a new mask and jump into my car. My Clients this evening have booked dinner at a famous restaurant in Mayfair, and I already know that the area will be swarming with chauffeurs, as it is a beautiful evening, perfect for dining al fresco.
I ring the entry phone to the large impressive house and once the automatic gates open my car glides to their Georgian mansion. I feel like I am in deep countryside such is the size of the estate it is hard to imagine that Wimbledon Village is only a 10 minute walk away.
I stand by the car and escort my clients into the car and drive down the deep gravel drive and onto the main road.
One of the many qualities a chauffeur needs is absolute discretion and tact. As well as knowing when to talk and when to listen. All qualities of a great chauffeur, and although I can hear my Clients are unhappy about something, I obviously do not make any comments.
Once we arrive at the restaurant my Client advises me that his wife is not feeling great, but they had arranged to meet friends over from Europe for the evening, and so they were keen go ahead with the dinner.
My Client said that they would be at least 2 hours as they strolled under the dark green canopied entrance of the restaurant. Usually I would find a parking spot and stretch my legs for half an hour and maybe grab a decaf coffee, but tonight I decide to just stay as close to the restaurant as possible, in case my Client’s wife starts to feel any worse. The last thing they would want is to have to wait 15 minutes for me to get to my car and meet them if they wanted to go home immediately.
As if on cue I receive a call from the Client, his wife really does not feel up to dinner and so they would like to go home as soon as I can get to them. They were so relieved when I said I was still outside, and I helped them into the car, and we headed back towards Wimbledon.
I dropped them off just after 20:30H and then called the office to let them know in case any other work is available. Sadly, for me no-one needs a chauffeur tonight and so I set out on my drive home.
One of the many perks of the job is that I get to drive such a beautiful car. It really is an absolute joy to drive and a 3 hour journey can sometimes seem like an hour, especially when I have Clients that want to talk.
Once I have parked up in my drive I set about cleaning and sanitising my car. I had already done most of the planning for the next day, and so I do a final check on the relevant websites to see if there are any new traffic issues that could impact on my tour the following day, set my alarm, another day over.