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After a successful 30 year career in the advertising business as an art director and a complete full life with my kids all grown up and gone. I awoke one morning, at the age of 58, with a headache and a sense of drowsiness. Thinking I must have had a lousy night of sleep I thrashed about in bed, napping off and on, then awaking with a painful awareness of a stiff neck and a feeling of being lethargic, I couldn't think straight.
By 10 that morning I knew something was not right and called my wife asking if she would come home at lunch time since I could not focus my mind on anything but sleep. As she walked into the room an hour later and asked how I was feeling, I had a brain seizure laying there in bed. I have no memory of what transpired over the next several months I was in a coma. It was 3 months later that I was to find out what had happened to me.
I awoke in a hospital room to find I had a serious illness called encephalitis. A virus had entered my body probably from a mosquito bite and had attacked my brain. After I awoke the nurses jokingly called me the Lazzeraz Man since 2 out of 3 patients with encephalitis die and the one of the three that does survive would most likely have sever brain damage, after being in an unconscious state for several months they had me pegged as a goner. I asked if they were running a pool at the nurses desk as to the date of my demise only to be told, yes, and that I was the winner. After a month of tests and examinations for signs of brain damage they started calling me the Miracle Man and placed me in a convalescent center for observation and therapy. They were totally amazed at my complete recovery without any serious ill effects. Three months later I was allowed to go home to rest and recoup. I had lost my job since the company I had worked for had been sold while I was in the Hospital.
Now at 58, I found I was too old to return to the advertising world and was directed by an old friend to take a less stressful job driving a black Lincoln Towncar for a limo service in town as a temporary fill in job. The company had the contract for transportation at the airport in West Palm Beach and there is where I started my new career as a transportation driver.
I first had to get a hack license and do some training while they checked out my driving and criminal record, but within days I was put in the holding line behind a string of black town cars and taxies in what is called the holding area at the airport. Now transportation drivers are a breed unto themselves, you surly have met a few in your life time and have discovered they are a diverse microcosm of our society. At first I felt out of place an outsider, thrown into a competitive atmosphere where dog eat dog prevails. I dug in isolated in my black cocoon ready for my first ride and my first encounter with a customer.
After a two hour wait I was finally dispatched to Delta for a ride and with great anticipation headed to the Delta end of the airport to pick up my first fare. There waiting for me was a man in a wheelchair. I swiftly pushed him to the car, helped him into the back seat, making sure his feet were in and clear as I closed the door. I next put his luggage in the trunk and proceeded to try and fold his wheelchair behind the car to place in the trunk. I was having trouble folding the chair and looked up at the passenger in case I was taking too much time only to see him pounding on the window yelling something at me. I went to the car door and inquired. "The chair!" he yelled "This is my first day sir and I have never folded a wheelchair in my life, I'm having a little difficulty." I blurted out . "It's not that, I think the chair belongs to Delta!" he said. I consider my self to be brighter than that, muttering to myself as I got in the car "This job has a learning curve?" The man then tapped me on the shoulder as I pulled away, recognizing my embarrassment he said "Young man If it had been one of those purple wheelchairs from Continental Airlines I don't have one of those." This became my first story and started me on a path towards a whole new writing career.
The man with a pearl of wisdom.
My second customer was an elderly man who asked if I was married. I told him my wife was amazing for not only dealing with my sickness but she had just gone through a tough emotional ordeal with me almost dying and shown more character than I had ever imagined or had given her credit for. The man laughed, and then said " I see you don't understand what women are like?" "What are woman like?" I inquired. Women? Women are like tea leaves, you don't know how strong they are until you throw them into hot water!"
I thought to myself now there is a real pearl of wisdom from the back seat and on my return to the airport started to write a column for our trade transportation magazine that I called "Pearls From The Back Seat."
The drivers at the airport were quick to pick up on my stories and came by my car to tell me their own peculiar stories after the first issue came out. Most of their stories you could not have printed but some were classic and I have included a few here, mixed in with mine.
I found the old time professional taxi drivers had wisdom and wit unlike any men I had ever encountered.
One old timer found out I was a rookie and came by to give me a few pointers. "Rule number one" he proclaimed "If a dame jumps in your cab, takes off her shoes and starts to tickle your ears with her toes, she ain't got the fair!". Another driver asked me while we waited endless hours for our next ride, if I really liked this new job. "Yes I think I'm going to love it." I said. " Well let me tell you why! You can work when you want, Go where you want and do and say what you want. And every other job you've had in life, you got fired for doing that. " There was some real wisdom in that statement.
I was blessed with the wonderful people from all over the country from all walks of life with only one thing in common, they shared a few minutes with me in my limo and made my new job the best experience I have ever had. I found it fulfilled a need deep within me I was not aware of, to help and serve others as we found our way to their destinations entertaining each other with stories, wisdom and tales from our lives. I became the Transportainer of Palm Beach.