Thursday, September 19, 2013

Driving Miss Daisy

My driver, let’s call him Sam… doesn’t drive Miss Daisy, he drives me… crazy.  And yet we can’t do without him. Sam doesn’t drink. Or smoke. He is a skillful driver and used to traffic gridlocks weaving in and out of heavy traffic without a scratch on the car. A good psychologist he knows when someone is overtaking him on the left and when pedestrians are about to cross the road. He doesn’t swear at rule breakers except to say  “Dai Somberi” a catchy phrase picked up from his employer. No litany of abuses thank heaven.
My husband and I having been driving for decades.. When we realized that driving through Chennai traffic requires uncanny skill, and nerves of steel, we decided to hire a full time driver. A painful decision for my husband  aman reluctant to share his well and maintained vehicle with anyone save  his wife..
Good at handling personnel, or rather my diminishing domestic staff, I was still perplexed as to  how I would handle this new entrant. I decided that Sam would be in my huband’s domain. “But I hired him just for you,” was his  remark, and I did have a sneaky feeling he was trying to pass the buck. I rushed to my library and scoured the shelves for self-help books to see if there was a chapter on “ How to Handle your New Driver.”   It was a futile exercise and putting on my sternest countenance I decided to meet the challenge head on.
The salary was fixed, though we both knew that we were overpaying. I told Sam that there was not much of driving, but he had to do all the odd jobs like the vegetable market and the groceries. And of course the bank, repair shops, collecting the laundry etc. Every month he would have to cobweb the place, clean the fans  and the lofts occasionally and garden help. Sam nodded his head very emphatically. I always look for chinks in the armour, and years of experience have taught me not to swallow the too-good-to-be-true situation.
Soon enough we found several chinks. Sam’s mobile is his lifeline, he receives more calls than we ever do. When we are ready to go home, we call his mobile and find it is “busy”. We have learnt to say a prayer and hope he will answer our call. Sam is a sneezy wizard. He sneezes if there is dust, he sneezes during every cleaning job we give him. He is allergic to the AC. You will never find him idling the time sitting in air conditioned comfort in the car, with the music in full blast. He will stay outside despite the sweltering heat, communicating with his buddies on the phone or outside.  When we travel long distance by car, he begs for spells of non AC, will lower the front window and stick his head out like a puppy. A  teatotaller he will never stop for cups of tea or coffee.
Sam is a pro when it comes to the Disappearing Act. He has this uncanny knack of scooting as soon as we reach our destination. He finds a friend everywhere he goes, and when he does, he leaves the mobile in the car. We stand outside and cool our heels, rave and rant about his inconsistencies till he spies us long distance, and runs like the wind to reach us.
Sam is clueless about punctuality. Getting a watch for him did not help. He leaves it at home. When we have an appointment in the morning, we cry ourselves hoarse on his reaching us in time and making calls to his home is useless as the mobile is never picked up.
Plus points? Plenty. He has the kind of social networking which will put Facebook to shame. Even in absentia  he will know where we went and how long we stayed. Recently we went  to the hospital to run tests and hired a call driver as Sam let us down. The moment he reported for work he said he knew how many hours we spent at the hospital and thatthe dadipayan(fat slob) we hired slept peacefully in the car with the aircon on, and  a lullaby from the sound system.
Anyone wanting a good driver and Sam will get one for you. Looking for domestic help? Someone will report for work, irrespective of whether they will stay on for a day  or a week. He will explore their background and give you the relevant details. He will never let anyone of us go unescorted to a shop, restaurant, or the market. He will offer his arm whether taken or not, when we have to negotiate over broken pavements, and steep steps without a hand rail. If anyone of us is sick, he will  press his chest to control his so called palpitations while his eyes would fill with tears.If there is a street fight or a small accident he will have no qualms of abandoning me to run  to the scene of crime, and participate actively..  I resolved to take a spare car key so I can drive off and leave Sam to his belligerent activities.
I cannot conclude without a small anecdote.. Every Thursday Sam drives my husband to the Gymkhana Club.. Originally Sam sulked at the late nights since the week could have other activities like plays, the occasional movie and weddings. Never mind the extra tip, he liked to be with his family. I  was surprised to see a gleam in his eye and an energized Sam take off with my husband every Thursday to MGC. As it happened one day my husband decided not to go. Thinking I would take his help for other chores I looked for him.
“Where’s Sam?”
“ Oh he’s gone to the Gymkhana Club,” said my husband, most matter-of-fact-ly.
“WHAT? Without you?”
Sam had taken a local train, visited the Club and returned after meeting his weekly buddies for a while. “They would be heartbroken if I didn’t turn up…” he explained.

A mini Club for drivers at MGC?  What fun!

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