What’s with all the limos?

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So, I’m driving down Bates Street when a long, white car pulls to a stop and blocks an intersection in front of me. This was a leviathan of a car, the length of two city blocks. A limo. And as it pulled to the curb, out jumped the back-seat passenger.

He was wearing shorts, sneakers and a baseball cap. A Red Sox cap, I think. The man somewhat sprinted from the limo and disappeared between two buildings, but I got a good look at him. It wasn’t David Ortiz or Curt Schilling, I’m pretty sure. I was particularly convinced of this when I spotted a cigarette butt dangling from the man’s lips. I mean, Schilling doesn’t smoke. He just bleeds a lot.

So, as I wheeled around the long, white car with the tinted windows, it occurred to me. Limos are not just for rock stars and prom dates these days. People employ them like cabs, riding with class to make beer runs. They order up a driver to take them to softball games. I imagine there are those who rent limos just to take them from club to club. Few pickup lines work more efficiently than: “So, you wanna go back to my place? My driver is right outside.”

With my curiosity about this new trend piqued, I decided to rent a limo myself and see what the allure was. But the newspaper wouldn’t pay for it and all my wealth is tied up in stock (hint to investors: think Play-Dough). So I jumped in my equally prestigious 1990 Stanza to drive around and think about this limo craze.

Back in the day, it was an event to see one of these behemoths rolling through downtown streets. Other drivers would stop and watch the big car go by, nudging their children in the back seat. “You see that, kids? If you stay in school and work real hard, you might someday get a job washing nice cars like that.”

And when a limo swept past, it was perfectly irresistible to try guessing who might be inside. A beautiful actress and her entourage? A visiting ambassador on his way to a high-powered meeting? Former Vice President Al Gore, come to pick up a downed electrical wire? The by-God president himself?

Me, I always just assume it’s Bruce Springsteen. It saves me from the guess work and makes for an easy howl of admiration. “Bruuuuuuuuuce! Hey, Bruuuuuuuce! Sing Born to Run!'”

But of course, no one ever answers those howls and the mystery of the limo remains hidden behind dark windows. You can only imagine who is back there, sipping champagne, conducting million-dollar deals or playing Gameboy.

My only experience in a limo was years ago when a buddy of mine got a job driving them from shop to shop as they were readied for the next assignments. That was his only job, driving them empty across town. But that didn’t stop him from telling girls in bars that he was a limo driver, and that because of the sensitive nature of the work, he really couldn’t discuss the various people he drove around.

So, one night this delusional buddy sneaked one of the limos out of the garage and invited us to take it for a spin. A bunch of us climbed into the back with our stash of beer (Schaefer’s was really cheap back then. It’s the one to have when you’re having more than one.)

Oh, the joys of rolling through the streets and teasing people from the back seat of this glorious rig. A friend of mine who looked quite a lot like Kurt Cameron (a former actor who hasn’t been seen since the late 1980s) would unroll the window just enough to display the top of his head and his eyebrows. This would send clusters of people into unrestrained screeching as they imagined they had glimpsed a megastar.

Me, I enjoyed the ride through town most of all. Because while my other vainglorious friends were taunting downtown people, I was stealing their Schaefer’s and playing with the window between the back seats and the driver.

OK. To recap, Schaefer’s is good and cheap. Ortiz and Schilling never come to Lewiston. And everyone except me is riding around in limos these days. Young ladies hail drivers to go shopping at the mall. Bottle collectors ride in style as they travel to stores to cash in their returnables. City leaders impress the hell out of visitors by giving them tours of Lewiston in the back of a long car.

“And if you’ll look out the right side of the car, you’ll see the tenement where we found and destroyed the very last crack rock in the city.”

So, ride away, rich people. Just know this: as long as you keep your windows up and those windows are dark, I’ll just take it for granted that you’re somebody else.

“Bruuuuuce! Sing Born in the USA!’ Bruuuuuuuuce! Come back here, you snob!”

Mark LaFlamme is the Sun Journal crime reporter. He suffers from limo envy.

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