My nights as a valet

by Eric Ginsburg

Considering how briefly I worked as a valet, I certainly came away with a lot of stories. My first summer as a college student staying in Greensboro instead of returning home, I had no idea what I was going to do for work.

A classmate suggested I take over his valet job for the summer, and it wasn’t long before I was sitting in an interview, downplaying my lefty-sounding peace and conflictstudies classes and my allegiance to the Red Sox after learning my interviewer was a Yankees fan and National Guardsmen who would be deployed to Iraq soon.

My eagerness to work and attempts at coming across as middle-of-the-road succeeded, and I was told I’d hear from the boss man in three weeks to start the gig. Soon after, I got a call on a Friday afternoon telling me I started work the next day. NASCAR legend Richard Petty’s daughter was getting married on his estate, and we were going to park the cars in one of the horse pastures.

The call caught me by surprise — I was planning to learn to drive a stick shift before the three weeks was up, but summer had set in and the call came early. That night my roommate tried to teach me to drive stick in an empty parking lot, and after plenty of stalls I eventually decided I was as good as I could get in a night.

Lucky for me, there were a bunch of us working, and as the new guy it was relatively easy to hang in the wings — opening passenger doors for guests and picking automatic cars to park.

We rolled the driver’s window down and left the keys on the front seat, which proved to be a terrible idea when it rained suddenly and we had to run to every car and roll up the windows.

The property was gorgeous, and while we scored some free food and got to ride around on a golf cart, the guests must have assumed we had been taken care of, and almost nobody tipped us. At least at special events like this our base pay was around $8 instead of the usual $6.50, when tips meant everything.

Not every gig was as fun as the Petty wedding. Most nights involved sitting for hours on end downtown, hoping that someone going into the N Club or Natty Greene’s would hand us their keys, providing a brief break from staring at the clock on theLincoln FInancial Building and watching other people enjoy their evening.

The most exciting thing that happened on these nights — besides getting a big tip— was running a few blocks back to the booth after parking a car in one of our rented lots.

On one such night I was working the downtown stretch when my boss asked me to switch to Music City, a venue that used to be out by the airport.

Cars streamed in nonstop and we were charging $20 each after midnight. Even when the club let out it took forever for people to leave. In the mess we somehow brought up the wrong car — though the same make, model and color — for a patron who drove it home, realizing our mistake when she tried to unlock her home with the wrong key.

As I was pulling a car forward, I could see there was a scuffle happening right in front of our booth. Suddenly there was a quick “pop pop pop” of gunshots.

One co-worker was more in the line of site of the shooting and didn’t put his vehicle in park before getting out to hide behind it, and it slowly hit the car in front of him. Another coworker, standing directly behind someone we think was shot in the leg, was understandably shocked.

The shooter and the victim both fled, and it took the police forever to respond. We stood around waiting to get our tips before finally leaving making it home around 4 a.m.

The stories go on — like my one time stint as a party-bus driver, equipped with a stripper pole, or when I finally had to drive stick and stalled out immediately — but these are certainly the ones most deeply etched in my memory.

Even though I refused to work at Music City afterwards I still appreciate my experiences as a valet. As long as I don’t have to do it again and can keep telling the stories, it was worth it.