I was parked at the Beverly Hilton with a couple dozen other limos when the dispatcher signaled me to roll because my client was ready. I thought it a little strange that I was the only driver told to rev up.
But you don’t have time to think when you’re working a big event. You just make sure you follow the route and go wherever the signs or attendants at the hotel are pointing you. I swung up the ramp and pulled up at the curb, and the back door was opened, and a tall, slender guy got in.
I saw his eyes in the rearview, and he saw mine, and he said: “Who the f— are you?”
It was the President. He’d been speaking at a fund-raiser. I knew that. But who ever really expects to have a prayer like meeting Barack Obama answered.
I said, “People call me Stretch, Mr. President, and this is the proudest moment of my life.”
And I was about to tell him that he had inspired me to build the world’s most environmentally friendly stretch limousine here in Hollywood in tribute to him.
But before we could talk, the driver’s door got flung open. I was yanked out of the car and spread-eagled face down on the cement. A Secret Service agent was handcuffing me. Two others yanked my jacket off and patted me down. Five others held guns aimed at my head, while they called in a squadron of bomb-sniffing dogs to check out the hatband of my driver’s cap.
“Change we can believe in…change we can believe in,” I kept trying to tell the agents, but it was hard to make myself heard with a boot stomping down on my windpipe and with sirens going off and walkie talkies crackling.
“We’ve just foiled a plot to kidnap POTUS,” I heard one of the agents saying into his phone. “Possible Al Qaeda link.”
They dragged me to my feet and started yelling, “Where did you get the President’s car?”
“I built it, it’s mine,” I said. I explained about how my life’s dream was to drive around President Obama, and when my father told me I might lack the mental capacity to qualify for the Secret Service, I decided if I couldn’t drive around the President, at least I’d drive around his car. So I’d built an exact replica of The Beast, his regular Washington ride.
“I guess I did a pretty good job,” I said, “if I fooled you guys.”
“I’d say you did, too,” the President said. He’d gotten out of my limo and obviously concluded a lot more quickly than any of his security detail that they had signaled in the wrong “Beast” to pick him up.
“Let him go,” the President told the agents.
He took out a business card and a ballpoint pen and wrote a phone number on the back.
Then he handed it to me, saying, “Sorry about the mix-up,” and he disappeared back into the hotel.
Later that night, in the emergency room, I was getting my chin stitched up after having it split open at the Beverly Hilton. The doc asked if I wanted any Novocain.
I told the doc never mind. I’d worked like a dog in the hope of one day having the President sit down in my backseat. And no amount of pain involved in the effort was too great to bear.