It was a day unlike any other, the day I drove a Rolls Royce! When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in a Rolls, do as aristocrats do. My moment of aristocracy had arrived.
In 1976 McDonald’s was giving away Flair Ink Pens with Egg McMuffin breakfasts. KFIV decided to make it Breakfast with a real Flair! We would chauffeur winners to McDonald’s in Rolls Royce limousines. Oh, the incongruity! Similar to “Brooklyn Yankees,” or “Roman Greeks,” the mind will not couple Silver Clouds to Styrofoam cups.
What’s more, the chauffeurs were tuxedoed disc jockeys A disc jockey driving a Rolls Royce is another mind rejecting thought. Also hard to believe was that we got the cars! An auto dealer owned a collection of these classics, and he loaned them to us! I mean would you give the keys to your Rolls to a disc jockey?
My Rolls --yes I was quickly becoming possessive-- was a white 1964 Silver Cloud, with an interior of blue leather seats, a teakwood instrument panel, and a right-side steering wheel.
I began stuck in the parking lot. Who knew that a Rolls Royce transmission will not shift into gear unless a button on the gear-shift lever is depressed? (Hmmm.... to drive a Rolls one must first be smarter than the Rolls.) I’m sensing trouble here. And what’s with this rear-view mirror? Rolls Royce uses convex mirrors which gives more complete viewing, but the mirror delivers the distortion of a fish-eye camera lens.
Let me destroy one myth: The clock is silent! For years, I was told the clock’s ticking was the only interior noise. That myth never made sense, anyway. Why install a loud clock in a quiet car? The only mechanical sound was the ticking of the turn signal indicator.
The era dictated the fashions, and I was the cat’s meow, decked out in a brown and apricot tuxedo. Don’t judge me! At eight a.m., I was off to chauffeur the first of my two families. I was pleased that my first winners were all in on this promotion. The dad and the two sons each wore suits, and the mother wore a floor-length gown! Dressed to the nines, they were making the most of their Breakfasts with a Flair!
The dad had a facial twitch, who knows why? It reminded me of a Don Knox routine about an over-stressed air traffic controller. I was a little nervous as it was and that blasted convex mirror zoomed an unobstructed, up front and way too personal view of this guy’s twitch. “Try not to think about it, ole boy,” I told myself, noticing I was starting to formulate thoughts with a British accent.
The passenger may have twitches but this auto was smooth. After delivering the winners the Rolls and I were off to our next adventure. Our next winners were waiting for the car and me. In fact, their entire block had assembled for “The Great Rolls Rendezvous.” The winner’s father was leaning against an elm tree, taking home movies as we approached. He motioned me to wave at the camera, which I did. I used the Royal Wave, as used by monarchs and at Rose Parades.
The neighbors---fathers in Saturday work clothes, mothers in house robes and children, many still in pajamas--- congregated around the Silver Cloud. After the spectators had studied the grill and examined the interior, the four honored guests and this overly proud chauffeur were on our way.
I drove the Rolls cautiously. On a quarter-mile stretch, you could have timed me, not with a clock, but with a calendar. The passengers enjoyed the ride. This was not a hotrod Lincoln. I figured to gun the engine would be an insult to its noble heritage.
The winners enjoyed a nice breakfast, got their Flair ink pens and were returned, regally, to their respective homes. I was the real winner! I got to drive a Rolls Royce! I got to play celebrity! Not only that, I was being paid extra! Reggie Jackson gets millions for hitting a baseball, and I got paid to drive a 1964 Silver Cloud through the streets of Modesto. Life isn’t fair; sometimes it’s lop-sided in your favor.
My mother liked to remind us kids that pride cometh before the fall, and here it came. As I sat majestically on the right-hand side and steered down the country road, tragedy struck! A terrible, grinding, clanking, gear-stripping noise bellowed from the rear of the car. This aristocrat of the roadway lurched, then shook, then shimmied like a dying fish gasping for air. Death was sudden. After less than a hundred more feet, the Rolls rolled no more.
I knew what I needed; HELP! A broken down Rolls Royce is one of life’s little levelers. So is walking down Albers Road in my brown and apricot tuxedo. I had to walk to a nearby farmhouse. The farmer heard my story, and all he could say was that common farmer phrase, “Well, if that don’t just beat all!”
Tragedy can turn to comedy if you add enough time. As I reflect on my day, I can’t help but smile. From the car, looking through the windshield, I viewed the most ultimate of dichotomies: in front of my Rolls, both a hood ornament, and a tow truck.