The Misadventures of Johnny Driver: An Introduction
It was June of 2007. Summer school was cancelled that year, so John needed to find some work, and fast! Bills didn’t take summer vacations, so John had no choice but to get a job, something, anything, to bring some money into the house. Little did he know he’d end up with a most interesting job that’d last three-plus years, one that would offer him countless unforgettable experiences, mishaps and foibles amongst the well-to-do, a job that would give him a new moniker: Johnny Driver. During the time he worked as a delivery guy for Wellington Flowers, John had seen and experienced things in a world he’d never even imagined. The micro-culture that is the Hamptons in summertime is one that ordinary people know nothing about. Strangeness and oddity is what it all seemed to Johnny, who’d always been a working class man from the vast wilderness that lies somewhere between New York City and the East End. Johnny had experienced many things during his stint at Wellington’s: odd traffic and pedestrian patterns everywhere, peculiar society people, flower emergencies, brushes with celebrities, poodles, Chihuahuas and German shepherds, branch ladies, and snooty workers, but one of the strangest misadventures initiated Johnny into this odd world on his very first day. Although he’d had many jobs before, John was nervous that first Wednesday when he started working at Wellington Flowers. He’d never done anything like this before, and he certainly never worked in such an upscale atmosphere, where all the clients drove Range Rovers and the bouquets started at $75. James, business and life partner to Stewart Wellington, one of the Hamptons premiere floral designers, had told John to report at 10 a.m. that first morning. Wednesday was flower market day, so Stewart wouldn’t be till around noon, but Kona, Stewart’s third floral designer in three years of business, would be there to help him get started at the shop. Kona is an interesting mix of Shinnecock Indian and either English or Australian descent, John couldn’t tell which from her accent. She lived in an apartment above the shop. Eager to get started, John arrived fifteen minutes early. The shop was dark inside and the door was locked. There was no sign of any sort of life inside, so he waited….and waited…and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, around ten-thirty, he heard someone come bounding down the staircase outside the entrance to the shop. It was Kona. “Um, hi, I’m John, the new delivery guy.” Kona said nothing, giving John the once over as she fumbled through her purse for the keys to open the shop. Unlocking the door, and without a word, she flew around the shop turning on the lights as she went. John followed her in, not quite knowing how to react to her. He stood there uncomfortably as Kona flitted about, appearing to keep busy just so she could continue to ignore him. The phone rang. It was Stewart. Kona’s demeanor suddenly changed as she chatted with the boss, making jokes and talking nonsense. He asked about John. “Oh, yeah, he’s here,” she answered him, glancing over at the new driver for the first time since she’d walked into the store. “What shall I have him do till you get here?” There was a pause. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, well alright.” Finally, Kona addressed Johnny. It was about an hour after he’d arrived at the shop. Stewart was on his way back from the market and she needed to keep him busy. She spent almost five full minutes reciting a list of things for John to do: wash all the vases in the basement, sweep the floor, take all the empty boxes out to the garage, etc., etc., etc. All of it was fine with John, who simply wanted to get started. Besides, he was glad that he’d get to keep away from her for awhile, at least until Stewart got there. John and Kona worked in silence for at least another hour until Stewart arrived with the week’s flowers. The work was physical, but John didn’t mind it at all. First the van had to be unloaded with flowers and plant life of all kinds, some John had never seen before. That day he learned more than he ever thought there was to know about flowers. Next, the flowers had to be prepped for the upcoming orders that the socialites would need for their weekend parties in the Hamptons. Though cutting stems and putting them in buckets kept him busy, it wasn’t what John had expected. He had been wondering all day when he’d get to make some deliveries, and some tips. Finally, a little after midday the calls started coming in. Mrs. North was having a birthday party and needed a centerpiece for her dinner table, something ‘low and lush’. An ‘earthy’ gift bouquet was ordered for an anniversary. Another “thanks for the wonderful time this weekend” gift order was placed. Finally, John would get out there start making some real cash! Just as he had gotten the van loaded with his first round of deliveries and was ready to head out, the suddenly busy phone rang once more. It was Mrs. North. She was running late and wanted to know if the delivery driver would pick up the birthday cake she’d ordered at Tate’s Bake Shop and deliver it with the centerpiece. Stewart charged her $50 for the service, and John suddenly had an extra stop to make. The first round of deliveries had gone well, that is, until the North’s. Most of the houses in the Hamptons all have the same address marker, a little, round, white sign in the ground with a number (and sometimes a name, like’ Garden of Eden’ or ‘Tara’ or ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do!’), but there are a great many houses without any markings whatsoever, and the North house was one of these. John went up and down Meeting Horse Pike for what seemed like a million times, searching for number 109. He’d had an idea of which one it was, but it was a corner house and it was hard to tell which street the address belonged to. Finally, he decided to knock on the door, cake and flowers in hand. There was no doorbell, only a glass door. He put the bouquet down and knocked, but glass doesn’t really make much of a sound. No answer. He tried knocking on a window, but with the same result. Exasperated, he decided to walk around the corner of the property to where the backyard was. As he approached the driveway that was on the other street, he heard voices and some splashing from behind the tall bamboo hedges. “No wonder nobody answered, they’re out by the pool,” John concluded as he approached the gate. He walked up the gravel driveway, beside a six-foot fence, careful not to drop his precious cargo. There was no place to knock, so he got up on his tippy toes to peer over the fence. “Excuse me, is this 109…” “Ahhhh!” There was the sound of about fifteen little girls screaming. John had startled them. He immediately crouched down behind the fence, almost dropping the cake as he realized that the girls were all naked! “Um,” he called out again, this time in a nervous voice. “Is this 109 Meeting Horse Pike?” He was shocked by what he had seen and wasn’t sure what to do. “Don’t know, really,” a twenty-something, presumably the chaperone, answered in a cockney accent. “We’re just ére for the weekend visitin.” John read the name off the cake. “Is there a Gwendolyn who’s having a birthday?” “Oh, Gwennie! Yeah, this is the place.” She clapped her hands a couple of times. “Girls, cover up now!” She called John into the backyard, cake, flowers and all as some of the girls jumped into the pool and others covered themselves up with their towels. John kept his head down the whole time as he entered the backyard to put the delivery down on the closest table. “Thanks” he said and without waiting for acknowledgement, he got out of there as fast as his feet would take him. Five minutes later he was back at Wellington’s, flushed. “How’d it go?” Stewart asked. John told him and Kona the story as both of them smiled at each other knowingly. “He he,” Stewart laughed. “Oh that’s nothing Johnny Driver. Just wait! Did they give you a tip?” Johnny was tired. He hadn’t made one tip, which surprised him, but it was only the first day. “These people are weird!” shaking his head as he jumped into his car to head home. At least he got Stewart and Kona to laugh with his story of the prepubescent naked girls, and he earned himself a new nickname: Johnny Driver. He liked it. Maybe things will turn out alright after all. “Can’t wait till tomorrow,” he said aloud as he drove out of the parking lot.