Limo driver helps make prom night memorable

June 09, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

As we near the end of the prom season, young people have memories that will last a lifetime. Some memories are more memorable than others. Such as those of Harold Gerber.

Harold, 18, is graduating from suburban Deerfield High. And as he saw it, "Prom is once in my life, and I really wanted to experience it."

So he decided to take some of the college money saved from after-school jobs and, with some friends, splurge on a limousine to take them to and from the Westin Hotel in downtown Chicago.

"Early in May, I called like 20 limo services. But they were all booked until I got this Amadeo guy.

"He said he had one available, a brand-new one. And he said that his service was noted in the Tribune, like in the top 10 or something.

"And he said the price for the night would be a total of $518."

At 6 o'clock on prom Saturday, the four couples met at Harold's home. After admiring their splendid gowns and spiffy tuxes, they waited for the arrival of their limo. And they waited. And waited.

"It was supposed to be there by 6:30 because the prom started at 7. When it didn't arrive, I called the limo office. He said he was having trouble finding a car for us.

"Then after another 15 minutes, he called and said he was going to subcontract someone to come get us. He said the guy's name was Claude and he'd be there shortly.

"Well, we finally got a call from Claude. He told us he was lost, and we gave him directions. It took him another 10 or 15 minutes, but he finally arrived. It was a limo, but it wasn't new. And Claude told us that we couldn't get in until he cleaned out the inside.

"So we waited while he did that. Then, when we got in, we weren't allowed to use the features it had. We wanted to open the sun-roof, but he said: 'Leave all the buttons alone.'

"It had two TV sets, but only one worked and it only got one channel.

"Claude was kind of a weird guy. He didn't even know how to get to the Edens Expressway, and he almost made some wrong turns until we got him going the right way.

"All the way downtown, he was driving like a real nut. He kept leaning on the horn and honking like crazy at people. And he rolled down his window and was screaming and swearing at people.

With Claude honking and yelling, they finally got to downtown Chicago and the prom.

"Claude wanted us to call Amadeo and clear up the arrangements. Amadeo finally had another car and he wanted to send it for us. But Claude didn't want to give up the job. So they were on the phone fighting over who got us.

"And even though Claude was kind of weird, we didn't want to switch cars because we had all our stuff in his limo. See, most of the kids at the prom were going to a hotel in Deerfield later and party and spend the night there.

"So we got that straightened out and made it to the prom in time to have something to eat and dance for a half-hour.

"Then we went to the Second City improv show, even though Claude had no idea where it was.

"After midnight, we were on our way back to Deerfield on Lake-Cook Road going through a construction zone and Claude was in a big hurry and I guess he cut someone off or something and a cop saw him.

"The next thing we knew, all these lights were flashing and we were pulled over. The cop told us we had to get out because Claude wasn't supposed to be driving. His license was suspended.

"So we had to unload our stuff and there we were in a Jewel parking lot on prom night and that's what I paid $518 for.

"We found a phone and one of the dates called her father and he came and took us to the hotel.

"I don't know what happened to Claude that night. But he called the next day and said he'd give me two hours of free driving any time I wanted it.

"But I'm not getting in a car with Claude again, so I told him I'd just like some of the money refunded."

Tony Amadeo, who owns the livery service, said the mixup resulted from being overworked. I told them I'd refund $50 and Claude would refund $100.

"But I don't even know Claude. I just have a beeper number for him. I never met the man.

And Harold said: "Well, I guess I won't forget my prom."

Thanks, Claude, whoever you are.

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