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Limo driver David Zaccarine discusses prom, tells what he keeps in his cooler

David Zaccarine, 58, was born to drive a limousine, such is his engaging style. Born in Lackawanna, Zaccarine was raised in Cheektowaga and Elmira before heading to Southern California to live for a while. When he took his first job as a professional driver 20 years ago, he thought it would be a part-time gig. Today his profession is booming, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects 47,000 new drivers behind the wheel by 2022.

Zaccarine, a confirmed bachelor, has a longtime girlfriend. In his spare time he serves as an umpire in recreation leagues.

People Talk: Is limousine driving a competitive field?

David Zaccarine: Yes, and I’m surprised how hard it is for limo services to find drivers, whether they’re good at it or not. The hours get to you as you get older. You stay out till 6 in the morning, and the next day you want to do something with your girlfriend and it takes a while to recover. As time goes by, it takes a second day. Even on the days I’m off, I’m not really all there.

PT: Have you married?

DZ: No. No children. You wake up one day and say, “Wow, I guess that didn’t happen.” All of my brothers and sisters are married. I have nieces and nephews and I’m so blessed. I can’t imagine how much they love them because I know how much I love them.

PT: What’s most challenging about your job?

DZ: Matching my disposition to what kind of job it is, and handling vehicles. Most people think a driver picks people up, they party and then you take them home. But we have corporate accounts. You dress a different way. You act a different way. A prom is different. So is a wedding. It took me a while to figure out if people want to talk, you talk. If they don’t, you don’t.

PT: What about the vehicles?

DZ: Each vehicle is different in handling. How slow before the ramp; how quickly you go up into a parking lot; what the bumps are like. With the buses you have to keep your speed 10 miles lower because the signal will turn yellow before you’re through it and you’ll make your passengers uncomfortable. Stretch SUVs are difficult because you have no turning radius.

PT: Must you always keep a cooler by your side on the job?

DZ: Always. It’s one of the many things that make people laugh at the garage. I’ll walk in; they’ll go, “What are you doing, going camping?” I have a bag of supplies: cups, paper towels, trash liners – assorted things that the customer might need. When I drive the larger vehicles with bathrooms I always have a couple extra rolls of toilet paper, too. My GPS, obviously. My male purse.

PT: What is in there, if I may ask?

DZ: It would take an hour. My notebook, magazines, crossword puzzles, books. I’m a smoker so breath mints, chewing gum, corkscrew, stain remover, Advil, Aleve. Someone needed a safety pin once, so now I have a few of those.

PT: You must eat many of your meals on the road, yes?

DZ: I try and bring food that won’t slow me down. You know when you first start the job, you’d grab a burger or some pizza but that’s all carb-loaded and you have to stay awake. That’s why I always have produce and fruit. I have sandwiches but I always go easy on the bread.

PT: What’s your preferred gig?

DZ: Proms, wine tours. A lot of limo drivers hate proms, and I tell them they should quit if they can’t handle a prom. You do have to stay up late, but there’s a gap of time called a split job. So if you’re tired, take a little nap. I love being around the kids. I love talking to them. The music they listen to is what you need patience for. I can never match what I hear to the people who are listening to it.

PT: What kind of car do you drive?

DZ: A Ford Escort. I’ve never been a car guy. I never bought a new car.

PT: How do you keep order in the vehicle?

DZ: Maybe five or 10 times in 20 years I’ve had to raise my voice – for breaking the no smoking rule or getting dramatic with someone on the street, like the guy in the passenger seat of a muscle car who is talking smack to people walking on the street.

PT: What’s the biggest tip you’ve received?

DZ: $300.