My new job is awesome. And when I say “awesome,” I am understating matters. For a couple of weeks now I’ve been driving a carriage in downtown Salt Lake City, and I’m having a singularly good time. Sure, I make basically nothing, I work on commission and tips (neither of which are currently abundant), and it is part of my job description to shovel manure and clean up horse pee, but when you’re a horse person, you actually list that sort of thing on the “pro” side of your list instead of the “con” side. Plus, you can’t beat the company, and by that I mean both the four-legged and the two-legged kind. The horses are great and the people are… well, you have to be a certain sort of person to be happy about all of the things I’ve just mentioned, which means they are truly My People.
The best thing about it, though, is seeing the city from another angle. I grew up in Salt Lake and though I’m familiar with many of the sights and attractions of the area, I can’t claim to have ever known the downtown area at all. I’d come down occasionally for the mall (which isn’t there anymore), but I’d never have dreamed of being on the streets down there at one o’clock in the morning. That sort of thing is generally reserved for people who have a social life.
Since I started driving carriages though, I’ve been having a Salt Lake renaissance. (That’s a Sports Night reference, by the way. If you haven’t seen Sports Night, I feel sad for you. Please acquire it and enrich your life.) There’s so much going on downtown and so much to do that I hardly know where to begin. (I can’t really begin anyway, since as I mentioned I don’t really make much money, which means I have no money, which means I can’t actually patronize any of those fabulous restaurants I keep seeing.) And the city at night — which is mostly the state I see it in, since it gets dark pretty early now — is gorgeous. I really just enjoy everything about it. I enjoy meeting random people and taking them on carriage rides, sharing what I know about the various sights on our tours and the stories behind them. I enjoy watching the light shine through the yellow fall leaves outside of Temple Square and seeing the colors change in Memory Grove and watching the lights come on in the beautiful buildings downtown as night falls. I enjoy the fact that I’m not sitting behind a computer for a living, even if my brilliant alternative involves standing around outdoors freezing my bits off.
And sure, I don’t get to see much of that because mostly I stand around asking passersby if they’d like to take a carriage ride tonight, and mostly they say no, so my evenings are generally spent standing around dying of boredom, but maybe that’s part of why I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. Being a carriage driver gives you a fascinating glimpse into other people’s lives, like the guy who proposed to his girlfriend on my first-ever ride as a trainee, or the drunk guy who I spotted tonight pissing outside the entrance of an upscale restaurant in full view of dozens of passengers on the light rail train, not to mention everybody else on the street. It’s a seriously diverse slice of life out there.
And sometimes, the unrelenting boredom is relieved temporarily by a good old-fashioned dash of drama. My fellow drivers have some completely insane stories, and while I’ve not been on the job long enough to have collected any interesting ones of my own yet, I did get to experience some soap opera-worthy drama second-hand by radio tonight.
Another of our drivers had gone to pick up a bride and groom from a reception hall and ferry them to their hotel. This is a pretty common sort of job for us and from what I’ve heard it usually goes pretty smoothly; the biggest problem is usually the bride and groom being late for their appointed pick-up time because they’re trying to escape from all of their relatives at the reception. This ride seemed to start out just fine; the driver radioed in to let the barn know that he’d picked up the bride and groom and was enroute to the hotel. Awhile later, he came on the radio again. It took a bit of back and forth before any of us really understood exactly what he was saying and what on earth was going on.
The bride and groom had both rather abruptly exited the carriage, and they weren’t anywhere near the hotel yet. She’d gone off in one direction, he’d gone off in another, and the carriage driver was sitting at the side of the road, absolutely bewildered and wondering what he should do. Apparently the couple had been bickering since the first moment, had already exited the carriage once and come back again, started fighting again, exchanged blows (she slapped him; he slapped her back), and finally both just jumped out of the carriage and left. (One or both parties were drunk; I’m not real clear on the particulars.) Another of our drivers was on the case before we knew it, tracking down the bride and making sure she was alright, hanging around to make sure she was safe until a car arrived to pick her up. Nobody knew where the groom had gone. It was like Days of Our Lives live and in person. Just hearing it all unfold over the radio was a truly marvelous and mind-boggling experience.
Carriage drivers see a lot of different relationships from our seat on the box. We’re often around for the big moments and celebrations — the proposal, the wedding, the anniversary, the birthday, whatever. Sometimes when a guy proposes, the girl says yes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes the bride and groom enjoy the best night of their lives. Sometimes they don’t. Hopefully, somewhere out there, this particular pair are patching things up right now, if it is right that they should do so. I hate to see a good honeymoon suite go to waste.