Monthly Archives: June 2011

American Express

Paula’s Aunt & Uncle with Michelle at the Kona Surf Hotel Bar

American Express Platinum Card

I wrote about Paula’s Aunt & Uncle coming to visit us in Hawaii in my last post. They actually came because her uncle was Paula’s Dad’s brother and they really came to see him. They finally stopped because they couldn’t stand Paula’s Mom. Her Uncle was some high executive that worked for a large national electrical company in England. He was tasked with selling large power generating plants to a lot of the Arab Countries in the middle east. He once told us that they have so much cheap gasoline there that when they fill up their autos they spill gallons on the ground and think nothing of it. So they were pretty well off and lived in a large apartment in London not far from Piccadilly Circus. Her Uncle liked to drink and that did not sit well with Paula’s Mom who preferred prescription drugs herself.
One time when they came (This was in 1979 that I wrote about on my blog yesterday) they brought their son and his wife and their daughter. I gave her Uncle a motorcycle ride because I knew that when her Uncle and her Dad were young men in Pakistan, they used to ride small motorcycles and he probably never rode anything like the “Pocket Rocket” that I had access to. This is that story: While we were in Hawaii a young guy named Rusty bought a new Yamaha 650– Very Fast bike, and he rented a room from us in 1979 — then he decided to go home to AZ where he was from. He had financed the bike at the Credit Union and when he left he just parked the bike at the Credit Union parking lot and took off. I took him to the airport so I knew about the bike being parked there with the keys in it. So when I came back from the airport I stopped by and picked up the bike and rode it home. Paula took me back to get my taxi and I rode that motorcycle almost a year until the tags had expired several months then I just parked it back at the Credit Union parking lot. Wheeee! He returned a couple of years later and I didn’t say anything to him about the bike but he probably would had a good laugh about it.

So from where my house was, I could go on to this highway that had 2 lanes going up this long straight hill (maybe a mile) and 1 lane coming down. I used to go full throttle thru the gears and top out at 160 mph at the top of the hill. Then just in case someone called the cops, right at the top of this hill there was a back road that went straight back to my house that I would take home. Well I took Paula’s Uncle up that hill and didn’t realize that I could have given him a heart attack. When we returned he was all smiles and told his son “Billy you’ve gotta get a ride on this” so I took him too but he didn’t like it at all –too scared.
 During this visit he said that he told his son Billy, who was just starting out in his career working at the nuclear power plant in Wales, that he had to get an American Express Card. Well I thought that was good advice and so I applied for an American Express Card and got the Green one. It was a personal card and I used it wisely. The Taxi business was doing great and they soon sent me an application for a Gold American Express Card. That was approved in short order and I was feeling pretty great about my credit worthiness. I also got the Green American Express Corporate Card for Paradise Taxi Company and the drivers could have their own card under our company name. That was quite a perk for some of them. With the American Express Card you don’t carry a balance, you paid in full what ever you put on the card the previous month. That’s the way it worked back then anyway. So for a few years I was happy as a pig in mud with my Gold American Express card. Until these 2 women came in from New York and started using our cabs a lot. They were staying at a Condo and some time later the one woman left and the other stayed because she had found a new boy toy in a local Hawaiian young man. One day she invited Paula and me to join them at the French Restaurant for dinner on her. We of course went. We had never been to the French Restaurant because we knew the prices were Sky High even for Hawaii. It was a small restaurant only about 8 tables and run by a married couple. He was the chef and she was the server. The meal wasn’t so extraordinary but it was Expensive– and she orders a $300 bottle of Champagne! Tasted like Champagne to me! When the $900 bill came she broke out her American Express Card to pay and even in that dim lighting I could see it wasn’t Gold, it was silver colored and I later learned it was called the Platinum Card. Well I wanted that one and I found out how to apply for it and I got it! Now you’re talking about a pig in fine imported mud!!! I used that card a lot until we moved back home to Arkansas  and really had no need for it any more– But I loved to see the faces of people when you broke it out on them!!

 

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Paradise Taxi Continued

Me and  My Rabbit Taxi “Yellow One”

Our “Rabbit Transit” business cards

 Paula and I both had Volkswagen “Rabbits” for our personal taxi’s.  Everywhere else in the world these are called “Golfs”  Paula’s aunt and uncle used to visit Hawaii about ever-other year and one time in 1979 they had moved from London and retired to Wales. Her uncle had bought a Golf and was praising it to High Heaven. He suggested that I get one for the Taxi business.  I found out that they produced them with diesel engines and  I was very interested in checking one out. Of course at that time In Hawaii the only Volkswagen dealership on the Big Island was in Hilo. So Paula and I headed off to Hilo after her aunt and uncle returned to Wales. We arrived at the dealership just in time to see this salesman drive up in his demo Rabbit that was yellow and had several Rabbit Decals on it. Paula liked it right away and so I told him we wanted to buy his demo Rabbit. He was shocked and said that there were several other Rabbits in stock that we could buy but he wasn’t going to sell his demo. I said okay and where can I find your boss, please? Needless to say I drove that demo back to Kona later that day. I was surprised that when I asked him where he got his Rabbit Shaped business cards he actually told me and called the company there in Hilo and told them that he was giving me permission to use that die to cut out the Rabbit shape at no charge. That Rabbit was one of the best investments I ever made. I put 325,000 miles on it on an island 3o mile wide and 60 miles long.  I could seat 4 people very comfortably and their luggage would fit in the huge hatch area. Once I took 6 Japanese guys and 2 just hopped into the rear hatch like they did it every day. I also took 6 Americans once and 4 people sat in the rear seat and two ladies rode up front with me. They lady who sat practicably on the gear shift had to lift one cheek for me to shift and they all just cracked up every shift. I only had one place where I just couldn’t go up this steep, steep driveway with four people and tons of luggage. Thankfully the front door to their condo was very close to the street and we managed those bags okay. After my great experiences with the 1979 VW Rabbit, I decided to purchase one for Paula to use as a Taxi.

Unfortunately by that time all the 1979 models were sold out and the new 1980 models were being made in the USA. The engine and transmission were still made in Germany and we never had any problems with those parts– everything else just fell apart! The roof leaked (they both had roll-back sunroofs) the headliner fell down, the upholstery wore out, the dash cracked and separated and it just rusted away. It did make money for a few years but the appearance was so bad that we had to replace it, and not with another USA built Rabbit either.

Sorry for my absence lately, I don’t have a good excuse but I hope that you will bear with me as I promise to do better. I also wish to remind you how lucky I was that Paula Was My Girl.

Paradise Taxi

 

The early stages of Paradise Taxi

Paula with her VW Rabbit Taxi, R2D2

 

Paula with her VW Rabbit Taxi, R2D2 at her Mom & Dad’s House

 

Paula in Hawaii

As you can see in the top black & white photo most of the people who joined Paradise Taxi in the beginning days were husband & wife owner-operator teams. I had this photo professionally taken to run in the local newspaper because I firmly believed in the power of advertising.

Paula enjoyed the fuel economy of her 1980 VW Rabbit taxi which got almost 50 miles per gallon consistently. She also liked the fact that it was fun to drive. She learned to drive in a stick shift car from her dad and always preferred them over an automatic transmission. I did a play on words with our two Rabbit Taxis. I called them “Rabbit Transit” instead of “Rapid Transit”. We enjoyed the freedom that being our own bosses gave us, but that came at a price too. The buck always stopped with us, and sometimes that was a pretty hard load to bear. So it is with most things in life, rewards & responsibilities. It was good that we enjoyed each other’s company because we were almost always together every day. I will never be able to express now much it meant to me that “Paula Was My Girl”