First Person Singular: Limo driver Reggie Haskins

Reggie Haskins, 52, co-owner of Family First Transportation
Reggie Haskins, 52, co-owner of Family First Transportation (Benjamin C. Tankersley)
  Enlarge Photo    
Sunday, July 11, 2010

My wife and I started the company in 2006 with a maxed-out credit card, a rental car and a whole lot of prayer. I was diagnosed with cancer right before we opened, so all the money we'd saved was wiped out. I'd been driving for other companies and was starting to wonder why I was counting other people's money. I kept praying and asking: What's my next job? And the answer came back: I don't want you to have a job; I want you to create jobs.

People want a listener, not a talker. People love to be stroked, attended to. They find a safe receptacle in myself because I'm not in their circle. They don't necessarily want my advice or opinion; they just want to vent without circumstance. The toughest part is putting up with people with a sense of entitlement, who just see you as a laborer, beneath them. I once heard a girl say to her friend, while I was right there: "Eww, my driver tried to talk to me." It's a business. I need the money. My employees and their families need the paycheck. So I bite my tongue.

People rate themselves on how close they are to power in this town. Some of the people we drive are off-the-charts intelligent and important: senators, governors. I've never been in awe of anyone who's got in the car, because I don't put people on different levels, but I've learned a lot about the hold power has.

Driving has made me fall back in love with D.C. When you grow up here, you become jaded. You forget that people don't see the Washington Monument every day until you're in the car, coming across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge with a bunch of kids on a tour seeing it for the first time. I once drove two 80-year-old vets to the World War II memorial; they were the only two vets there that day. It was like a press conference for those two. Unforgettable. You see things new again. It's even relit the spark in our marriage -- being with newlyweds and seeing that fresh joy, it'll wake you up.

It's like everything I've done in my life was preparing me for this. As soon as I could drive, I knew almost every street, every shortcut in Washington. All those things in school that made me ask, "When am I ever going to use this again?" I'm using now. It's all part of this big road map someone else laid out. I'm just the driver.

Interview by Amanda Long

© 2010 The Washington Post Company