It was the poet John Milton, not the linebacker LaVar Arrington, who famously remarked that "they also serve who only stand and wait." Of course, the all-pro English poet was no slouch as a lineman of sorts. But he never knew football, where waiting is rarely a virtue.
With the little-used Arrington finally throwing his big, agile body at running backs yesterday and personally rescuing No. 56 jerseys from remainder tables all over the city, you had to go outside the stadium to find the true wonders of wait. You had to track down guys like Thomas Mann, who journeys to almost every Redskins home game and always ends up about a hundred yards short of the stadium.
Mann is a professional chauffeur for Platinum Access Limousines, a small Stafford-based company. Not a driver, mind you, but a chauffeur. (Drivers drive taxis.)
A 65-year-old retired military man, Mann was the first chauffeur to arrive at FedEx Field yesterday, nosing his long faux '35 Rolls Royce Excalibur into the slot nearest the stadium at 10:15 a.m. By game time, about 50 other limousines were parked in the special limo lot, and Mann was settling in for at least a three-hour wait.
Limousine clients pay from $95 to $150 per hour, including the chauffeur's wait time. Depending on the length of the trip and the traffic, a Redskins game could cost between $700 and $1,000. The limousine companies say that many of their customers are companies using the luxury service as a way to reward high-performing employees. Others are season ticket holders who simply enjoy the limo experience.
"Every Sunday home game means $10,000 worth of business for us," said Richard Kane, whose International Limousine Service has been around since 1971.
As for limousine chauffeurs, they are "the most well-read individuals I know," Kane said.
Mann arrived at the stadium yesterday with two newspapers and four magazines. By the time Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell was driving the offense toward a first-possession touchdown, the veteran chauffeur was in the front seat flipping through Virginia Game & Fish, North American Hunter and a National Rifle Association magazine and poring over the articles in the latest Playboy.
Mann likes football well enough, but some of his fellow chauffeurs could care less about the game. "Gibbs? Who's Gibbs?" Randy Russelburg asked, only half-joking.
Russelburg, who left Virginia Beach at 7:30 a.m. with members and guests of a Virginia Beach law firm, spent game time reading, napping and -- since the autumn weather was absolutely perfect -- standing around in the parking lot with other chauffeurs.
"It's fun when drivers get together," he said. They traded stories about their clients, their tips and the horrors of Washington area traffic.
Russelburg was driving a white stretch Lincoln. With his shaved head, hefty physique and choice of attire -- black suit, maroon shirt, Tabasco tie -- the 40-year-old had the look of a Tony Soprano enforcer. But when he grinned, he looked too good-natured to enforce much of anything.
"I've had customers tell me, 'I'll give you an extra $50 if you'll look like a bodyguard,' " he said, laughing, which he does often. Russelburg is a Mason, and most of his reading yesterday was about the fraternal order.
Mann, the Stafford driver, had already gotten his tip for the day -- $350 from four executives of a Northern Virginia high-tech company. That's an exceptionally large gratuity; 5 percent is considered good.
"I got a thousand dollars one night my first week," said Rick Lafean, 38, a former truck driver who drove a gray stretch Hummer down from Baltimore yesterday for a company called All Stretched Out. "I was telling myself, 'I've found my calling!' "
That first week proved to be an exception, but Lafean still likes the work. And Redskins fans are pretty easy clients, unlike, say, bachelor-party revelers or prom-night teenagers, he said.
"Moon roofs," Russelburg said, and his fellow chauffeurs standing around the lot all laughed. Every customer seems to want to stand up and stick his head up through the moon roof.
"They all want to be king of the world," Mann said.
Like Mann and Lafean, a lot of limousine chauffeurs used to do something else for a living. Another Virginia Beach driver, Charlie Howe, 38, who wore a black double-breasted suit and dark glasses and resembled a Secret Service agent, is a former elementary school teacher.
Midway through the third quarter of yesterday's blowout, fans were beginning to stream out of the stadium, and Seika Rogers, one of at least two female chauffeurs in the lot, had folded up her laptop, started the engine on her white stretch limo and turned on the air conditioning. She had made some calls, done some paperwork and watched the Redskins rack up points on the flat-screen TV in the back seat.
The 28-year-old, a chauffeur for six years, was headed back to Richmond. It would probably be an easy trip -- not like Mann's experience a few weeks ago with a millionaire manic-depressive client who was off his medication and wanted to be driven around for nine hours straight.
But as Richmond chauffeur Don Robinson noted, you never know. "Did you ever have a guy get buck naked in your car?" he asked fellow chauffeur Dennis Drake. "There were three guys with him. They said, 'When he gets drunk, he does that.' "