ON THE WINGS OF SOBRIETY
By LINDA G. RASTELLI
What do you do if you’re out on the town and you realize you’ve had one too many?
You know you shouldn’t get behind the wheel. You could call a cab, but your car is sitting in a parking lot and you dont want to leave it there overnight. You could call a friend, if you’re willing to have one more ex-friend in the morning.
Four Rumson college students who call themselves “The Wingmen Driving Service” think they have the answer.
Their slogan: “We drive you and your car home.”
That none of the four is old enough to buy beer hasn’t been an obstacle to the growth of their business, they say.
Here’s how it works: If you’re anywhere within the Red Bank-Sea Bright-Atlantic Highlands triangle and need a ride, you call them (732-407-1115). Two Wingmen will appear. One of them drives you home in your car, while the other follows.
Cost: $20. No extra charge if you puke (hey, it’s your car, but at least try to get it out the window). If you need to travel a little bit outside the triangle, add $10. Going from one bar to another: $5 extra.
The Wingmen say no one should be above calling for help. “Drunk driving can easily be prevented,” says Wingman Norm Dannen, age 20. “It’s so unnecessary.”
Dannen and the other Wingmen Vincent Falcetano and Zach McCue, both 20, and Colin Keany, 19, all buddies from childhood spent days canvassing about 45 local bars and restaurants to hand out fliers promoting their services.
“Ninety percent of our feedback has been positive,” says Dannen, who attends Fordham University. Bar and restaurant owners “tell us it’s a service that’s needed, and say ‘we’ll spread the word.’ The bar may be blamed if people drive drunk. Also, restaurants don’t want people leaving their cars overnight in their lots.”
“We think it’s a great idea,” says Kevin Berry, manager of Ashes Cigar Club on Broad Street, who said one bartender has given out Wingmen’s cards to his clientele. He couldn’t say how many customers had actually used the service.
Falcetano says most of customers have been “upscale young professionals, 30s and above,” although one high-school boy did use their service in the first week.
One of their earliest customers vomited out the window of her car while he was driving, says Dannen. Another actually managed some sort of lap dance in his own backseat. A 40ish couple insisted on blasting Green Day on the way home in their Jaguar from McCloone’s in Sea Bright.
A 20-year-old communications student at the University of Scranton, Falcetano came up with the idea after driving for a local cab company last summer.
“I realized how much potential a driving company would have in this area,” he says.
He borrowed an idea he saw on VH1 about a similar service in London called ScooterMan, though that one is based on two-wheelers. “It’s exactly like us we just don’t have scooters,” he says.
Making a little spending money for the summer was all the foursome really expected, says Falcetano, who has a serious, businesslike demeanor. None of the Wingmen aspire to be captains of industry, Falcetano and Dannen told redbankgreen.
But now he’s enlisted his father, an attorney, to incorporate the business, trademark the logo and the name, and to investigate insurance coverage.
“We’ll probably wind down in the winter,” Falcetano says. “One of our guys [Keany] goes to Brookdale. We’ll probably just come back and open up on holidays, when people are out.”
Word-of-mouth seems to be working for the fledgling Wingmen. “We’re getting calls from Belmar that’s too far away,” says Dannen. “We had to turn that down.”
“We haven’t been flooded with calls, but that’s okay, because the word’s getting out,” he adds. “We’ve been at the right time, at the right place, so far.”
Think you might need this service at some point? Tattoo this onto yourself somewhere: