Chuck St. Martin and Ali Abdullahi
7th Street & 2nd Avenue South
Chuck St. Martin and Ali Abdullahi were having a slow day. "Not many tips," St. Martin said.
Abdullahi said the tips are good when the service is good - and it always is, and he's always busy.
That's a big statement, considering that Madeena Valet is open 24 hours a day, parking cars for guests at the Grand Hotel, 615 2nd Ave. S. St. Martin started the business three years ago, and Abdullahi has also worked there the entire time.
The valets work out of what looks like a double-wide phone booth plopped on the corner of 7th Street & 2nd Avenue South. It's got about enough room for two men, a space heater and a bunch of keys. (Monetary transactions happen inside the hotel, to reduce theft risk.)
The two men said they've seen some interesting things in the heart of the city. "Lots of accidents," St. Martin said - but none in which he's been involved.
Abdullahi said the same; he couldn't recall dinging any customer's car.
"Are you sure?" St. Martin asked him, with a knowing smile. "You sure you don't remember anything, nothing at all?"
St. Martin said another employee, dubbed the "Crash Test Dummy," was hit twice while parked at the corner in customers' cars, once by a delivery van, once by a city bus.
He doesn't work there anymore.
The valet booth has itself attracted some attention, the two men said. People have broken windows, peed inside, even thrown in a string of firecrackers. "And [they've] throw[n] up on the holidays," Abdullahi said.
And remember, the booth never closes.
Valets are often away, however, fetching cars from the ramp beneath the nearby US Bank building. Abdullahi's favorite automobile, he said, is the BMW 7 Series, with its push-button controls and shifting.
What's the worst car he's ever driven?
"Probably his own car," St. Martin interjects. "Me, too."