Hannes Richter

The End of an Era

Hannes Richter
The End of an Era

Top photo: Mian Muhammad Quaiser Amin (left) with Ambassador Hans Peter Manz.
Austrian Press- and Information Service

 

Driving Ambassadors, Delegates, and Presidents for 38 Years

A Conversation with Mian Muhammad Qaiser Amin

You have worked for the Embassy for nearly four decades, how many ambassadors did you drive?
In 38 years, I have taken care of 8 ambassadors. I was hired as a chauffeur in March of 1977 and worked every day ever since. I am proud to say that I have not missed a single day of work.

You never stayed home sick?
Never. I always knew I was needed at work and did my best to arrive on time every single day.

Who was your first ambassador when you first started as a chauffeur?
My first ambassador was Dr. Karl Herbert Schober and since then seven followed. I met all the federal chancellors, all the special delegations from Austria and many more. I even met every president since Dr. Kirchschläger. The second president I met was Kurt Waldheim. He was in Washington as a professor for International Relations at Georgetown University after his tenure as Secretary General of the UN and before he went to Austria and became president. I drove him and his wife many times, even to their private home. His wife was very nice. She always gave me a tip and a drink. So I have good memories of them. And then of course Dr. Klestil who was ambassador here in Washington before he became president. I even visited him in Vienna in 2003.

Did he ever return to the embassy during his presidency?
Yes, he came to Washington once. But most of the time he went to New York for meetings. I was asked to be the protocol person for the condolence book at the Embassy designated to receive guests when Dr. Klestil died, because I knew many of his friends. So when I visited him in 2003, he bestowed a silver medal onto me and we had a nice tour around Vienna. The current president Dr. Fischer, was here twice. I followed him from the time when he became member of the parliament, speaker of the parliament until he was elected president. I still write him Christmas cards every year. So over the years I have met Presidents Kirchschläger, Waldheim, Klestil and Fischer and most of them even long before they became president.

And you not only drove the last eight ambassadors, but you have also known the new ambassador for some time already?
Yes, he has been here before and I’ve known him for a long time now. We heard he also gave you cocktail mixing lessons? Right, I think he was not happy with someone doing the job and asked me if I could help out. I had never mixed any cocktails, because I don’t drink. He said, “I will teach you whatever you need to know! They only thing you need is a Tuxedo.” So he took me to his home and treated me as if I was family. He taught me how to mix  cocktails and everything about the great Austrian wines. It was a great time.

Not only did you drive all the presidents and ambassadors but you also had the pleasure to drive all the different cars. Which one was your favorite?
My favorite car is the one that we have now, a Mercedes Benz R Class. It is better than all the others because it serves the purpose. An embassy needs a roomy car to pick up the people and make them feel comfortable.

Which car did you drive when you started your job?
Most of the time we had American cars and it started with a Lincoln Continental, then a Caprice Classic and after that a Lincoln Town Car. They have been great cars, but this one is my favorite.

What would be your dream car?
What I have now. I have a Chrysler 300 and that’s what I will keep for my retirement. You know, since I started this job I always had two cars. For one reason: whatever happened, I would never be late. This way I made sure I’m always available and on time. That’s the most important thing in my job: To be reliable.

You have not only met a lot of interesting people, but you have also witnessed a historical incident here in Washington D.C., i.e. the attempted assassination of President Reagan?
Yes, I was right in front of the Hotel when the assassination attempt on President Reagan happened. Every year the U.S. president hosts a breakfast and you can imagine that all the diplomats and congress members and senators are there. Usually they head to the Washington Hilton Hotel, which was where I was standing with my car when it happened. So I saw live what many people later saw on television. It was a horrifying moment and it definitely shaped American history.

Are there any other stories that you want to share with us?
I have served for almost 40 years and I could tell you many stories. Overall I really enjoyed working with the Austrian embassy because everyone treated me with respect and I put myself into my work. Once I said to a former Austrian colleague “I’m a better Austrian than you. Although you were born in Austria I’m a better patriot.” Austria feels like my third home. I was born and raised in Pakistan and I have been living in the U.S. for a long time. But I know more people in Austria from the government and in the public than I do in Pakistan or the U.S. Austria feels like home and everyone I worked with is part of my family.

Do you have any plans for your retirement?
I have worked for other people my whole life. I will take care of my wife and myself when I’m retired. We will certainly go and visit Pakistan, but we will continue to stay in the U.S. because we have two daughters and three grandchildren here. On the one hand, I’m happy to retire so I have time for myself and my family, but on the other hand I’m also sad because I will miss my Austrian family. Overall it has been a very good place for me to work. I have served only highly educated people and I became one of them. I am the senior local staff member of the embassy and I’m proud of that.

Photo: Austrian Press & Information Service in the United States