By BILL SHEA
Driving short distances and doing a lot of walking make for a typical day on the job for Clyde Bartel.
The short drives he makes are between entrances at Trinity Regional Medical Center and the Fort Dodge hospital's parking lots. All the walking he does - up to seven miles in an eight-hour shift - also happens between those points.
The Gowrie man is one of the valets who provide a free parking service for patients and others going to and from the hospital.
The main goal, Bartel said, is to safely get people in and out of the building.
When a driver who wants to use the valet service arrives, Bartel gives them a card with a number on it. He then places a large plastic-covered sheet bearing that same number on the vehicle's dashboard. After getting the keys, he drives the vehicle to a parking lot.
When the driver is ready to leave, they present the card to Bartel, who walks out to the parking lot, retrieves the vehicle and drives it to the entrance.
''You have a lot of good interaction with people and it's a lot of good exercise,'' he said.
He said he enjoys providing a service to people who are sick, scared or worried about the health of a loved one.
''It's been real rewarding,'' he said. ''A lot of them will give you a big smile even though you know they aren't feeling well.''
He said he also likes the camaraderie that exists between the 11 valets at the hospital.
''I really work with excellent people,'' he said.
Bartel began working as a valet in June 2010. He started not long after retiring from a 34-year career with the Iowa Department of Transportation and moving to Gowrie.
It's a part-time job in which he works five days in a given two-week period.
His training came from more experienced valets, who showed him the ins and outs of the job during his first weeks. Among other things, he was instructed not to park motorcycles or vehicles that have dogs in them because of concern that the animals may not like having a stranger in the car with them.
Bartel works eight hour shifts. He rotates between three entrances: the main one facing Kenyon Road, the Physicians Office Building West and one on the northeast side of the building by the emergency room.
He said the valets move about 50 vehicles a day at the main entrance and about 25 a day at the other two.
In the course of a year, he said, they move about 5,000 vehicles.
He's noticed that the valets are busiest on Tuesdays, Wednedays and Thursdays between about 9 a.m and 2 p.m. He figures a lot of people must schedule doctor's appointments during those days and hours.
A Jaguar is about the most exotic car he's parked, Bartel said.
Going outside in all kinds of weather is part of the daily valet routine. Bartel said dressing in layers is essential during the winter. He added that the hospital's maintenance crews make the valets' job easier in the winter because they do a good job of removing snow and ice.