A few weeks back, I was in Charlotte, NC after dropping a car off and was trying to plan my next move. My boss Riff called my cell phone to tell me that he had a car for me to pick up in Columbia, SC. "You'll get a Dodge Caravan and drive it to Ogden, Utah. Think you can handle that, precious?"
"Yes, Riff. Do I have to take the Greyhound to Columbia?" If I haven't mentioned it before, I really hate riding Greyhound. Lots of bad experiences.
"No, you delicate little marshmallow. Another one of my drivers is passing through Charlotte on his way to Savannah. He said he'd pick you up and give you a ride."
"That's great, thanks."
"Don't gush over it, jeez! His name is Andy, and he is a real man. You could learn a thing or two from him. I gave him your cell phone number, so he should be getting in touch with you soon. Don't mess this one up." Riff abruptly hung up.
Five minutes later, my cell phone rang again. "This is Bill."
The voice on the other end of the phone asked "Who is this?"
"Am I supposed to know you? Why are you calling me?"
"Is this Andy?"
"What? What did you call me? How in the hell did you know
my name. This is too weird."
"Riff told me that you were going to call me."
"Did I call you? What did you say your name was?"
"Tell me where you are so I can pick you up, I'm in a
damn hurry." So I gave him the address at the Cafe where
I was sitting, and he said he'd be there soon.
Ten minutes went by, and my cell phone rang again. "This is Bill."
"Who am I speaking to?" asked Andy.
"Andy, it's me, Bill. Are you here yet?"
"Where is here?"
"That's really odd, because I just parked in front of a
little Cafe. How did you know that?"
I grabbed my bag and walked outside. Andy was sitting in a
white cargo van, and I climbed in. My nasal passages were assaulted
by the stench of powerful B.O., and I could see that Andy and his
clothes were filthy. "Hi, I'm Bill Thomas." I reached out my hand
"Get in, get in, we gotta go." He was looking all around him
nervously. As soon as I closed the door, he stepped hard on the
gas and we were flying down the road. "What's your name?"
"Bill Thomas, nice to meet you."
"OK, OK, fair enough. I guess I can give you a ride down
to Columbia. But listen close, this is my van and it's my
rules. You step out of line, you say one thing I don't like, and
I will kick your ass right out on the side of the highway. Are
"Bet? Well, I gamble occasionally, but that is a personal
matter and I don't want to discuss it. You know what your
problem is, Bill?"
"You're a pussy. You probably let Riff push you around and
tell you what to do. Dammit, you gotta stand up to the man.
You need to go into his office, slam your fist down on the desk,
and tell him that he better give you all the best runs, or else."
"Or else what?"
"See there, you just made my point."
"I've never been to Riff's office."
"Liar! You are a damn liar. I hate liars."
"No, seriously. Never been to the office, never met
Riff. To me, he is just a voice on the phone."
"You know what, Bill? I think you are just stupid
enough that I can believe what you're saying is true.
Wait, what was that?" Andy's head jerked around as he
looked up and down, side to side for some unseen object.
"Did you hear that?"
"I don't think so."
"You need to be alert when you drive. That is why I
take pills all day long." Andy pulled a prescription bottle
out of his pocket and poured several pills into his mouth.
"Better than vitamins, and they will keep you going, and I
don't mean maybe. Do you follow me so far, Bill?"
"Let me ask you something... do you shower and change
"Yes, of course."
"I knew it! I could tell you were one of those kind of
people. Big mistake, you are losing money. Me, I wear the
same clothes for a week at a time, and shower once every
"Don't you doubt me and don't you judge! Damn you! I sleep,
eat and pee in the vehicle I'm driving, and it keeps me
moving down the road. Unlike you. You know what your other
"You don't demand what you want. You've got to go
into Riff's office and tell him to give you the best
runs. And then kick his dog right in the ribs."
"Riff has a dog in his office, but a dog doesn't
belong in an office, the dog should be at home in the
yard. What the hell, right? Wait, did you just see
that flash of blue?"
"Flash of --"
"Hey! I just realized something. If you demand that
you get all the best runs, you are taking work from me.
That's money out of my pocket. You are taking bread from
my table, and I won't put up with that. We are gonna have
a big problem if you're stealing work from me. How long has
this been going on? Do you love Neil Diamond as much as I do?"
Andy stopped talking and began to hum, quietly entering his
own little world. He didn't speak to me, or even seem to
notice me, until we passed the sign that said COLUMBIA CITY
"We're here," I said cheerfully.
Andy jumped in his seat, very surprised to see me. "Where did
you come from? Who are you?"
"Andy, it's me, Bill."
"Bill? Bill who? What are you up to?" Andy swerved over to
the shoulder of the highway and slammed on the brakes. If my
seat belt weren't fastened, I would have flown through the windshield.
"Get out of my van right now, you son of a bitch."
"Don't make me hurt you. I don't like hitchhikers, especially
not ones who get into your van without being invited. Now hit
the bricks, hippie."
I grabbed my bag and started to climb out, and Andy hit the gas
before both my feet were on the pavement. Now I had to make my
way on foot into the city and find a local bus to get me to my
destination. It had been an interesting ride.