About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Shortly after I returned from my trip with Miss Jenkins car, I got busy shuttling cars around Florida. In two days time, I drove from Clearwater to Ft. Lauderdale to Miami to Jacksonville to Orlando to Boca Raton to Orlando to Ft. Myers. That covers a lot of ground, and frankly I was tired and needed a little break.

When I was on the Internet mapping out the last day of my journey, I went to a website to see what movies were playing. I thought I might stop along the way and relax by doing my favorite leisure activity, staring at a good flick on the silver screen. I found a movie that I had been dying to see, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, showing at an obscure little second run theatre in Sarasota, FL. I was surprised at the venue, because this was an art house film, and second run theatres usually just play mainstream movies.

As I was driving from Orlando to Ft. Myers, I had an issue with my cell phone. I called my provider, and they said that I could go to a local authorized Sprint store and they would fix me up. They gave me simple directions to a store in Sarasota, though it was pretty far from the theatre.

I went to the Sprint store, and after I finished my business I asked the saleslady if she could give me the most direct path to get to the theatre. A spunky elder gentleman chimed in, "May I interject here? I know the way and would be happy to tell this young man, if you don't mind." The saleslady was happy for his help, and admitted that she didn't know her way around the city too well. The man looked at me. "How 'bout it, big boy? You want my help?"

"Well, sure, that'd be great."

"It's gonna cost you."

"What's the charge?"

"You have to hear one of my jokes. Is that a deal?"

"Um, yeah, sure, I guess so."

"OK, now you'll go down this road to the first light. It's Bee Ridge Rd. You're gonna want to call it Bees Ridge, but it's actually Bee Ridge, no plural Bee."


"Turn right, and go three lights. You'll want to turn right there, but instead you turn left. You follow me?"

"So far."

"OK, OK, now you'll go down that road about, oh, I don't know, maybe 3 miles, and you turn right when you get to 17th. You hear that? 17th."

"Yes, sir."

"You will go to the second light and stop. You'll want to make a turn there, but you won't, you keep on going straight to the third light, and turn left. That road will take you to the theatre. You hear what I'm saying?"

"I sure do."

"Now let me ask you, do you drive like a complete maniac like I do, or do you drive like a little blue haired lady? Or do you drive like a little blue haired lady who's a maniac?" He wheezed with laughter.

"Somewhere in the middle."

"Gotcha. Then the trip will take you conservatively 20 minutes. Are you a conservative, son? Who did you vote for in the last election?"

I try to avoid political discussions, and I edged away slowly. "Thanks so much for your help."

"Wait, now, wait. You haven't paid for my directions. You have to hear a joke. Want to hear a dirty joke?"

I looked around the Sprint store. "Sure, I guess so."

"Horse fell in the mud. Get it? The horse was clean, but then he fell into the mud, that makes him dirty. It's a dirty joke. Get it?" He chuckled.

"Got it."

"OK, OK, one more, just one more. Guy goes to see his Doctor, the Doc says, 'Well, I have good news and bad news.' The Guy says, 'Doc, give me the good news first.'
Doc says 'All right, you've got 24 hours to live.' The Guy looked shocked and said 'Oh my God, what's the bad news?' Doc says, 'I've been trying to reach you since yesterday.' Get it?" The old man began wheezing with laughter again.


"You get it? The guy is dying, and he's maybe got minutes to live, maybe seconds. Oh, that's a good one. That's rich." The wheezing turned into a hacking cough.

"Thanks so much for the directions," I said as I moved quickly for the door. Everywhere I go, even when I'm taking a little time for relaxation, they always find me. I have to admit, it keeps life interesting.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I drove south headed for Florida, my head full of thoughts of JC. Missing her terribly from the time I said goodbye at the Albany Amtrak station, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Nope, I told myself as I wiped them away, I will not allow myself to get emotional. I had a great time with JC, and I will again before you know it. Time to move on to the next adventure.

So I set my sights on getting down to Greensboro, NC, where my close friend Lisa lives. Lisa is like a sister to me, she adores me and loves to look out after me. She also enjoys reading what I write, and wants to be the first to see it. I always make a point of accommodating her, feeling flattered that she is such a fan of my work. Lisa is also a great cook, so I knew there would be some good food waiting for me when I got there that night.

My drive from Albany to Greensboro was fairly uneventful. It rained most of the day, and that caused a lot of unwelcome traffic congestion in the frequent construction zones I ran into. And there were more jerks on the road than usual, weaving in and out and cutting in front of you to the point of nearly tearing off the car's bumper. Slow down, you crazy child!

Naturally there were the odd assortment of "Bill's people" when I'd stop for gas or to go to the bathroom. Like the woman who offered to wash my feet then anoint them with oil. "It was good enough for our Lord Jesus, don't you think it's good enough for you, sir? Just five dollars."

I called Lisa when I was getting close, and spoke to her husband Ernie. He and I chatted, and he said to be safe on the last leg of my journey. No problem there, safety first is always the credo of a driving fool.

I arrived at the house, and Lisa ran out the door and jumped into my arms. She kissed me on the cheek and said, "I am so glad to see you, I have missed you so much. Get in here!" We walked inside, and the soundtrack to GREASE was blaring on the stereo.

"You remembered how much I love musicals."

"Honey, I remember everything about you. You're my Bill."

Ernie stepped up with his hand out to shake. "How you doin', bro?"

I gave Ernie a shake and half hug, like bros do. "Great to see you. You're looking fit."

"Working on it. I can see you've lost a few pounds."

Lisa beamed. "We have a new member of the family." An adorable puppy ran into the room, sniffed my foot, then peed on my tennis shoes. "Bailey, why would you do that to Bill, he didn't pee on you."

"Did you say Bailey?" I asked.

Lisa reached down and picked him up. "Yep, my sweet little Bailey. Now I've got him and my husband and my Bill all here. Life is good."

"I knew a great dog named Bailey that passed away last month."

"This puppy was born last month."

I grabbed Bailey from Lisa and looked deep into his eyes. "Bailey, are you in there? Have you been reincarnated into this puppy? Oh, I'm so happy to see you." I began to smother little Bailey with kisses, while Lisa giggled with good cheer. Then I heard SUMMER NIGHTS come on, and I was overcome with an irresistible urge to sing along and dance to it. Lisa and Ernie chuckled, and Bailey barked at me. When the song ended, I collapsed into the nearest chair. "So, what's for supper?"

She came over and squeezed my shoulder. "You're a nut."

"Any side dishes to go with the nuts?"

Ernie giggled. "Nuts, that's a good one." I stared at him and shook my head.

We all went to the table, and Lisa served a feast of enormous proportions. Baked chicken, pasta, beans, greens, corn, fruit salad, homemade biscuits, and banana pudding for dessert. Bailey sat at our feet whining the entire time, wanting a treat.

After dinner, we retired to the den, where Lisa insisted on hearing my latest stories from the road. I told her all about the flight to Syracuse, and Dickie who wanted to dance, and my good times with JC up on the farm in New York. Lisa crossed her arms. "You making time with another girl?"

"Hey, you're like a sister to me, and you know it. Don't get all jealous on me."

"Oh, you know I'm just kidding. But, it's just... well, you are special to me, Bill. I love you so much."

I gestured over towards Ernie. "Hey, watch what you say, your husband is sitting right over there."

Ernie shook his head and waved off the notion. "Take her, she's yours, I'm all done with her."

Lisa grumbled. "Screw you."

"I love you, baby," he said.

"Love you, too," she said.

Although Ernie went to bed around 10pm, Lisa and I stayed up late into the wee hours talking and catching up. There was a sparkle in her eyes, and she was so happy just to be around me. I felt the same about her. Lisa is like a lioness who watches after her cubs, she is very protective of me. Always has been, ever since I met her in Birmingham ten years ago. It was a sad day for me when she moved away, but she had to go where her husband went. That's life.

The next morning, Lisa cooked me a grand country breakfast. Then she told me that she had to go do some grocery shopping, if I wouldn't mind. "Mind?" I asked her. "Are you kidding? It'll be just like old times. Remember how I used to take you to the grocery store in Birmingham all the time?"

"Piggly Wiggly."

"We'd hop in the car and go to the 'Pig', at least once or twice a week. And it was always an adventure."

"I remember. And I remember all the goof balls that would approach you, and I'd tell you that you must be some kind of magnet for odd characters."

"Now I call them Bill's people."

"Hey, I know all that. This is me, Lisa, hello. I read all your blogs. And you are such a good writer."

"Yeah, well, I don't know about all that."

"I do. Let me put my shoes on and we'll go to the store. No Piggly Wiggly's around here, we'll have to go to the Food Lion."

"Sounds exciting, I've never been to a Food Lion. Lisa the Lioness at the Food Lion."

She smiled at me. "You are crazy."

We went to the store and just had so much fun being together. I was in a particularly silly mood, and was doing any goofy thing that crossed my mind. It was like Bill's greatest hits or something. But she enjoyed every minute of it, and I just enjoyed her company.

"I do love your blogs," she said. "But some of them bother me, I have to be honest with you."

"Bother you?"

"When you write about people who are abusive to you. You are a sweet man and you are so caring, so when I read those tales I just want to be there and stand up for you."

"Don't you worry, sweetie, I do just fine."

"Oh I know, but..." I picked up three cans and tried to juggle them to distract Lisa, but the cans fell to the ground and she let out an involuntary guffaw.

At the check out line, I tried to offer a friendly greeting to the oblivious cashier. "Happy Friday to you."

"Happy who?" asked the befuddled woman.

"Just offering a happy greeting for a wonderful Friday and a great weekend ahead."

"Say what?"

"Trying to be friendly, that's all."


"Can I ask you a personal question, ma'am?"

"You say you want to cash a personal check? No sir, we don't cash personal checks."

"What? No, I was--" Lisa interrupted me by gently shoving me down the counter so she could watch her items being rung up. I got the hint and moved to the end of the aisle and began to bag the groceries, then load the grocery cart with bags.

As we started to walk out of the store, a very large man in his 20's came towards me looking over his shoulder and not paying attention to where he was walking. I tried to sidestep him, but he bumped into me hard, nearly knocking me over. He turned and looked at me angrily and said, "You need to watch where you're going, asshole." I nodded, and tried to go on my way. But the big guy grabbed me by the arm. "You hear me? Next time I might just have to kick your ass."

In a flash, Lisa was between me and the big guy and pushing him away. He was too shocked by her fearless, aggressive behavior to react immediately. There was fire in her eyes and a growl in her voice. "Listen pal, you leave my friend alone. He didn't do anything to you. You weren't looking where you were going, and you ran into him even though he tried to step out of your way. I think you owe him an apology, but I'm damn sure not going to stand here and let you talk disrespectfully to my friend."

I put my hand on her shoulder. "Lisa, you don't have to--"

"Oh yes I do, I damn sure do have to."

About this time, the big guy got his wits about him again, and leaned in towards Lisa with menace. "Listen up, bitch, no one talks to me like that."

I stepped between Lisa and the big fellow. "Don't call her that."

Suddenly, a silver haired man grabbed the big guy by the hair from behind and yanked him backwards, then deftly locked his hand around the younger man's throat. "Bobby, you need to watch your mouth. Your Momma taught you to behave better than that." Then the old man turned to Lisa and me. "I'm awful sorry, my grandson acts up sometimes, but he's gonna learn how to act in proper society." Then the old man got into Bobby's face. "Now you are gonna apologize to this nice lady and her friend, aren't you?" Bobby was turning red in the face and struggling for air, but nodded the best he could. The grandfather slowly released him.

Bobby hung his head and said, "Ma'am, I am very sorry for the way I talked."

The grandfather smacked Bobby in the back of the head with his hand. "Get on, now." He turned to us and said, "I'll have a long talk with the boy when we get home. You folks have a nice day now, and please do accept my apology." Lisa and I both nodded, and then we left.

We talked about the incident all the way back home, and I told her how impressed I was with the way she stood up for me. "Why wouldn't I?" she asked. "Nobody messes with my Bill."

I left late that night, as I had a deadline to meet old Miss Jenkins at the Amtrak station in Florida on Saturday afternoon. It was hard to say goodbye to Lisa, just as it was difficult to leave JC. But I always have to remind myself that there are good friends wherever I go who always welcome me, and that when I leave it is only a little while till the next time I see them. It was a long trip, a real adventure, and I came back from it feeling blessed to be so loved.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


After an eventful flight on the plane, it was so great to see JC's smiling face as she waited for me there in the airport. I could actually see her bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet in anxious anticipation. As soon as I was in reach, she threw her arms around me and hugged me tightly. "Hi friend," she said enthusiastically.

"Hey JC, it is so good to see you."

She grabbed my hand and squeezed, then started to pull me along. "You're wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt. Didn't you know it gets cold up here? Come on, we've got a lot of celebrating to do, and it's time to get this party started. You have any bags to pick up?"

I lifted my backpack. "Just my carry on. I like to travel light."

She laughed. "That's because you're a driving fool! Damn, it's good to see you."

"You too, I've really missed you." We walked outside the Syracuse airport and headed to her car. We got in and made a beeline for the highway. "You said we have celebrating to do, what is the occassion?"

"There's been a death in the family."

"Oh no, not Jonz."

"What? No! Why would you say that? Jonz is fine, he's a hearty dog. If he had died, I'd really be messed up. No, it was just my sister."


"Well, my step-sister, so, you know..."

"And her death is a cause for celebration?"

"In my family, we don't mourn or walk around with long faces. We celebrate the life they lived. So, drink up." JC handed me a silver flask, and I took a sip. She grabbed it from me and said, "No, no, don't sip it, slurp it." She took a long pull off the flask, then handed it to me. I took a healthy drink from it, and then handed it back to her. "Uh-oh, keep it down, keep it down."

"What's wrong?"

"We got a cop right on our tail. 'Course I've had a lot worse riding on my tail, if you know what I mean."

I had to chuckle. "You really are something."

"I am, aren't I? Come on, Mr. Policeman, are you going to stop me or what?" We waited as he followed us for a few minutes, and then he turned off. "OK, he's gone. Fire it up!" JC took another drink and passed me the flask. "This car is kind of small, are you comfortable over there?"

"Don't worry, I'm comfortable in all positions."

"Really? Oh, really? I'll make a note of that, good to know."

"What? No, what I meant was--"

"I think I know exactly what you meant, you pervert."

We rode along talking and laughing and catching up. JC warned me that it was a long drive to the farm, and that we might make some stops along the way. Thirty minutes later, we made the first stop, which was at a Snowmobile trail. There was no snow, but a long trail going up a steep hill. She parked and got out of the car.

"What are we doing?" I asked.

"Going for a hike, you up for it?"

"Well, I, I--"

"Aye, aye, Captain! That's the spirit. Let's motivate!"

I found myself huffing and puffing as we climbed the hill that seemed to
never end. We'd turn a corner, and there was always more hill to ascend. JC did all the talking, as I needed my breath just to breathe.

"Lots of weird, backwoods folks up here. In my little hamlet, I've got rednecks and inbreds as neighbors. I try to keep to myself, but I'm harassed all the time."

"Harassed? How? By who?"

"For example, I got a phone message the other day. The woman didn't identify herself, but she said 'Hey you skanky whore, you better stop messin' around with other people's boyfriends, go back to Florida you ugly bitch!' Can you believe that, Bill?"

"And you have no idea who it was?"

"No, but if I met her I'd have to say 'Whose boyfriends? Can you narrow it down some? Start with the State, then move down to counties.' I mean come on, give me something to work with, be more specific." She cackled with laughter, and I joined in with her. "Isn't this fun?"

My lungs heaved for air. "Oh yeah, I'm having a blast."

"You should be. This will be a memorable time for both of us, it's going down in the anuses of history."

I shook my head. "You kill me."

"You won't be the first. Many men have died via the mighty passion of JC. Now, on to other matters. What can I fix you for dinner? Are you on a special diet?"

"Chicken is probably best."

"OK, chicken. What's your favorite part of the chicken."

"I'd have to say breasts."

"Why am I not surprised? And do you like nipples on those breasts?"

"Yes, please."

"You're a hoot, Bill." She slapped me on the back, then indicated it was time to turn around and head back for the car. We'd been walking for an hour. Most of the hike back was all downhill, much to my relief.

We stopped at the store on the way back to get some groceries. JC would stop and talk to complete strangers, treating them like they were all old friends. I watched and learned about how well she handled people, and thought I could adopt her good attitude in my dealings with Bill's people.

When we got to her farm, she opened the door and Jonz immediately began jumping on us. "Last one to the kitchen makes us White Russians!" We both raced for the kitchen, but she easily won. "OK, I win but I'm still going to make the White Russians. No one makes them as good as me."

"Amen, sister. No argument there." I looked down at Jonz, who was juggling my balls with his snout. "Having fun down there, Jonz?"

"Ah yes, it's Jonz the kitten killer. He was so proud of his first kill. But he wasn't so proud when he tried the same trick with a skunk last week and got sprayed. I bathed him in vinegar, but he's still got a bit of the odor."

As JC made our drinks, a strange tiny dog came to my feet and tried to jump up on me. "Who is this little fellow?"

"Oh, that's Bixby, my mutant Yorkie. He's a new arrival at the farm. Here's your drink, let's kick our shoes off and get cozy."

We drank and talked and laughed our heads off. JC said she'd be leaving the farm in a month from now, and hadn't decided which of her houses she was going to visit next. She was leaning towards her place in Las Vegas, she felt a need to gamble and get a little crazy.

She made us dinner as we continued the conversation. I watched her as she moved around the kitchen, and marveled at her boundless energy and happy demeanor. This was a woman it's so easy to love.

As we sat down to eat dinner, she put two chicken breasts on the plate in front of me. "Here, two breasts just for you, sorry I lost the nipples!" She put a basket of rolls down, and I took one out and grabbed the knife to butter it. When I pulled my knife from the soft stick of butter, a very long hair came out with the butter. "Ooooo," she said.

"Where did this come from? It couldn't be yours, your hair is short like mine. This one is really long."

JC soberly nodded her head. "You're right, that is a long one. It must have come from between my legs. I really need to shave."

"Oh, come on!"

"You like that?"

"I'm eating here!"

"Be a good boy and eat all your supper, and we'll watch a video when we're done. Have you ever heard of TRAILER PARK BOYS?"

"Heard of it? I love that show!"

"I came across it by accident. But after I watched the first episode, I said Screw it, I'm rolling a fat one and driving up to Nova Scotia to meet these guys. But it was too far from here, so I got stoned and ended up in Canada."

After dinner we cuddled up on the couch and watched the show. JC became very mellow and quiet, and I began to worry about her. This woman is not demure by any means, so I wondered if she was keeping her feelings pushed down deep inside.

When we went upstairs to go to our respective bedrooms, she took me by the hand. "This way," she said, and led me into her bedroom. We laid down together on the bed, and she began to sniffle a little bit.

"You OK?" I asked.

"Maybe I'm a little bit sad about my step-sister."

"No shame in that."

"You are a dear friend to me, and I don't want to do anything to mess that up."

"You won't. You can't."

"Yeah, but... I just don't want to be alone tonight, Bill. Would you mind staying with me, just so I have someone close?"

"Yep, I'll even leave all my clothes on."

"Damn right you will, it's going below freezing tonight, you'll need all the warmth you can get!"

I stayed with her and held her and felt a whole lot of love in my heart. Early the next morning, she drove me into Albany so I could get Miss Jenkins car and head south to Florida. JC hugged me at the Amtrak station, then started out the door. She stopped, then turned and ran back and hugged me tight a second time. I got a big lump in my throat, and watched longingly as she walked back to her car.

Miss Jenkins showed up soon after, and I got into her car and began my journey south. I was eager to get to North Carolina, where my very close friend Lisa was waiting and cooking me a dinner fit for a king.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I got a call from my boss Riff. It seems that kindly old Miss Jenkins wanted me to come and pick up her car in Albany, NY. She asked for me in particular. She is a snowbird who lives in upstate New York during the summer months, then comes down to her home in Florida for the rest of the year. I was to meet her at the Albany Amtrak station, but I bought a plane ticket to fly to Syracuse a few days early. I have a good friend who lives up that way, and she wanted me to come and spend a day with her at the farm.

I boarded the plane and found my seat at the front of the Coach section, bulkhead row. As I sat down, I heard a howling noise from across the aisle. It sounded like a cross between a crying baby and a primal scream. I kept looking to find the source of this noise, and when there was a break in the boarding passengers I caught my first glimpse. It was a woman in her 70's, and she was screaming and shouting her head off. She was alone, and clearly had some issues. I choose not to make judgments, merely observations.

The flight attendant seated a balding man with silver hair directly behind me. As fellow passengers walked by us on the way to their seat, the gentleman behind me would lean towards them and reach to shake their hand. "Hello, I'm Dickie. Would you like to see me dance? I can do the Mickey Mouse dance." He did this to every single passerby. People all reacted differently, but most everyone was polite.

A woman wearing a red pant suit and an attitude boarded next. When Dickie tried to introduce himself, she said, "Oh God, I got on the short-plane. Just what I needed."

"Would you like to see me dance?" offered Dickie.

"I'd rather die."

"I can do the Mickey Mouse dance."

"Just leave me alone, retard." I could not believe how hatefully she spoke. This was way over the top, to speak so harshly in public. But I find more and more it is a harsh world we live in. These words burned into my heart, and I felt like saying something. But decided to mind my own business.

Once we were in the air, the elder lady began her strange screams more often. She stared at me a lot, which compelled me to look over at her and smile. That is when I noticed that she had no teeth, which seemed to help her as she tried to stuff her entire fist into her mouth. And she was determined. The rude lady two rows back was growing ever more disgusted. She rang for the flight attendant.

"May I help you ma'am?" asked the attendant.

"Yes, you can move me to another area of this plane, as far away as possible from that yowling, screaming old woman."

"Unfortunately, we are full today."

"I saw a seat in First Class."

"So you want to pay for an upgrade?"

"No, I want you to do your job and move me up there as a courtesy. To get me out of Crazy Land back here."

"I'm so sorry I can't help you."

About this time, Dickie decided to start dancing in his seat. Which means he put his feet up on the back on my seat and began attempting to tap dance. It was more than uncomfortable for me, but I figured it would help Dickie more than it would hurt me.

The rude woman in the red pant suit kept on dropping hateful remarks with a haughty air all the way to Syracuse. I was getting hot under the collar, tired of hearing her disparage others, as if she were perfect herself.

Just as we were about to land, I looked out my window. The plane was getting very close to the ground. And then I saw Dickie, up and walking into First Class. Quickly, a flight attendant yelled out, "Go back to your seat, Dickie!"

"But I want to get off this plane."

The next thing I knew, the flight attendant was rushing back pulling Dickie along with her, and they both sat in the row behind me seconds before we touched down. And it was a rough, bouncy landing, so it was a good thing Dickie wasn't standing. Yet Dickie didn't know any better, and seem to feel that he was in some trouble. "You didn't need to do that, you know," he told her. "You didn't have to put me in my seat. I am not a little kid, you know."

"I know that, Dickie." Moments before the signal rang indicating everyone can get up and get off, the flight attendant got behind Dickie and pushed him quickly through First Class. He was anxious to get off, and they wanted to help him accomplish that goal.

I could hear him yell as he went to the front door. "I need to get off this plane. I want to get off this plane. I want to dance!"

Meanwhile, I watched as the rude woman rushed to get out and beyond the elder screaming woman. So I stepped into the aisle, effectively blocking her path. She said, "Move out of my way."

"Beg your pardon," I responded, "I think this woman needs some assist." And I offered my hand to the elder woman, and she screamed at me but took my hand and let me help lead her to the door. I made sure to move slowly, which irritated the rude woman no end. When we got to the door of the plane, the flight attendants took over and helped this lady, thanking me for bringing her that far.

When the rude woman caught up to me, she squinted at me and said, "You're not helping anyone by being kind to idiots like that. They just slow everyone else down, and they need to be removed. Why am I bothering, you're probably just as big of an idiot as they are."

I didn't know what to say. "God bless you, ma'am, and have a wonderful day."

"Bull crap!" she snapped, turning on her heel and storming off. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And then I turned a corner in the airport and saw my friend JC with a huge smile that made me know that everything was going to be OK. She was there waiting just for me.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Yesterday, I was driving a car into St. Louis to make another delivery. It was pouring rain, and I was trying very hard to find a branch of my bank so I could deposit my check and get some cash. I had found the directions on Mapquest, but was finding it difficult to follow them in this torrential downpour.

Just a few blocks before I reached the bank, a Camaro turned from a side street right in front of me and crept along at 5mph. Now I know it’s a good idea to slow down when the roads are slick, but this was ridiculous. When the left turn lane opened up, I steered into it quickly. About the time I was side by side with the Camaro, it decided to cut over across the striped median into the left turn lane where I was. I honked to alert the driver that I was there and they were about to hit me, and the car slammed on its brakes.

When I got into the parking lot, I found a spot as close as possible to the door. I had to run for it, yet still I got drenched. I saw a woman running up as I opened the door, so I decided to be polite and hold the door for her. She stopped in front of me and pointed her finger in my face. “I hate you!”

“Beg pardon?”

“I hate you, and all people like you. But what goes around comes around, you cut me off and now I’m going to cut you off and get into the building first. HA!” She ran in before me.

“What exactly are you talking about?”

“You know what you did, don’t act so surprised.”

“I’m honestly confused.”

“Don’t play dumb. Karma is going to descend on you and bite you in the butt.”

“Can you tell me what I did wrong?”

“You cut me and my Camaro off when I tried to get into the left lane.”

“Excuse me, but you almost hit me, and came across the painted striped median to do it.”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear any more of your lies! I hate people who drive Toyotas like you.”

“I am driving a Ford Fusion.”

“Don’t you try to change the subject! You know what you did, and you should be ashamed of yourself.”

“I don’t want any hard feelings here, but—“

“Please just shut your mouth, you’re embarrassing yourself. I’ve got a good mind to slap your face.”

“If I did anything to offend you, then I sincerely apologize. I’m all for peace and harmony on the highways.”

“You are a sick, twisted man. And I’ve heard just about enough from you.”

“But—“ She interrupted me by raising her hands over her head and lifting one foot high in the air. I thought perhaps she was attempting a bizarre martial arts move. In fact, it sort of reminded me of the ‘Crane’ move from the original KARATE KID movie. She held her foot precariously close to my face.

“Talk to the foot,” she said.

I was truly baffled. “What?”

She put her foot down and became very emotional. “People like you just think you own the world, that you’re king of the universe. You make me want to vomit. I don’t talk to people like you. Now go away and leave me the hell alone!” She stormed off and went down the hall into the bank. I gave her a good head start, and then went into the bank myself and stood at the counter to fill out my deposit slip. She was standing at a Teller Window, yammering on about the mean SOB who had cut her off and then spoken to her disrespectfully out in the hall.

I tried to lay low, but as she was walking out she saw me. She reached into her purse and pulled out a whistle, and began blowing it loudly. “Karma police, karma police! There’s a bad driver here who needs to be taught a lesson.” She leaned in close to me and spoke ominously. “I can promise you that I will never forget you, Mister.”

Oddly enough, I don’t think I’ll ever forget her either.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Fred Gieger was a good friend to me in High School. Nowhere near as close to me as my two best friends Steve and Justin, but I valued the relationship very much. Fred was the quarterback of the varsity football team, and I had never known anyone personally who was a jock or popular. He was both.

When he started having trouble with his grades in History class, he came to me because I had a reputation as someone who was good with a video camera. Back then, that was a lot more rare than it is today. I could make mini-movies to show in class that amused teachers and classmates and got me extra credit. So I made one for Fred and let him take all the credit, and he never forgot me for it.

I grew up to become the writer/editor for a national magazine (before the magazine folded and I became A Driving Fool). Fred rolled into high finance on Wall Street, and though our paths did not cross again for many years we stayed in touch. When I had to take a business trip to Manhattan, I called him to say I was coming and he was thrilled. He insisted on taking me out to dinner and to see a Broadway show. I was excited, as I’d always harbored a secret wish to see a musical on Broadway. It was near the top of my Bucket list.

The day I arrived, there was a limo waiting for me at JFK. I planned to arrange my own transportation, but Fred had beat me to the punch. I went to my meetings, and then at the end of the day went to his office. He showed me around, and I went to the observation deck of the building to get a good look at the city from a bird’s eye view. Fred told me that he had quite a night planned for us. He said he had tried hard to get us tickets to see the musical comedy THE PRODUCERS, but that it was nearly impossible to procure them. But he said we’d see another show, and our evening began.

We drank and talked and laughed for hours. We went out for dinner, and it was one of the most amazing meals that I’ve ever consumed. The fun never ended, and we had such a good time that we ended up not making it to the theatre in time to see our show. Normally, I would have been very disappointed, but I was having such a grand time that it didn’t seem to matter much at all.

Although I had a hotel room paid for by my magazine, we ended up back at Fred’s place. He insisted that I sleep on his couch, and I was in no mood to argue. We were both a bit beyond tipsy. I told him that I had to catch a flight at 6:30am, and he promised to set an alarm for me.

Then the conversation took a rather surprising turn. “You know what, Bill? You really do mean a lot to me. I know you may think it’s the liquor talking, but it’s not. Maybe the liquor is making my tongue a little looser, and I’m saying things I might not most of the time. But the plain and simple truth is that I care about you very much. I know that back in High school you looked up to me a lot.”

“I did.”

“I know you did. A lot of other kids did too, and it sort of went to my head. And I remember once you tried to tell me that you cared about me as a friend. I wasn’t very nice about it.”

“You said it sounded gay.”

Fred shook his head. “I either would not or could not tell another guy that I cared about them, or that they meant a lot to me, or… anything. But now, well, I just want you to know that you’re a real special guy and you touched my life in a significant way. I’ll always be grateful to you for helping me get a passing grade in History class, yet I’m even more appreciative to you for being a true friend.”

I do remember hearing that, and not much else. Soon after I was slipping into deep sleep mode as I could barely make out Fred offering me another drink. I was out like a light, on the express train to dreamland. I got up at 4:30am, ran downstairs and caught a cab, and made it to JFK just in time to get checked in and make my flight on Sept. 11, 2001.

When I landed, I began to hear about what had occurred after I left New York. And when I heard that the first plane had hit the building where Fred worked on the 80th floor, my heart sunk. I had just been in that building the day before, standing up on the observation level. I had missed being there by the skin of my teeth. But what was more important, Fred was there. I spent the entire day on the phone trying to find out if he was OK. I didn’t learn definitively until a few days later that he had died. My heart was broken, and things seemed all topsy-turvy to me. I still can’t make sense of the whole thing to this day, and know there are many, many people out there like me who lost so much that day.

A few years later, when I started the job driving around the country, I began to have a deeper appreciation for America and the people in it. This is a great nation, and I for one am proud to be a citizen here. There is beauty and grace and majesty everywhere you look, and there are a lot of very good folks here with good hearts. I feel very blessed to see more everyday, and to meet more Americans who love it as much as I do and take pride in the USA.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bubba In The Panhandle

After my hospital visit and two weeks of R&R at Pastor Rex’s home, I was ready and eager to get on the road again. Although it’s just a job to pay the bills, there is something very satisfying about the open highway, a freedom and a beauty that’s hard to match.

I was told to pick up a car in Marianna, Florida and drive it up to Boston. I looked and found that Marianna is in the Florida panhandle, and soon learned that it is so small that there is no Greyhound, Amtrak or rental car agencies. I usually always rent cars to get to or from a pickup or delivery, because it’s easier and I’ve had bad experiences with Greyhound. But how to get to the small car dealership in Marianna?

I rented a car in Clearwater, but the closest place I could drop off to Marianna was the Panama City airport, 50 miles away. A cab ride would be well over $100, and that was cost prohibitive, Riff certainly wouldn’t pay for it, so I’d have to use that old driving fool cunning and spirit. I called my contact at the car dealership and asked for his advice. He said he’d get back to me, and when he did an hour later he told me about a retired gentleman named Bubba who picked up cars for them in other cities. He gave me Bubba’s number, and I called to see if I could make some type of arrangement.

“Hello? Hello? Is someone there?” asked Bubba when I called.

“Is this Bubba?”

“Depends. I could be. Who’s this calling?”

“Bill Thomas, sir. I was given your number by Steve at the Chevy dealership, he said you might be able to help me.”

“I might. But I don’t come easy and I don’t come cheap. I will be on the clock, and charge you $8 per hour.”


“Done? You mean we have a deal? You don’t even want to haggle? In all of my 80 years, I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Nope, no need to bargain, we have a deal. Can you meet me at the Panama City airport tomorrow at 10am?”

“I have a better plan, Bill. You call me when you are an hour away, and I’ll leave my house then. That’s when I’ll be on the clock, getting paid.”

“Sounds good, Bubba.”

“Hey, did you know that the Panama City airport isn’t in the same place anymore? They moved it. Well I mean, they didn’t move the airport, but they closed the old one and opened a new one. You get me?”

“Yes sir. I’ll call you in the morning.”

I stopped in Tallahassee for the night, and was right on time the next morning. I could see that I’d be at the airport to drop off the car at 10am, just as I thought. I planned to call Bubba at 9am, but he called me at 8:30. “Hello?” he said when I picked up. “Hello, can you hear me?”

“Good morning, Bubba.”

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Bill.”

“Oh, Bill, I was just about to call you. I wanted to let you know that I’m on the clock, I’m leaving for the airport.”

“You don’t have to leave til 9am.”

“Maybe you never heard the old saying, the early bird gets the worm.”

“Yeah, but—“

“By the way, Bill, you should be aware that the Panama City airport has moved. They didn’t move the airport itself, but they did open a new facility.”

“Thanks, I have directions.”

“Do you need me to give you directions?”

“No, I can find my way. See you there.”

“I’m on the clock!” Bubba hung up, and I chuckled to myself. Another one of Bill’s people.

I got to the airport at 9:45 and drove my rental car to the Rental Return parking lot. As I got out of the car and started to head to the Terminal, my cell rang. “This is Bill.”

“Bill? Where are you? I’ve been at the airport waiting for you. Did something happen?”

“No, everything is fine. I’m here.”

“You’re where?”

“I’m at the airport..”

“The old one or the new one?”

“The new one. I just got here.”

“How come I can’t see you?”

“It’s a big place, Bubba. Where are you now?”

“I told you, I’m at the airport.”

“I mean where are you parked?”

“Oh, I’m not parked at all. I’m cruising and looking for you. I’m coming up to a sign that says Rental Returns.”

“What are you driving?”

“A blue Ford Taurus.” Just at that moment, I saw a blue Taurus driving slowly past the entrance I had just come in.

“Stop the car, Bubba.” The Taurus jolted to an abrupt stop. “Look to your right out of the passenger window.” I began to wave my arms.

“Bill, I’m gonna have to get back to you. There’s a man waving his arms like crazy at me, I think he may be in trouble. I’m gonna see if I can help him, I’ll call you back.” The car drove over to me, and Bubba rolled down his window. “You need some assistance, friend?”

“Bubba, it’s me.”

Bubba looked perplexed. “How did you know my name? Have we met, sir?”

I reached my hand out to shake. “Bill Thomas, I’m the driver you came to pick up.”

A broad smile spread across Bubba’s face. “Hello, Bill. What a coincidence, finding you when I was just looking for you. Pretty darn incredible. All ready to go?”

I got into the car and told him that I had to turn in my paperwork and keys at the Terminal. This began a long process of circling and missing the sign instructing us to turn. Bubba drove by it three times, as I tried desperately to point it out to him. So around and around we went, with him whistling the theme to THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. We finally got to the Terminal, and he waited while I went inside. I ran as quickly as I could, but when I got back to the car Bubba was fuming. “What in the hell took you so long? I ain’t got all day.”

“Sorry Bubba, I went as quick as I could. Don’t worry about it, you’re on the clock.”

“Don’t throw that up in my face, I’m not your servant boy.”

“No sir, I didn’t mean that at all.”

“OK, your highness, where to?”

“The car dealership.”

“Which dealership? There’s a lot of them in Florida.”

“The one where you work. I’m sorry, I thought you knew.”

“I have news for you, young man. I am retired, and don’t work for anyone. Sometimes they call me when they need a car moved, and sometimes I help out. Well, most of the time actually, but I don’t answer to anyone or any corporation. You get me?”


“You should also know that I’m a veteran, I fought in Korea, which is more than I can say for you.” Bubba began huffing and puffing, then let out a long sigh and grinned from ear to ear. As he drove, his demeanor became very pleasant and affable, and he began to point out sights such as ponds and groves of trees. What was interesting is that he’d literally point, thrusting his arm and hand in the direction he was pointing. More than once he was indicating something outside of my window, and his hand would come flying towards my face. I’d have to duck or he surely would have punched me in the jaw. Not on purpose, of course, but the result would be the same. “You know, Bill, there’s nothing like the open road.” This time he pointed straight ahead, and banged his fist hard against the windshield. He shouted in pain and shook his right hand vigorously. “Wow, that smarts.”

“I bet it does.”

“You’d win that bet, my friend. Say, do you like good old southern style cooking?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“Some people don’t, I suppose. But I don’t want to know those people. Anyhow, there’s a place near where I live that serves the best homestyle cooking you’ve ever laid your tongue on. Want to go there with me when we get done?”

“Wish I could, Bubba, but I have to drive a car up to Boston.”

“I am trying to tell you that this is the best cooking in the state of Florida. You get me?”

“Yes sir, I do. But I’ll have to take a rain check.”

Bubba got very sullen. “I don’t give out rain checks. I’m 80 years old, so its now or never.”

We got back to the dealership, and Bubba told me what I owed him. I thanked him sincerely, paid him, plus gave him something for his gas. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Bill. But if I can offer you some advice, you might want to work on your manners. That’s all I’m saying.”

Thirty minutes later, I started my long journey to Boston.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I was awakened very suddenly by my cell phone ringing. Confused and disoriented, I reached over to the bedside table and picked it up. "Hello? Hello, this is Bill."

"Good morning Bill, this is Mrs. Sherman. I'm the woman you moved the car down to Bonita Springs for."

I rubbed my hand over my face. "Yes, Mrs. Sherman, I remember you."

"Bill, I was just watching a movie and eating my morning oatmeal, and I thought about you. It's a sweet movie about a little boy who travels in time in a flying car."

"Sounds like BACK TO THE FUTURE 2."

"I saw the car in the movie and thought I better call and ask if you can drive my car back up north when I'm ready to go."

"That's no problem, Mrs. Sherman. But I have to get up and get going, if you'll excuse me."

"Goodbye, Bill." She hung up, and I wondered how many times she had called in the last month about this same topic. I looked around the room and wondered where I was for a moment. Must be the medication I was taking, it sometimes made me a little confused. There was a rapid knock on my bedroom door, and my old friend Pastor Rex Porter stuck his head in.

"Morning Bill. Do you still want to go out on my boat with me today?"

"Uh, yeah, sure. But I need to get a shower first."

"Go ahead, take your time. I'll make us some breakfast while you get ready. Any special requests?"

"Oatmeal." Rex left, and I began to get motivated. I was in Clearwater, Florida at the home of my old high school buddy Rex. My recent stay in a hospital had necessitated some down time afterwards for recovery, and Rex insisted that I stay at his home for a while. We had talked about going out on his 52' Clipper ketch when I felt strong enough, and I thought the sea air might do me good.

We arrived at the marina just over an hour later. I was surprised when Rex told me that he was taking a charter, with a young couple from Kentucky. He also explained that a man named Joey from Iowa had been bugging him for a week to go out on the boat, but said he could not afford the rates. So Rex had made an arrangement to let him ride for free if he would work as first mate and help with chores on the trip. Joey was on board when we arrived at the boat. "All aboard, Cap'n Rex," shouted Joey.

"At ease, Joey, this is a pleasure cruise."

"Who is this with you, Skipper?"

I held my hand out to shake. "Bill Thomas, nice to meet you."

"What's that?" he asked.

"Bill Thomas."

"I'm asking your name," Joey said with some irritation in his voice.


"Tell you what, I'll just call you Dave."

After motoring out of the harbor, we set sail out into the Gulf of Mexico, heading for unknown adventures ahead. I sat next to Rex at the wheel as he steered us masterfully on the salty waters. I turned to him and asked, "So you are a church Pastor on Sunday, and a boat Captain during the week?"

"I am both, a Pastor and a Pirate. But you know, I'm not just a Pastor on Sunday, my boss expects me to respect my work as a full time job."

"Your boss?"

Rex pointed to the sky. "God. The big man. Now, where is Joey. I need him to do some things, and he seems to have disappeared. Come on down to the galley, I'll buy you a bad cup of coffee and maybe we'll bump into Joey." Rex led me down into the galley and poured us both a big steaming mug of java. I asked for sugar and cream, and Rex was stumped. "That's odd," he said. "I keep a big container full of sugar packets and sugar-free sweeteners. The containers are here, but they are empty."

"No coffee for me then. Got to have it sweet or not at all."

"Well, my customers are up on deck getting some sun, and the boat is on auto pilot, so we can relax. I've been wanting to tell you that Doris and I love having you in our home. You wash dishes and load and unload the dishwasher, and we so appreciate it."

"Hey pal, I appreciate you opening your home to me when I needed some R&R."

"Well you know, I believe that God brought us together."

"I thought you found me on Facebook?"

"Yes I did, but it had been many years since I'd seen you or we had been in contact. God provided me a way through Facebook to bring us into each other's lives again."

"You think there was a reason?" I asked.

"Bill, with God there is always a reason. Don't you realize that He's been watching over you as you've driven all these years? He loves you." The boat suddenly lurched, and Rex hurried up the stairs to the deck. I followed close behind. One of the masts had gotten tangled up in the ropes, and the couple from Kentucky seemed concerned. "Don't worry folks, all is well." Then Rex turned to me. "Doggone it, where is that Joey? He's supposed to help me take care of these things."

Once Rex got everything back under control, we sat at the wheel again. "I see a lot of roads in my daily travels, but I don't get to see all this water. What a beautiful sight."

Rex nodded. "God made it all for us. Bill, are you a Christian?"

"I believe in God and his Son."

"Have you been saved?"

"I feel like I was saved by you when you let me stay in your home to recover."

"I think you know what I mean."

"OK, well, I haven't been going to church for a lot of years, but I pray every single day. I ask God to keep me safe as I drive, and I thank Him for giving me life, and I thank Him for the gorgeous world he created that I get to see each day. I pray for the sick and the poor, and I pray for the end of all wars and that men everywhere could live in peace like brothers."

"That's very good. But don't forget about faith."

"Rex, faith is pretty much all I have to lean on. If it helps you understand me any better, my favorite verse is John 3:16. That is the foundation of my faith."

Joey came up onto the deck, and Rex wanted to know where he had been. "I was in the bathroom down below."

"The bathroom? For an hour?"

"I fell asleep in there. Hey, this is a pretty cool boat. Hey, is that an island?" Joey pointed to a small island out in the Gulf.

Rex sighed. "Yes Joey, that is an island."

"I gotta get a picture of that." Joey fumbled in the pockets of his jacket for a camera, and out fell dozens of packets of sugar and sweetener.

"What's all this?" Rex asked.

"Oh, I thought they were souvenirs, free samples."

"And what gave you that idea?"

"I need to get a shot of that island." Joey ran to the front of the boat, camera in hand.

Rex laughed and reached into a small ice chest that he had next to his chair. "Want a pickle?"

"No thanks."

Rex pulled out a large whole pickle and started to munch on it. "I love a good pickle, nothing like it."

"What are you going to do about Joey?"

"He's harmless. I can see I'm not going to get any work out of him, so I guess he gets a free trip, which is what he wanted all along. I get a whole lot of strange people on my boat."

"Yes, I know the feeling. I run across them all the time on the road, and I like to call them 'Bill's people.'"

Rex snorted with laughter. "'Bill's people,' huh? Good one. Does Joey fit the category?"

"Yes he does, with flying colors. Listen Rex, I want to thank you for caring about me and my soul. Not many people do."

"You are a special person, and I believe a lot of people care about you more than you know. One thing I am certain of: God is not through with you, not by a long shot. He has big plans for you."

"Really? Like what?" I was interrupted as Joey joined us again, staring hungrily at Rex's pickle.

"Where did you get that?" Joey asked.

"What?" asked Rex, playing dumb.

"The pickle."

"I brought it with me."

"Do you have another one?"

"No." A little white lie, I suppose, but it seemed justified under the circumstances.

"But I want a pickle. I love pickles."

"Sorry," offered Rex.

"Can I have a bite of your pickle?"

"Absolutely not. I gave you a list of chores when you got here, now are you planning on doing any of them?"

"I have to run to the bathroom." Joey scurried down below, and Rex just chuckled.

Joey vanished and remained out of sight until we got back to the marina. Rex smiled at me and asked, "How did you like spending the day with a sailing fool?"

"Fun," I told him.

About this time, Joey reappeared, and as he started off the boat, Rex grabbed him by the arm. "Joey, I'm missing a brass fixture from down below. It's sort of an ornament, and I wondered if you might have seen it?"

"I, well I, uh..." Joey stammered.

"Joey, please don't embarrass yourself."

Joey dug into his pockets, and his hand came out holding the missing object. "Here you go. I'm really sorry, but I thought it was a souvenir for me to take home."

"You seem to think anything that isn't nailed down is a souvenir."

Suddenly, Joey's temperament changed entirely. He got very defensive and very loud, and began barking at Rex. "How dare you. How dare you, sir! I come here in good faith to go on a pleasure cruise with you, and you accuse me of-- you make wild unsubstantiated claims that I-- Listen, I hate to say it, but I think I'm going to have to demand a refund."

Rex stepped toward Joey purposefully. "Time to get off my boat, right now." Joey got very pale and turned and hurried off.

It was a memorable boat ride, and it somehow made me realize that the road was calling my name once again. Time to ride.