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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

TWO-TIMIN' IN ST. SIMON


I thought for sure that I had delivered my last car in 2011. Christmas had passed and New Years Day was just a few days away, so I was very surprised when Riff called me.
“Hello, little Miss Sunshine,” he said. “Are you still in Texas?”
“Yes.”

“Go to Dallas and get a Tahoe SUV, then drive it to St. Simons Island, in Georgia. You’ll get another SUV there, and bring it to the Auto Auction in Richmond. Think you can handle that, pudding cup?”

“Got it.” I gave Riff a local Fax number so he could send me the paperwork, and started my journey. Once I got the SUV in Dallas, I began calling the woman in St. Simons to let her know I was on my way and arrange a date and time for the swap. She didn’t return my calls, and I began to get nervous. Because a lot of customers will ignore you over the holidays, not wanting to be bothered during the Christmas season.

Just as a crossed the state line into Georgia, the woman called me back. She sounded very terse. “This is Mrs. Parsons, I got your message and I want you to know that I don’t appreciate multiple messages. Where are you now?”

“On I-95. I just crossed over the Florida-Georgia border.”

“Oh my, you are close. I wish you’d called and given me warning.”

“That’s why I left the messages—“

She interrupted. “That’s all in the past now, let’s stick to the present. At your present rate, you should be here in under an hour.”

“Will that be convenient for you?”

“Not really, but since you are so insistent on coming I guess I’ll just have to put up with the intrusion. Now tell me, will you be taking this God-awful truck that I already have here?”

“Yes ma’am, it’s a swap.”

“Call it what you will, just get here, take it, and be gone.”

“No problem.” I drove on and found myself crossing the bridge onto St. Simons Island in less than 40 minutes. Mapquest is usually very accurate for my purposes, but every so often it can be confusing. This was one of those times, so I had to call her again. “Hi, this is Bill the driver. I’m a little lost, and hope you can help. I’m on the island, but—“

“I just knew you were going to be trouble. Are you coming from the east or the west?” Her words left me baffled, for I was coming from Texas, which is west. If I were coming to the island from the east, I would be driving up out of the Atlantic ocean. She gave me directions that had me loop in a circle and got me no closer. I finally asked for the name of her community, and then just drove til I found the entrance. I came through the gates, then drove til I found her building. She was standing outside next to an older SUV that looked very worse for the wear. “It’s about time you got here,” she said as I got out. All of the doors to her old vehicle were open, and it was full to the rafters of company and personal items. Boxes, children’s toys, clothes, various equipment, child car seats, etc.

“You have a lot of stuff here,” I noted.

“Yes, and it’s not going to move itself. Get started transferring all this to my new vehicle. Chop, chop.”

Now it’s not my job to transfer material or pack cars. But I felt that the sooner I got it done, the sooner I could get back on the road. So I started to unload from one vehicle and move it to the other. A kid’s pink blanket fell on the ground, and I said “Ooops,” and bent down to pick it up.

“Can you please be more careful with my things, this is precious cargo!”


“Don’t listen to that bitch, she will put you in an early grave,” said her husband as he joined us. He smiled and held out his hand to shake. “Jerry Parsons, nice to meet you.” We shook.

“Bill Thomas, my pleasure.”

“Don’t you call me a bitch, you bastard,” she shrieked.

“No one cares what you have to say, you wench,” he tossed back.

“How dare you speak to me that way. I deserve respect.”

Jerry laughed as he helped me carry her things. And there was a lot of things! “Respect is earned, and I haven’t seen you do anything to earn anything, you lazy slut.”

“You are calling me a slut?”

“Yes I am.”

“You are a wicked son of a bitch.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“You are a hard-hearted man.”

Jerry looked at me and winked. “She knows me all too well.”

“And you are an adulterer!”

Jerry dropped what he was carrying. “Don’t go there, lady.”

“You and your secretary wore out every motel bed in this county.”

“That’s all in the past.”

“Is it? Is it?”

“Yes it is, I’ve told you a hundred times, and you are a mean shrew for bringing it up again.”

“I’ll never forgive you!” she proclaimed.

“You are such an ice queen you drove me into her arms.”

“So it’s my fault!”

“Yes! It always has been.”

I hurried as fast as I could, anxious to get done and get out. I don’t like confrontation, and I was right in the middle of a big one. They both used me to block access from each other.

“If you want a divorce, I will be happy to oblige you,” Mrs. Parsons stated emphatically.

“For what? What have I done to you lately?”

“You’re still two-timing me with that little trollop at your office.”

“Trollop?” he chuckled.

“You heard me!” she screamed.

Jerry began to grab stuff and just hurl it carelessly into the new SUV. “You are such a…”

“What?” she asked. “I’m a what? And be careful with my things, you are being terribly cavalier.”

Jerry began to dance around in a circle. “Look at me, I’m a cavalier.”

She put her hands over her ears. “Shut up! Just shut up!” She ran into her condo, looking like she was about to break into tears. Jerry and I finished, and he seemed to calm down with her gone.

I offered him the clipboard with the paperwork. “Would you mind signing this, Mr. Parsons?”

“Huh? Oh, no, not at all.” He took the clipboard from me and signed on the bottom line. “No need to subject you to more of her histrionics. Me, I have to live with her.” He smiled and patted me on the back.

I drove away, starting my trip north to Richmond. I guess the holidays can be stressful for some folks.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

TEXAS DOG RANCH CHRISTMAS

Late yesterday afternoon I was headed to Tom and Jenny's ranch in the Hill country of Texas. About 75 miles northwest of Austin. I had a car to drop off in Austin, but the customer wouldn't accept delivery until early next week, and I needed a place to stay. I couldn't think of a better place to stop for Christmas, and Jenny was thrilled when I called to say I was coming. She said she had a big surprise for me. I assumed that meant she had more new dogs, as she takes in all the abandoned dogs that folks drop off there.

When I arrived, I could see I was right. There was an entirely new structure and fenced in yard down the driveway from their home. Many new dogs there. When I pulled up in front of the house, Jenny came running out to greet me. Tom was close behind her, and 8 dogs ran beside them. She and I embraced, and she kissed me on the cheek. "Bill-dog, Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you," I said.

"Hey dog," said Tom, as he gave me a manly hug. "Glad you could join us for the holidays, we don't get many out of town guests."

"I can't wait to show you our surprise," Jenny told me with joy. "We have a new addition."

"I already saw it driving in. You have a new building for dogs and a nice yard fenced in so they can run around."

"Built it myself, Bill-dog," Tom said proudly.

"Yeah, I figured so."

Jenny shook her head. "Yes, but that's not the surprise."

"Then what is it?"

"Come on inside," she said.

I followed both of them towards the house. "How many dogs do you have now?"

Tom laughed. "40 at last count."

"42 as of yesterday," Jenny corrected. She led us into the house, and I nearly tripped as all the dogs pushed their way through the door at the same time as me. I stopped short when I saw the surprise, and didn't immediately understand. There were 3 little girls there. "Bill, meet Angie, Lily and Tammi."

"You're watching someone else's kids?"

"Kinda," answered Tom.

"Long term," Jenny explained. "Angie is 7, Lily is 4, and Tammi is 2 years old."

"How did... I'm not sure I understand."

"Their parents got entangled with some Imperial troops," said Tom.

Jenny chuckled. "He's making a STAR WARS reference for your benefit."

"Yeah, I got that. The Police?"

"Yep." Tom shook his head.

Jenny nodded sadly. "The parents got busted for selling large quantities of pot."

"Again," added Tom.

"And for cooking crystal meth."

"Again," added Tom.

"We're their friends, and we didn't even know they were into all this. I mean we knew they puffed pot a bit, but thought they were smart enough not to sell or manufacture stuff." Jenny sighed.

Tom huffed. "You can't do that when you have little kids, Bill. You just can't."

"I understand. So you took the kids in?"

"We had to," said Tom.

"Otherwise they would have become wards of the state, and that would be awful for them." Jenny's eyes became moist.

"The way I saw it, we didn't have any choice," Tom said with real conviction. "They needed a home, and God gave us the privilege of providing one for them."

"What else could we do?" she asked.

I sat down, taking it all in. The girls all wandered out the open door into the yard, and a few of the dogs followed them. "How long will you be keeping them?"

"As long as it takes. As long as they need us," Jenny told me.

"They are now our responsibility, and you probably know by now that we don't take responsibilities lightly," Tom said.

"God sent them our way, and we will take care of them."

I swallowed hard. "I've always been very impressed that you take in all these dogs and take care of them."

"And find homes for most of them. Some take longer than others," she said.

"But this is huge. Taking in these small girls. It's like... well I don't know what it's like."

Lily came back into the house and ran up to me. She held out her hand, which had a fistful of weeds in it. Jenny smiled. "She thinks they're flowers, she wants to give them to you."

I took the weeds gently out of Lily's hands. "Thank you, Lily, that's very sweet." The girl giggled and ran back out the door.

"They are some good kids, Bill. We've grown to love them, and will take care of them. Feed them, clothe them, protect them." Tom nodded. "It's just the right thing to do, you know?"

I don't think I've ever been so filled with the Christmas spirit. And I'm overwhelmed by the love and sacrifice my friends are making on behalf of these kids. If every person who has something in the world could reach out and help those who don't, even a little bit, what a great world this would be.

I slept good last night, and when I got up this morning I so enjoyed watching these little gals open their presents from Santa. Tom and Jenny took good care of them. I took a break to sit at the computer and write this Blog. Now I'm going into the kitchen to see if I can help Jenny prepare the big feast we're having today. I hope that everyone has as warm and wonderful a Christmas as this driving fool.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

JACK UP THE JACKER

I was driving south in Maryland towards Baltimore just the other day. It was that time of year when I drive elderly Mrs. Sherman's car from there down to south Florida, where she spends the winter. I was nearing the tunnel that takes you underwater, when my cell phone rang.

"This is Bill."

"Hello Bill, this is Mrs. Sherman. I was just wondering what time today you are coming to get my car."

"Uh... well, I'm driving it right now. I just picked it up from you about an hour ago."

"What? You did? Oh yes, that's correct, I seem to remember now. Yes, in fact I'm looking in my garage right now and see that the car isn't there. So it's a comfort to me to know that you have it."

"Yes, ma'am."

"I have a batch of cookies in the oven, they should be ready by the time you get here with my car."

"No Mrs. Sherman, I'm on my way to your home down in Florida."

"Oh, of course. Well, I don't know if I'll have any cookies down there to offer you."

"That's OK."

"I would offer you a gratuity when you arrive in Florida, but I know you are a man of integrity and so I won't insult you by offering."

"I'll see you in two days, Mrs. Sherman. You have a safe flight." I hung up and chuckled to myself. She's a nice lady, but her 94 year old mind seems to be playing tricks on her. And she gives me that line about not insulting me with a tip every single time I drive her car south to Florida, or back north in the Springtime.

When I got into Baltimore, I exited so I could get a snack and find a restroom. After I was done and as I was pulling out, I came to a red light and had to stop. A large man wearing nasty looking clothes ran up and began to spit on my window and wipe it with the sleeve of his coat. I rolled down my window and told him, "Don't wash my window, buddy. I'm fine."

In a blink of an eye, the man had stuck his head and upper torso into my window and pointed a knife at me. It wasn't a big knife, but it looked sharp enough to do some serious damage. "Get the hell out of this car right now," he said in an extremely menacing tone. "This car is mine now. And leave your money behind."

Something inside of me just sort of clicked, and not in a good way. All of the people who have mistreated me, taken money from me, hurt me out on the road... and now this guy. My mind said ENOUGH! ENOUGH! Though I know in retrospect it was foolish, I rolled up the window quickly. As he realized what I was doing, he tried to back out, but the window caught him and trapped him. I slammed my foot on the accelerator and ran through the red light. He began trying to slash the knife at me, but I grabbed his wrist with firm determination and would not let go. I banged my head up against his. Then I began to weave wildly, with his feet dragging heavily on the pavement as we went. I made several very fast unexpected turns on streets, first to the right, and then to the left.

"Let me out of here! You crazy!" he screamed.

"Gonna take my car? Gonna take my money? No you're not, not today!"

"Please God, let me out."

"My name isn't God, its Bill Thomas, and you picked the wrong guy today! I've had it! You hear me! I've had it with you sons of bitches. You take and take and hate and..." I was furious and a bit irrational. I finally turned into an alley, and slowed down only slightly as I rolled the window down and aggressively shoved him out.

As I drove away, my ears were hot and ringing. I looked at myself in the rear view, and saw my face was bright red. There was a fire in my eyes. All I ever try to do is be kind to people, but today was another kind of day. I continued my journey to Florida, feeling pretty good about taking a stand.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

NO ROOM AT THE INN

The road can be kind to a driver sometimes, but more often it can be a cruel SOB. Things happen out there, lots of things. I tell people about my adventures, and for the most part they believe me, no matter how bizarre it sounds. Yet sometimes, even good friends have their doubts about all the odd people I meet, the strange encounters I have, the car accidents I get into.
I document what happens to me in these blogs just as they occurred. But I’ve come to the conclusion that telling all the bad things to friends, no matter how honest I am being, isn’t always the greatest idea. It casts a large shadow of doubt, and makes folks wonder if I’m crazy or just have an overactive imagination. Or that maybe I’m just looking for sympathy. None of which is true. The truth is simply that I get very lonely out on the highways of America, and at times I need to unload to those who I believe care about me. This has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, and makes me think I need to keep everything to myself. Or if I must talk about things, it is best to keep it in the blogs.

Last weekend, I was headed towards New Jersey, where my old friend Ed lives. I’ve stayed at his house many times over the years as I’ve driven through, and he has always made me very welcome in his home. As soon as I knew I’d be going there, I called him to let him know. But I just kept on getting his voicemail. Ed stays busy at work, so I figured I’d just go to his place, and either he would be there or he would not. I had no doubt that if he were there, I’d be welcome to crash on his couch.

When I pulled into his driveway, Ed was there washing his car in the driveway. He saw me and his shoulders sagged. He turned off the garden hose then ran out to my car and hopped into the passenger seat. “Hey, Bill.”

“Hi. What’s going on?”

“Let’s take a drive. I need to get something at the store.”

I drove down the street, and could feel some tension coming from my friend. “Is everything OK?”

Ed paused then let out a sigh. “No, not really. I got your calls, but hoped if I didn’t call you back you’d think I was out of town.”

I chuckled. “Really? Why?”

“This isn’t working out, Bill. You can’t keep coming and staying at my house.”

“I never knew it was a problem.”

“It never was.”

“I haven’t been here in months.”

“True enough. But before that, you were coming once or twice every month for a while.”

“Snowbird cars.”

“Yeah, well whatever the reason, Diane was getting weary of seeing you too often.”

“Ed, I thought your wife liked me.”

“She does, she does… but you are an old friend of mine, so it’s more like she doesn’t mind having you around for my sake. But…”

“But what?”

“The structure of our house is wide open. Diane had me remove all doors for some feng shui design idea. With all doors open, your snoring rocks the house.”

I hung my head. “Sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. But it can make it hard to sleep. You need to be in a room with a closed door so others can sleep. I can’t provide that.”

“Anything else?” I asked.

Ed nodded sadly. “I think the last straw was when you came a few months ago, and Diane woke up and looked out the window. She saw you peeing in the moonlight out in our backyard, and I think it freaked her out.”

“You had told me before that when I walked down the hall to use the bathroom, which is next to your bedroom, the floor creaking and the toilet flushing woke you up. So I decided to creep out the back door.”

“I know you were trying to be thoughtful, but bottom line—“

“Is that I’ve crossed the line. Got it. What store do you need to go to?”

Ed shrugged. “No store. Just an excuse for us to take a drive and talk.”

“So back to your house?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind. Diane has a long ‘honey-do’ list for me. I’ll be lucky to get half of what she wants done this weekend. I have no idea how I’m going to fit in at least one football game.” We drove back to the house in silence. Ed rubbed his hands together. “Bill, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

I pulled into the driveway and put the car into Park. I reached over and squeezed Ed on the shoulder. “You have been a very good friend to me for many years. You let me stay at your house dozens of times, more times than I can count. You owe me no explanations or apologies.”

“I feel for you, though. You don’t have a home, you just drive around the country and barely tread water to survive.”

“It’s all part of my life.”

“I read all of your blogs, I don’t know how you keep from going crazy.”

“I meet a lot of nuts, that’s for sure. But I also meet a lot of kind people. In this crazy messed up world, it gives me hope. I just know there is a reason for me to be out here. 
And it is pretty obvious that God is watching over me. Some people don’t believe a lot of the things that happen to me. So many crazy people, road rage drivers, loony people crossing my path, car accidents.”

“Car accidents? Buddy, after being on the road driving for ten years, I’m shocked you haven’t been in more accidents, with more serious damage. Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t know you well enough.”

“Whatever.”

“Bitter?”

I smiled. “Hell no. And this in no way affects our friendship.”

 “Good, because you mean a lot to me and I never want to lose you.”

“And you never will.”

“Maybe sometime when Diane leaves town to visit her family in Oregon you can come by again.”

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

“I love you, bro.”

“I love you, too, Ed. Always will.”

I slept in the back seat of the car at a Rest Stop on the New Jersey turnpike that night. No, I didn’t feel bitter. If anything, I felt extra blessed that I have so many friends all over the USA who have made me welcome again and again in their homes. Got to do something about that snoring problem, though.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

BACK TO MAINE

Since my interestingly unusual talk with The General two weeks ago, I kept driving cars down to Florida then hopping on a plane and flying back up north. Monty in the Maine office had a non-stop line of cars to get moved down south, and I was staying busy and making some money. Well, sort of.

Each time I left, Monty would pay me for half and then promise to pay me the other half when I returned. But when I'd get back, he wouldn't be in the office. He would leave me the paperwork and a check for half of the next car I was moving, with the keys hidden. So we never got a chance to settle up on the back end of what he owed me. After five cars, I told him that we needed to catch up on what he owed me. I flew back in, and he was out of town. But he left me a note that I was free to sleep in the garage out back of his house. It was really more of a tool shed, but it was shelter and I figured I could manage there for a couple of nights.

The day he returned, I walked into his office and he had books and accounting ledgers all open and laid out on the counter. "Good morning, Monty," I said cheerfully.

"I only wish." He looked sad.

"What do you mean?"

"Bill, I'm afraid an error has been made. A terrible, terrible error."

"Sorry to hear that, but I'm sure you'll figure things out. Now, about the $1250 you owe me."

Monty buried his face into his hands. "Oh my God. That's the thing. You'll never believe this, but I made a grave accounting error. I don't have the money to pay you."

I was stunned. "What do you mean?"

"Bill, I miscalculated, I made a mistake. I wasn't paid enough to pay you what you are owed."

"You're kidding me, right?"

He held up his hands like he was surrendering. "I only wish I was."

"Monty, I did the work in good faith for you--"

He interrupted quickly "And you did an excellent job, I must say."

"Then you have to pay me for it."

"I can't. I really can't. Look at these books, its all here in black and white. Clear as a bell."

I looked at the books, but they made no sense to me. "Clear as mud," I said. "Monty, you made me a promise, I'm not going to let you cheat me."

Monty put his hand on his chest. "Bill, I'm shocked, I'm hurt. How could you think I would ever try to cheat you?"

"It's obvious."

"Bill, I'm wounded. You cut me to the quick. I think you are a wonderful human being and a superb driver, I'm only here to help and support you."

"Pay me!"

"There's just no funds for it. But I can give you advance for this next car going to Florida."

"There won't be a next car, if you won't pay me what you owe me, I'm out of here." I started out the door.

"Wait just a minute. If you are in fact leaving, then we need to settle up."

"You said you couldn't pay me what you owe me."

"No, no, I am referring to what you owe me."

"What I owe you? What are you talking about?"

"You spent several nights in my apartment out back, you'll owe me $50 per night for that."

"You gotta be kidding me? You want to charge me rent for staying in the tool shed?"

"Its a very nice apartment."

"You are out of your freakin' mind." I stormed out. And I will never go back to Maine again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

THE GENERAL

For several years, I was driving around the country under the impression that my boss Riff was the only boss for Drivers of America. That he was the only office, and the only authority. Just over a month ago I discovered there are a few other offices in remote parts of the lower 48 states, including one in the great state of Maine.

After dropping a car off in Bangor for Riff, I made my way to this office that was new to me. I met the man in charge, Monty, a very mild-mannered man who was the polar opposite of the volatile Riff. In a calm and gentle voice, he told me that he was sending me in a car down to south Florida, then he would fly me back up north to get yet another car headed down to south Florida. “Bill,” he said, “Snowbirds are my bread and butter. I will pay you half up front, and half when you get back. The General will be here soon with your car. I have to run to the bank, so please, I beg of you, make yourself comfortable here in my office.”

Monty left and I sat and wondered why Riff couldn’t be a kindly gentleman like this guy. Only a few minutes after Monty left, an old man marched into the office. Marched like a soldier, in perfect lockstep, and in measured rhythm with each step in an exact line. He sat down across from me. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Bill Thomas, nice to meet you.” I stuck my hand out to shake, but it just hung in midair.

The man squinted at me as if he were sizing me up, wondering about my sincerity. “I’m the General, as you probably already know.”

“Which branch of the service were you in?”

The General looked at me as if I was daffy, and chuckled. “Air Force, son. Can’t you read the cap on top of my head?” He pointed at the top of his head, where no cap existed. “See? As you can read, U.S. Air Force. You can read, can’t you son?”

“Yes sir.”

“Yes sir, good, I like that, shows respect. And I have earned that respect, serving my country all these years.”

“As a General.”

“Two stars. Used to be five, went down to one, now back up to two. And I plan to stay there.”

“I see.”

The General looked around the empty office to be sure we were alone, then he leaned in close to me. “Son, do you know any people between the ages of 18 and 34?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Good. I have some important classified information that you need to share with them. Now I can’t tell you the classified part, but I will tell you that we will be going to war in the next six months.”

“We will?”

“Don’t be na├»ve, of course we will! This time it will be Korea, and it will be a nuclear war. You can’t tell me you didn’t see this coming.”

“Well honestly—"

“I demand honesty! I will accept no less! And I am telling you that the age group I mentioned are going to be drafted. And this won’t be some wishy-washy draft like in the 60’s, this time every God-fearing man, woman and child who is physically able will be sent to fight overseas. And if they run, they will be lined up and executed.”

“Really?”

The General leaned back in his chair and put his fingers to his lips. “I’ve said too much already. Forget everything I just told you.”

“OK.”

The General looked at me sadly and shook his head. “How can you so blithely just dismiss this information? Do you fully grasp the gravity of what I’m telling you? We are going to war. You need to spread the word!”

“Understood.”

“But that’s classified.”

“I get it.”

“There’s more classified information I could give you, but then I’d be court martialed. I can only go so far.”

“I respect that.”

“Don’t be glib. Don’t be disrespectful.”

“I’m being totally respectful.”

“I have my doubts about that. Let me ask you something. Did you see COWBOYS AND ALIENS at the movie theater?”

“Yes I did.”

“Do you think that movie was just a coincidence? The government is trying to mentally prepare us for what is coming.”

I shrugged. “Well, what exactly is coming?”

“That’s classified. But I can tell you this. Do you ever read science fiction?”

“Yes.”

“Well I have news for you, it’s really science fact. We need to be prepared. Very soon we will be at war, Koreans on the left of us, outer space aliens on the right, and Chinese overlords barreling right down our throats. Did you ever think about that?”

“No.”

“Did ya?”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so.” The General pulled out a toy walkie talkie from his coat pocket. “Excuse me, I have to take this.” He spoke into the silent walkie talkie. “This is the General, go.” He paused as if he were listening, but no noise came from the gadget in his hand. “Gotcha.” He threw the walkie talkie to the ground and yelled as he leaped towards me. “Incoming!” The General was in midair as he shouted, and landed on me knocking me and my chair to the ground.

I crawled out from under the General. “What was that?” I asked.

“That was me saving your life. And you’re welcome.” We both got to our feet. “I had you pegged as a commie sympathizer, but I guess you’re OK. I like the cut of your jib, sailor. You strike me as a Navy man.”

“I’m a driving man.”

“Tanks and artillery, eh? Well, I wouldn’t be too proud about it, pride has been the downfall of many a soldier. Are you driving this car I picked up down to Florida?”

“Yes I am.”

He handed me the keys. “Well good luck and Godspeed. And for heaven’s sake, please watch out for the minefields down in North Carolina. I have an appointment with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” The General ducked and rolled on his way out of the office. He was very agile for a man of his age.

When Monty returned and paid me, I got on the road and began my drive to Florida. And I began to ponder, just how many of “Bill’s people” are there in the USA? Much less the whole world?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

PANAMA CITY WITH JC

My wild lady friend JC has houses all over the USA. I have visited her at many of them, but keep on finding out there are more that I don't know about. Like the one she mentioned last week in Panama City Beach in Florida. So since I was headed that way, I decided to accept her kind invitation and dropped in.

When I parked and walked up to the front door, I could hear her shouting inside. I was concerned, and knocked on the door. An older gentleman I had never seen before opened the door. "What?" he demanded.

"I'm Bill Thomas, I'm here to see JC."

"Why?" he asked.

"Why?" I was a bit confused. "Because she is my friend and she invited me."

JC pushed this man out of the way, scolding him. "What do you think you're doing? Don't answer my front door, and don't treat a dear friend of mine like he's not welcome." She turned to me and grabbed me for a hug. "Hello, sweetie."

"Hey, JC."

"Exactly who is he?" this man wanted to know.

"He's here, and you are gone, that's what." JC grabbed the man by the back of his shirt collar and dragged him out to the driveway. "Hit the road, and don't come back."

"Now listen, Missy, I--"

She wagged her finger in his face. "See there? Right there, that's why you have to leave. No one calls me Missy, I am no one's little Missy. You make my skin crawl. Now get out of here, you have ruined my day!" She marched to the front door, grabbed me by the hand as if it was an afterthought, and pulled me inside behind her. I closed the door as I stepped through the doorway.

JC led me into the kitchen, where she jumped up onto the counter. "That guy almost ruined my day, but now you're here and I know things are gonna get better." She pulled out a joint and lit it, sucking hard to inhale the pungent smoke. After a few hits, she handed it to me, but I declined. "No?" she asked.

"No, but thanks for offering. Say JC, just how many houses do you have, anyway?"

"I've lost count. Let's just say it helps to have two rich husbands who own lots of real estate and then who both die and leave everything to their lovely wife. That would be me." She grimaced.
"Freakin' plenty of fish."

"Beg pardon?"

"Aw, its that damn website, I keep on meeting guys through it, but they are never what I expect or hope for."

"They deceive you?"

She laughed heartily. "Honey, they are deceiving themselves. But yes, I have dreams that one of them will give a true representation of themselves. They just never seem to do that, and it sucks."

"I can imagine."

"This guy for instance, his name was Louis. Sounded like Prince Charming on paper, and we wrote back and forth. Then he shows up here today and starts in with his redneck chauvinistic old-fashioned ideals, and expects me to be the obedient little woman. Screw that! Men are all pigs!"

"Really?"

"Except for you." She shook her head and smiled. "He was telling me all about the wonders of Tantric sex, and how I needed to learn about it under his tutelage. Or some such. To hell with that, I just want a guy who picks me up and sets me on the edge of the kitchen sink and gives it to me."

I smiled. "Gives it to you?"

"Yeah, special delivery, overnight express, give it to me long and hard."

"OK."

She punched me hard on the shoulder. "Don't act like some prude, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But I've been going without for too long now, next time a man does me I expect to light up and pay off in silver dollars. Know what I mean?"

"I think so."

"How have you been?"

"Things have been a little rough lately."

"Nope, nope, I only want to hear good news."

"OK, well then, the world is at peace, all is well, I love my job, life couldn't possibly be better."

"And now you're feeding me a load of bull crap. How's your love life?"

"What love life?"

She took me by the hand and led me out onto the back patio. It was a beautiful view, looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. "So I've been thinking. Maybe I should just keep you around."

"What do you mean?"

"I need a companion, and someone to service me when I require it. I say you get off the road and be my personal Cabana boy."

"Cabana boy? You got a Cabana?"

"OK then, be my stud. My kept man."

"Why me? I'd think you'd want someone younger and more rugged."

"I like you, Bill. I feel comfortable around you. And I know you'd be a great travel companion, you have been all over the country and back a hundred times. You know you're way around."

"Yes, and you've been around the block more than a few times."

"Indeed I have. Say... we've never humped, have we?"

"Uh... no."

"Why not, I wonder?"

"Just never came up."

I'll stop the story here, and just say that I spent the night with her. We talked long into the night, and watched a few DVDs together in her bedroom. When I woke up the next morning, she was sound asleep and so I crept out. All day as I drove, I kept thinking about her offer. To get off the road, to be taken care of, it would be such a different life. But as much as I like JC, I am not in love with her. And I'm quite sure she is not in love with me. So could I choose a life like that? It doesn't fit in with the lifestyle of a driving fool.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

USED TO IT

Facebook is a great tool for finding old friends and making new friends. I have heard from many new people via Facebook who have read about my adventures on the road. Some want to know more, and some want to meet me. I even get invited to stay over at people's homes when I pass through their town. And I have taken some of those offers, but you never know what you're gonna get.

A gal named Zola from Savannah insisted that I come and stay with her next time I was headed that way. She sounded like a real interesting person, and she was so full of wonder about A Driving Fool. I was intrigued enough to stop there last week, and it was an unforgettable experience.

She had described to me living with her family in a penthouse. Well, I guess it was an apartment, but it was in a large area full of extremely low-income housing. I was grateful for the bed, and walked in with no expectations. Zola with the flaming red hair gave me a big hug and welcomed me, but I was distracted by the overwhelming aroma of dog and cat piss and crap. And as I walked in, I saw small piles everywhere. It was like navigating a small mine field.

"Do you like cats, Bill? Do you like dogs? I hope so, cuz I have 2 dogs and 6 cats. Yes, you did hear me right."

"I do like dogs." One of her dogs began to bite at the cuff of my jeans, growling and chewing.

"Stop it, Beanie. That one is Beanie, and the other one is Cecil. You may smell the poop, but you get used to it."

"Cool."

"Come on in and meet the family. You know I never read your blogs, I have too short an attention span. I just read your Facebook posts."

She led me into a tiny living room, where twin boys sat cramming cheese balls into their mouths (from a huge jar full of them) as they watched TV. "Mom, I'm hungry," one of them said.

"These are my boys, Timmy and Tommy."

"Did you hear him, we are so hungry," said the other boy. Each of them looked to weigh over 300 lbs. "We're starving."

"My boys are juniors in high school this year. Am I proud? Well of course I'm proud. Why wouldn't I be proud? You'd be proud too if you were a parent, only you're not, but if you were. At least, now wait a minute, maybe you are a parent and I just don't know about it?"

"Nope, no kids."

"As far as you know," she said, winkly broadly and elbowing me in the ribs with surprising force. "My husband Deano is in the bedroom. He probably won't be coming out, you won't see much of him."

"Really?"

"Yes, see Deano doesn't like people much. Except for his family. And you are not a member of this family. Well, you kind of are, I mean I feel like you are in my heart, but then, you know, he's not me. Deano is very much his own man."

I walked over to a torn chair and sat down. "OK if I sit here?"

"Yes, of course, sit, sit, for God's sake make yourself comfortable. This is my home, not a prison farm. You visit with the boys, I have to go check something in the kitchen."

"Bring us back something" said one of the boys, his mouth full of cheese balls.

"How are you guys doing?" I asked.

"Shut up," said Tommy , or Timmy.

"We're trying to watch our cartoons," said the other one. I couldn't help looking at them and thinking of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Only with an attitude.

Zola came in carrying a huge tray full of serving bowls. "Dinner is served. I made a special meal just for you, in honor of you, our special guest a driving fool." She took the bowls off and set them on the table. One had potato chips, one had corn chips, another had pretzels, and still another had popcorn, and the last one looked like pork rinds. Timmy and Tommy nearly dove head first into the bowls, seemingly starving for more. I'm on a diet where I'm not supposed to be eating any of this type of thing, so I nibbled slowly on a pretzel.

Beanie chose this moment to come over and squat down next to me and poop. "What do you do about this?" I asked Zola, who seemed oblivious.

She shrugged. "What can you do? What can anyone do? We take them out for walks sometimes, but they seem to prefer to poop and pee in the house. You get used to it. Isn't that funny? The cats do it too, sometimes, well not all of them, but most of them. Right boys?"

"Shut up, Mom, we're watching cartoons."

"Oh Tommy," she said sweetly.

"I'm Timmy!" he shouted.

"I'm Timmy, you're Tommy," said the other one.

"Hmm," I said. "What I meant was what do you do with the end result? What they leave behind?"

"Someone will pick it up eventually. Its not like we can go around all day just picking up their poop. Right? I mean, right?"

"Right," I said, without much conviction. I know I should accept that different people live in different ways, but something about this just felt wrong. Then I heard a roaring growl from the next room.

Zola laughed. "That's just my husband Deano. He has some rage issues, but don't you worry about it one little bit." Then she began talking for an hour and seemed to never stop to take a breath. She was talking about a lot of very strange and unusual topics, ranging from war to jobs, to government to sex. Every so often one of her sons would interrupt to tell her to shut up so they could hear their cartoons.

After an hour, I told her that I had to leave at 5 the next day to get down the road. "So I better turn in early."

"You mean 5pm?"

"No Zola, 5am."

"5am in the morning? Now I know you are teasing me, no one gets up at 5am, that's when people are just getting to sleep."

"That's when I'm leaving, no joke."

"You ain't kidding its no joke, that is seriously messed up. I feel for you. Well, Tommy gave up his bedroom for you, so you can go lay down right now. Let me show you the way." Zola led me down a hallway, and opened a door and turned on the light. Cecil was squatting and answering nature's call. "Oh Cecil, you are so sweet, you're leaving a little welcome gift for Mr. Bill Thomas. The driving fool!" She giggled and ran out of the room.

I looked around for something I could throw on the floor to cover up all of the many brown streaks left behind. Then I cleaned up Cecil's latest pile. There was a knock at the door. "Yes?"

Zola came back in with a yellow and green-sided scrubbing sponge, and a can of Ajax and a towel. "I brought you some stuff in case you want to take a shower in the morning."

"You want me to clean out your shower stall?"

"No silly, you clean yourself with this. It can be used as hair and body wash."

"Ajax?"

"Ajax. Stronger than dirt. As least that's what they say. Though I don't know who 'they' is."

"Mom, when are you gonna feed us, we're hungry!" came the bellow of one of the boys.

"I'm needed elsewhere. Sweet dreams."

I laid across the bed. The sheets looked very dirty, but I guessed I would just shower as good as I could in the morning.

At 3am, I awoke from a dream feeling as if there was something crawling on me. All over me. I jumped up and turned on the light, and saw that the bed was covered with what looked like mini-cockroaches. I'm not too sure what they were, but there were a lot of them. And some were still crawling on me, so I yelled out as I brushed them off my body.

Zola came bursting into the room. "Are you OK? I heard yelling."

"Sorry," I said, pointing at the bed. She looked and saw all the bugs crawling there.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you, we have a slight insect problem. Nothing too serious. I think maybe the bugs like the dog poop. Go figure, right? You get used to it."

I don't think I could ever get used to it. I got up and took a soapless shower, then hit the road a little earlier than planned. Zola hugged me when I left and said she'd be counting the days until the next time I come through there. "You'll get quite a good story out of this visit, I'll bet. The coolest house with the hippest people ever."