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.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I was driving a big cargo van up to Cheyenne, Wyoming on Easter Sunday. The vehicle was in pretty bad shape, beat up and rusted out. The man who gave me the keys to it in Tucson said to never let it get below 1/4 of a tank, because the needle would just drop from 1/4 to EMPTY in a flash, and you'd be stalled out right then and there. The man also explained that the radio was broken, but that the cassette player worked. But there was tape jammed in the machine, and so it was the only thing I'd be able to listen to.

As I started my 995 mile trip, I turned on the cassette hoping it might be a George Strait tape. No such luck. It was a singer named Jimmy Buffett, who I've heard of but never listened to much. My old friend Smokey hates Buffett with a passion, which always made me curious. I listened to songs about Cheeseburgers in Paradise, Fins to the left and Fins to the right, when a Volcano is gonna blow, and a mystical place called Margaritaville. It wasn't half bad, I liked the sunny disposition of the songs and the singer.

I felt sort of sad that I had no one to spend Easter with. No one to have a big Easter dinner with, big portions of ham and beans and potato salad just like when I was a kid. I was also getting down with thoughts of helping my fellow man, but feeling like I'm alone in doing so. I know when we do a kindness for someone else it's not for reward, but I'd just like to think there are other folks out there in the world who also wish to help simply because its the right thing to do. Oh well.

It was late in the afternoon, and I was listening to the tape for maybe the tenth time in a row. I suddenly noticed that the fuel gauge was at 1/4, and wondered how it got there so quick without me noticing. I started to pray for a gas station to come up soon, as I was in a very rural stretch of road just north of Denver. I saw a sign that said "GAS - 5 MILES AHEAD". I sighed with relief, and then the gas needle dropped down to "E". "No, no, please, I'm so close," I pleaded to the van. Moments later, the van sputtered and came to a dead stop. There were no two ways about it, I was stuck.

I climbed out of the van and knew that the only solution was to walk five miles to the gas station, buy a small container for gas, and walk back to pour it in. I locked up the van and walked about twenty steps before the rain started coming down hard. Then I heard a motor headed my way. Not from the highway, which was nearly deserted, but from a field off the highway. It was an ATV carrying a Farmer, and he was carrying something in his lap. As they drew closer, I could see it was a little girl in his lap, and they were really flying across the field.

I waved as they got near, and the Farmer stopped at the barbed wire fence. "Howdy," he shouted at me.

"Hi," I said as I walked toward the fence.

"You got car trouble?"

"Out of gas. This van has a defective fuel gauge."

"It's always something, isn't it? They get you one way or the other."

"How far to the nearest gas station? Sign says five miles."

"Don't worry about it, I'll help you out. Meet me down at the end of the fence." He took off on the ATV, and I ran along my side of the fence until I reached the end of it. At that point, there were some steps, making it fairly easy to climb over. "I thought it would be easier for you to get over down here."

"You're right about that, thanks."

"Hop on the back there and hang on." The Farmer indicated a wide board on the back of the ATV, and I sat on it facing backwards. He took off, and we had a relatively wild ride across the fields with the rain still coming down hard. There were numerous bumps that made me go flying up, but my hands had a death grip on the board so I wasn't going too far.

When he pulled up to the farmhouse where he lived, we slowed down a bit. He drove around back, and there was a big red barn. Another ATV came driving out of the barn, with a boy driving it that could not have been more than seven. The girl who had been riding with us looked to be four or five, I assumed they were his children. It was sort of amazing, kind of wholesome, and even a little bizarre to see such a small boy so expertly piloting this big ATV. With a rifle propped up next to him.

"Shelly, go get this man a mug of your mother's hot coffee from the kitchen," the Farmer said to the little girl.

"That's not necessary," I said, but Shelly was gone.

"Ain't necessary, but its the right thing to do. You're our guest." He turned his attention to the boy. "Jimmy, did you check out the west field?"

"Yes sir. I saw that old wolf slinking around out there."

"What'd you do?"

"I shot him dead, Daddy!"

"That's my boy!"

"I'm gonna go check the back nine now." Jimmy revved up his ATV and took off.

The Farmer patted me on the back. "Let's get you some gas, pardner."

"Your boy sure does drive that ATV like a pro."

"That's my Jimmy, I'm awful proud of him. He's growing into a fine young man."

"I can see that." The Farmer went into the barn and I stood in the doorway to avoid the rain. After a few minutes, Shelly came out and handed me a big thermos and a brown paper bag stuffed with something. "Thank you very much," I said, and she giggled and ran off.

"That's my girl, Shelly," the Farmer said as he came out of the barn with a ten gallon container of gas.

"I think she brought me more than a mug of coffee."

The Farmer smiled. "Well sure. I imagine that Sally, she's my wife, she probably packed you a couple of ham sandwiches and a big hunk of her pound cake."

I was very much taken aback. "That's incredibly generous."

The Farmer shook his head. "Nothing to it. Just trying to be friendly."

"Extremely friendly, and I am so grateful."

The Farmer walked over to his "dualie" pickup truck and I followed. "You might want to hold those thank yous til we see if we can get that van of yours started. We'll take my truck back over." He put the gas container in the bed of the truck, then we climbed in the cab and took off.

When we got back to the fence, I hopped out and started to climb over the barbed wire. The Farmer laughed and said, "What you trying to do there, buddy?"

"Trying to get back to my van."

"You're gonna get your clothes and yourself all torn up there. Step back." The Farmer put the palm of his right hand on one of the fence posts, then in one swift motion threw his legs and himself over the fence, landing smoothly on the other side. "Now hand me that gas container."

"Sure," I said, lifting it over the fence, still impressed by the agility it took to hop over that fence.

"Why don't you go ahead and drive my truck down to the end of the fence. I'll try to get your van started then meet you down there."

I did as I was told, and watched from a distance as the Farmer poured the gas into the van, then got behind the wheel and started it. The van came rolling slowly down the shoulder of the highway. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $20 and a $10, which should cover the gas. Though it didn't seem nearly enough to compensate the Farmer for his time and the inconvenience.

As I climbed the steps over the fence, the Farmer walked up and said, "You're good to go, pardner. You better stop at the next exit and fill up."

"I sure will."

"I left the van on, the engine is idling."

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate it."

"Don't worry about it, glad I could help out."

I handed him the $30. "Hope this will cover it."

The Farmer held up his hands. "No sir, I don't want your money."

"After all you did for me, I at least have to pay you back for the gas."

"No you don't. But I'll tell you what you can do. Sometime when you see someone in trouble, stop and give them a hand."

I felt a warmth rush through my entire body. "I will. You can count on it. Listen, I just have to tell you, I try to be good and kind to everyone I meet. But... well, the fact is, I'm not used to getting it back in return. It's nice."

"It is, isn't it? Believe me when I tell you, it was my pleasure."

I stuck my hand out to shake. "By the way, my name is Bill."

The Farmer smiled and shook my hand. "Well what do you know? My name is Bill, too."

This renewed my faith in the golden rule. There really is goodness and kindness in the world. And I will keep on driving and looking for it. Helping others where I can, and maybe receiving help sometimes in return -- just when you least expect it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I delivered a car to Maryland, and then hopped on a plane and flew to Texas for my next pick up. I was in an aisle seat on the plane, and found myself in the middle of a family. The two people on my side of the row were related to the folks in the seats across the aisle. I say two people, but it was really three in my row if you count the toddler.
And I do.

Once we were in the air, what appeared to be the Grandparents across the aisle were leaning over and waving and cooing at the toddler, and kept asking his parents to pass him over. Which meant passing him over me. No problem, except that each time they passed the kid, he'd either whack me with his hand in the face or kick me with his tiny shoes. Surprising how much punch can be delivered by such little feet. The Grandparents would play with him til he cried, then pass him back to Mom and Dad. Once the little tyke was calm again, the old folks would hold out their arms. The child must have been passed back and forth at least ten times during the flight.

I was really glad to get off that flight, I wanted a nap but every time I'd start to nod off a foot would kick me in the head. Knowing that I had time to kill before picking up the next car, I found a little Coffee Cafe called COFFEE, TEA, OR ME. Odd name, but they had free Wifi and so I decided to drop in. Got a cup of green tea and opened up my laptop. I noticed that there were two tables right in front of me that had desktop style computers, with a sign that stated "15 MINUTE LIMIT PER CUSTOMER."

It began to rain outside as I checked my email. I hoped it would stop fairly soon, as I had to catch several buses to get where I was going. A woman walked in humming loudly, then broke into song. I didn't recognize the tune or the lyrics, but I like it when someone is happy. She sat down at one of the computers and spoke to it. "Now are you going to work for me today? I'm counting on you, I have some very important papers I need to print. Do you understand me? Very important. Oh yes, oh yes." She went about setting up her materials and started to type.

A waitress walked up to her and smiled. "What can I get for you?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Would you like something to drink? Coffee, tea, juice?"

"What I'd like is some privacy and some peace and quiet. Tell me, do you think that's too much for me to ask? Really, I would like your opinion."

"Uh, no ma'am, you're welcome to use our computer."

"Oh good, I have your blessing. Well then, run along now." When the waitress left, the woman leaned down close to the computer. "I thought she'd never leave. The nerve of some people. I just want you and me to be here alone and get our work done. You can understand, right? Right? Hello, I'm speaking to you, the courtesy of a response would be much appreciated."

The computer said nothing. It just sat quietly. The woman got to work, but she peppered her task with comments. "You really do run slow, you know." "I've worked on much more efficient operating systems than yours." "I don't mean to insult you, but you are most definitely substandard."

I looked out the window and watched the rain. I found myself drifting off into a daydream, and then suddenly was brought back to reality by the woman, who raised her voice. "What are you looking at?" she asked me with suspicion.

"Just watching the rain," I told her.

"You were watching me doing my personal business. Don't try to deny it."

"Trust me, I was watching the rain and wondering when it would stop."

"How can I trust you, I don't even know you. And I don't buy that story for one minute. You were sticking your fat nose into my business, and I want you to know that I don't appreciate it. Keep your eyes to yourself." She got back to her work, and I stared at my computer screen. Then I overheard her say to her computer, "Can you believe the nerve of that man? What kind of world do we live in where a mean, nasty man would try to spy on you. Will you tell me that? I'm flabbergasted." Then she pulled a sandwich and a can of Coke out of her purse.

Soon I was so focused on my work that I'd pretty much forgotten the lady sitting in front of me. But then the printer wouldn't work, and she began to exclaim "What is wrong with you, Mr. Printer? I need you to work now, this is a most important matter. Please just do your job, that's all that I ask."

The woman raised her voice and actually began to yell at the printer. The waitress came over and asked, "What's the problem, ma'am?"

"Go away, this is between me and the printer."

"Maybe I can help you."

"Oh, I seriously doubt that."

"Our printer hasn't been working too well lately," the waitress offered, most politely.

"Well I am outraged! I come in here and spend my money, and you don't even have a working computer? Why did I come? Why am I here?"

The waitress shrugged and walked away. The woman got up in a huff and grabbed her things to leave. I noticed that her umbrella was still hanging on the back of the chair, so I grabbed it and ran to the door to hand it to her.

"I think you forgot this," I said.

"What? What's this?"

"I believe it's your umbrella, it was hanging on the back of your chair."

The woman looked as if she were about to cry. "Oh my goodness. It is mine. Oh sir, you are a true gentleman. Chivalry is not dead, well, not yet anyway. Thank you so much." As I stepped away, I heard her speaking to the umbrella. "I almost left you in there. Then I would have gotten wet, and you would have been abandoned. An orphan, as it were."

I packed up my computer, grabbed my bag, and started out the door opening my own umbrella. It was going to be a very wet drive tonight.

Monday, April 11, 2011


On my way to deliver a car to Washington, PA, I got a call from the man I was delivering to.

"Where in God's creation are you?" Mr. Dexter asked me.

"Columbia, South Carolina at the moment."

"There's no reason to be a smart ass."

This stumped me. "Sir, I wasn't trying to be a--"

"Enough chit-chat, just tell me when I'm gonna get my freakin' car, would you?"

"Tomorrow morning, just as we'd planned."

"That was your plan, not mine. I simply agreed to it. And then what?"

I cleared my throat. "Well, then I catch a plane to Florida so I can pick up another car."

"And I suppose you want me to take you to the airport?"

"You don't have to, but if you are offering I'll graciously accept."

"OK, OK, just call me in the morning before you arrive at my house. I like to walk around the house buck naked, so it would be nice to have some warning. Just so I can put on some pants."

"You got it."

"Do me a favor, please don't crash and wreck my car on the drive up here. I need my car."

"Everything will be fine, Mr. Dexter."

"It better be." He hung up.

I drove north through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and finally into Pennsylvania. There were a lot of very winding roads, and long tunnels that went right through the middle of mountains. Very cool.

I arrived late at my motel in Washington, and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I set both of my portable alarm clocks, just to be certain that I woke up on time the next morning.

At sunrise, I was up and taking a quick shower. I checked out of the motel and drove the five miles to the man's home, calling him as I promised along the way. It kept sending me to his voicemail. I arrived at the house and sat in the driveway for 30 minutes. Finally, he called me back.

"Is this Bill Thomas?" he asked. "Bill the driver?"

"Yes sir, I'm right in front of your house."

"Did I or did I not instruct you to call me before you arrived?"

"I've been calling, I got no answer."

"It hardly matters, since I'm not there. I left early to do some business over in Canonsburg. Bring the car to me here, now."

"Uh, OK, how do I get to Canonsburg?"

"You're the driving expert. You're the navigational genius, you figure it out."

"Can I have the address, please?"

Mr. Dexter let out a long, heavy sigh. "You are a whole lot of trouble." He gave me the address and I jotted it down. Then I stopped at a Truck stop to get directions. Someone always knows at the Truck stop.

45 minutes later, I arrived at the address in Canonsburg. Mr. Dexter was outside looking at his watch and tapping his foot. "Took you long enough."

"I got here as quickly as I could."

"I'm not interested in your excuses, give me the car and let's be done with all this nonsense." He signed the paperwork and then said, "You're on your own for getting to the airport. I have more important things to do than chauffeur you all over the greater Pittsburgh area. Good luck." With that, he was gone.

I always have a back-up plan for how to get out of a place once I've dropped off a car. Always a Plan A and a Plan B. But I made those plans in accordance with my instructions to deliver in Washington, not Canonsburg. Luckily, a driving fool like me is very resourceful and quick on my feet. I found my way to City Hall, and there I got information about where to catch a Regional bus which would take me into downtown Pittsburgh. From there, a train ride and a city bus would get me to the airport.

While in City Hall, I also learned that Canonsburg is the birthplace of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. And that Perry Como worked at a Barbershop in town before he became famous. There was a "Blue Velvet" teddy bear encased in glass inside City Hall, and a life size statue of Perry Como out front. I supposed I owe Mr. Dexter a big thank you for bringing me to Canonsburg. These are the little joys in life that make travels fun and full of discovery for a driving fool.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I had just finished a week of shuttling ambulances from Miami to the Jacksonville port in Florida. We had to wear a yellow safety vest at the port, and I kept forgetting to take mine off at the end of the day.

On Friday, I left Jacksonville in a rental car and drove to Orlando in a terrible rainstorm. Whipping wind and blinding rain made it a slow drive, and I got a headache out of the bargain. I was going to meet an old friend who works at Walt Disney World for dinner, but since I arrived hours before she got off work, I decided to go see a movie at Pleasure Island. They have a huge AMC 24-plex theater right there on Disney property, and I was debating what I wanted to see.

I walked purposefully through Downtown Disney under my umbrella, when a very haughty woman called to me, "Young man, young man. I need you to take me to where I catch the bus back to my hotel."

I shrugged and kept on walking. "Sorry, I can't help you."

The woman hurried over and stood in my path. "I beg your pardon, but you can at least tell me where the bus is."

"I have no idea. Have a nice day."

But she would not get out of my way. And her attitude went quickly from stuck up to hostile. "You will tell me what I want to know right away because you are required to."

"Listen ma'am, I do not have the information you require, and I'm running late, so--"

"How dare you! You cannot speak to me that way."

"Gotta go."

She held her own umbrella out to block my passage. "I don't like your sass. You are a worthless little man and barely worth my time. You are moronic and incompetent, and I just don't like anything about you. I am going to report you."

"Go ahead."

"I mean it. I intend to report that you were rude, impudent and sarcastic."

"Good, I encourage you to do so."

"What is your name?"

"I'm not telling."

"You absolutely must give me your name. I know the Disney rules, and as an employee you have to comply."

"I don't work here."

"Don't be an idiot, of course you do."

"Nope, I don't."

"But you're wearing the yellow vest, that means you're an employee."

I looked down at the vest. "I forgot to take off the vest, but I don't work here."

"Aha, so you are an off-duty employee. But the rules still apply to you. Give me your name right this minute."

"No thank you." And with that, I side-stepped around her and hurried on my way. This made her absolutely furious.

"Come back here. I'm not through with you. Oooo, you are in so much trouble."

My first job was working in a Theme park, and I enjoyed serving people and making them smile all day. But I also had to take a lot of crap from haughty, mean-spirited, nasty people who would look down their nose at me. As an "ex-employee", I refuse to subject myself to such nonsense. As I walked away from this bitchy woman, I smiled contentedly.