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."
"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."
"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. 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."