My boss Riff had told me that after I took the Jewish ambulance up to Orlando for the festival, I would be driving it down to Ft. Myers for another dedication ceremony. What he did not mention was that it would take place on Valentines Day, which meant that I would have to be on hold for three days while waiting. Down time is not good for a driving fool, because to earn money you need to keep moving. I spent the first night in a motel room, but felt it would hit my wallet too hard if I did that three more nights in a row (including the night of the ceremony). So I slept on the gurney in the back of the ambulance, and went to a local Bally’s health spa each day for a workout and a shower.
On Valentines Day, I arrived at the country club where the event was to take place at 5pm. I was told to be there by 6pm, but I always like to be early. I had put on my nice slacks and a dress shirt and tie for the occasion. The first person to arrive was clearly the representative from the ambulance company, for she instantly launched into directing me where to park the ambulance. Every five to ten minutes, she came back out into the parking lot and told me to move it again. She could not seem to decide exactly where she wanted it parked. Every rep from the ambulance company that I have ever met was very nice, cordial, and definite about what they wanted. This woman was pushy and rather unpleasant, and completely indecisive about where the ambulance should be parked. I had moved it six times by the time other people started to arrive. The majority of them were senior citizens, all decked out in their nicest clothes.
Soon a man drove up in a Lexus, and rolled down his window. “Are you Bill?” he asked.
“Yes sir, Bill Thomas.”
“Hi Bill, I’m Morrie. I’m the rep overseeing this event.”
I was confused. “You’re from the ambulance company?”
“Yes, I’m the rep.”
Just then, the woman who had been giving me orders marched out to us. “OK,” she said, “I’ve about had it with you.”
“What did I do?” I asked.
“Clearly you can’t seem to place the ambulance properly. You keep on moving it.”
“I moved it where you told me to put it, ma’am.”
“Excuse me,” said Morrie. “Who are you?”
“Louise Steinmetz, and who are you?”
“I’m Morrie, I’m with the ambulance company.”
“She doesn’t work with you?” I asked Morrie.
“About time you got here, someone has to be in charge. I have to go do my exercises now.” She walked away doing side stretches.
“I really thought she was in charge,” I explained.
“I think she’d like to be,” Morrie told me. He showed me where to park the ambulance and we chatted. I told him about the incident on the Florida Turnpike four days ago, and he was fascinated. A car pulled up next to us, and two elderly ladies got out. To my great surprise, one of them was Mrs. Sherman, the 92 year old woman whose car I move north and south twice a year.
“Mrs. Sherman! Nice to see you.”
“Hello?” she said, a bit flustered.
“It’s me, Bill Thomas, your friendly driver.”
“Bill? Oh, Bill! I’m so glad you came, I didn’t know if you’d get my invitation.”
I was stumped. “You sent me an invitation?”
Now she was stumped. “Did I?”
Her friend interceded. “No you did not, because I invited you.” She turned to me, all charm and flirtation. “Hello, I’m Mildred Lebowitz. And who are you?”
“Bill?” She held her hand out for me. But not in a position to shake, more like she wanted me to take her hand and kiss it, as if she were royalty. So I did, and she seemed to be floating on a cloud.
Mrs. Sherman smiled. “Bill, this is my friend Mildred Lebowitz.”
“I already introduced myself,” Mildred said to Mrs. Sherman, but her eyes were on me. Mildred was elderly also, but looked like she was six or seven years younger than her friend. “We’d better get inside and get our seats.”
“Well, maybe it’s time for us to go inside now,” said Mrs. Sherman. “Bill, did you remember when I called and told you I was going to a Valentines Ball?”
“Yes ma’am, I do remember.” The two women went inside, and Morrie smiled at me.
“You are quite a charmer, Bill.”
“Not on purpose, I just try to be polite.”
“No, it’s good. So where are you gonna go?”
“I’ll find a room somewhere inside and write for a while. Maybe work on my computer. You have my cell phone number?”
“I do, I got it from your boss.”
“So if you need me, just call. I’ll be out of sight, but less than a minute away if you need me for anything.” So I went off and wrote for two hours, and then Morried called my cell phone. I went and met him in the lobby.
“Bill, the kitchen offered to make you a plate. Are you hungry?”
“Yes I am. That’s a very kind offer, I will take you up on it.”
“There are also some people who want to meet you. Come on into the event room, will you?” I followed Morrie inside, and saw a huge room full of elderly people. Quite a few of them began shuffling over to Morrie. “This is the guy.”
One woman leaning on a cane said, “So you’re the young man who was chased by terrorists on the Turnpike last weekend?”
“Uh, yes, but I don’t think they were terrorists.”
“They could have killed you,” said a bald man.
“You’re very brave,” said another woman.
“There’s too little courage in the world anymore, we need more men like you out there,” said the man with his arm looped together with the woman. This went on for a while, as they all had comments and questions. Finally, Morrie urged me to retell the story of exactly what happened. I have never had a more captivated audience listen to me tell a tale.
Afterwards, Morrie took me over to the kitchen door where a waiter was ready to make me a plate. And the timing was good, because I have low blood sugar and needed a boost. But before I could get to the door, I was intercepted by Mildred. “Hello, handsome. I heard you are a brave man who put his life on the line to save the ambulance so it could make it to Israel. You are a mensch.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“You are, that’s it, I have spoken. Dance with me now, make me a happy old woman.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“But I do think you can,” she said forcefully. I looked at Morrie, who shrugged and nodded his head in approval. If he wanted me to, what harm could there be? So I led her out onto the dance floor and we danced. Actually, it was more like swaying back and forth. I thought that she would run out of energy after one or two songs, but I was very wrong. She went for ten songs in a row, with her head pressed into my chest. I’m not a very tall guy, but she was at least a full head shorter than me.
On song number eleven, Mrs. Sherman came up to us. “I wonder if I might cut in?”
“No!” said Mildred with fierce finality.
“Bill is an acquaintance of mine, and he looks to be a pretty good dancer.”
“Oh, he’s a delightful dancer,” said Mildred.
“How about letting me enjoy just one dance with him?” asked Mrs. Sherman.
“Get your own boy, Maxine, this one is mine.” I felt badly as I saw Mrs. Sherman walking away with her head hung low. But I wasn’t about to get into the middle of a tussle between two old friends. Mildred nuzzled her face into my chest. “You remind me of my dear departed husband Ira, God rest his soul. That man was hung like a horse.” At that point, I felt a hand squeeze my butt cheek. I finished the dance, and then excused myself to go to the kitchen for my dinner. Mildred didn’t want me to go, but I politely insisted.
As I laid on the gurney in the back of the ambulance later that night falling asleep, I thought about elderly women and how much they enjoyed the attentions of a younger man. And I smiled when I thought that sometimes this job could lead to interesting and unique experiences.