Saturday, March 31, 2012
We walked around his car in a parking lot where he had designated for us to meet. I was doing my condition report, marking down scratches, dents, etc. He was following me and watching closely. When I was done, I held out the clipboard with my paperwork to him. "OK Jody, if you will just sign here I'll be on my way."
"What? No, Bill, I can't do that."
"I don't understand, what's the problem?"
"My boss wants to see the car."
"Jody, signing this simply means that you handed me the keys, and you agree that the car is in the condition I have listed here."
"Oh sure, sure, I get that. Only my boss... well, you know how he is."
"Honestly, I don't. I've been doing this job for a while, and I've never had anyone's boss have to sign off on a car. I assure you it is not necessary."
"Right, but then we're talking about Eddie. And you know Eddie!"
"No, I don't believe we have met. But if he needs to sign off on it, that's fine with me. Where is Eddie?"
"At his motel, asleep."
"Uh, well Jody, I do have to get on down the road."
"Bill, I promise, this won't take long at all."
One hour later, we were still standing in the parking lot waiting. Jody had called his boss twice by this time, and he kept getting lame excuses from the man. I was beginning to feel frustrated, but kept it inside because I didn't wish to be rude to the customer. After all, this wasn't Jody's fault.
"Jody," I said, "didn't you tell me that you spent the last three days with your boss at a conference?"
"Yes, that's right, down in Columbus."
"Did he see the car there?"
"Oh you bet he did. I was driving him around in it."
"Well then... I'm confused. If he just saw it, why does he need to see it again before I can leave?"
"He wants to see it with you. Together. You know Eddie, he's all about togetherness." I still did not understand why Jody seemed so sure that I knew Eddie and his personality traits. I had never met the man. Jody's cell phone rang, and he talked to Eddie again for a few minutes. Then he hung up and smiled at me. "Good news. Eddie is 40 miles from here and wants us to meet him halfway."
"That is good news."
"So, hop in the car and I'll drive you to the rendezvous point."
"Let's go." And go we did, about one half hour on the Interstate highway towards Canton, Ohio. We stopped in a large hotel parking lot and stood around. For another hour. And then Eddie drove up, talking on the phone in his car. I walked over towards his car, and Jody gently grabbed my arm.
"What are you doing, Bill?"
"Making a beeline for Eddie, so he can sign off on this and I can get going."
"But can't you see, Eddie is on the phone. He hates to be interrupted when he is on his cell phone. I mean he hates it!"
So I waited until he got off the phone. Eddie climbed out of the car and Jody started talking to him. He basically ignored Jody, and walked right over to me. "Hey kid," said Eddie, "whadaya say, whadaya know?"
I smiled. "Not much."
Eddie doubled over laughing much too hard. "Not much! Did you hear that Jody? He said not much."
Jody nodded enthusiastically. "I heard. Eddie, this is Bill the driver."
Eddie got very close to me, face to face. "Hey, what's that?" he asked, pointing at a spot on my shirt just below my chest. When I looked down, Eddie brought his finger up and flicked the end of my nose. "Ha ha, gotcha! I got you good!" His cell phone rang, and Eddie answered it and walked away from me.
Jody looked very happy. "I think he likes you. That's a very good sign."
"I'm glad that he likes me, but that doesn't factor into my job. I just made the mistake of engaging in small talk with him. Next time he's off the phone, I'm just going to hand him the clipboard and ask for him to sign. I'm already running two hours late."
Jody seemed defeated. "I know, and it is all my fault. How can you ever forgive me?"
I shook my head. "There is nothing to forgive. I just have to take care of business here."
Ten minutes later, Eddie hung up the phone. One second later, I was in his space handing him the clipboard. "Hey, hey!" yelled Eddie. "What's this, what's your rush? Explain yourself!"
"I just need for you to sign here and I'll be out of your hair."
"Out of my hair? In case you haven't noticed, I don't have much hair left." I glanced and could see that he was balding and his remaining hair was thinning out. "I love hair. And I love people who love hair, and have hair, and jump rope with hair. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair!" He cackled with laughter. "No, but seriously, we have to go over this car inch by inch before I let you take it."
I held the paperwork out for him to examine. "As you can see, I've already done a condition report."
Eddie turned to Jody, referring to me. "Jody, where did you find this guy? I love this guy! I want him around me for the rest of my natural life! I want to make babies with this man. Now give me that paperwork, you big lovable so and so." Eddie snatched the paperwork from me and began walking slowly around the car.
I pointed towards an obvious deep scratch. "I mark down things like this one right here..."
"Shhh!" interrupted Eddie. "I'm in the zone."
"He likes zones," offered Jody.
"Shut up, Jody, I'll tell you when its time to speak." Eddie walked over and looked at the scratch I had pointed out, then reviewed the paperwork. "What is this?"
"A scratch, I marked it right there."
Eddie made a silly face and shook his head back and forth. "No, no, that's not a scratch. Watch this." Eddie took a handkerchief out of his pocket and spit generously on it. Then he took the handkerchief and rubbed very hard on the scratch, as if he could make it disappear. "A little bit of spit and elbow grease will take out any scratch or dent. The point is, we're not going to be responsible for any scratches or dents."
I grinned. "Eddie, you will not be held accountable. The point of me writing this stuff down is to protect both you and me. It shows what condition the car was when I picked it up, and what it was when I delivered it."
Eddie furrowed his brow. "But how can I live with this? You wrote that there is a deep dent on the right side front door."
I responded by walking around the car and pointing to the spot. "Right here."
"No, no," said Eddie, shaking his head as he walked up. He spit twice into the handkerchief and began to rub very vigorously. "This will come out in no time, lickety-split. Say Bill, what do you say to a one-legged hitchhiker?"
"Uh, I don't know."
"Hop in. Get it? One leg? Hop? Get it?"
"Yes, I do get it."
"I got a million more, I'm warning you."
"Thanks for the warning."
Eddie began to pretend to pummel me in the stomach with his fists. He didn't ever hit me, just kept pretending to let a barrage of punches fly at me. "I love this guy, Jody."
"I know you do," replied Jody.
"We have to hire him to come work for us."
I was intrigued. "That sounds interesting, tell me more."
Eddie seemed taken aback. "Now listen, you crazy kid. Don't start getting too big for your britches, that's a quality I can do without. Wait to be asked, don't be so pushy, or else you will push others away. See my point?"
Honestly, I did not see his point at all. "Anything else you need to see before we sign the paperwork?"
"Hold your horses, hot rod! You are one anxious Andrew! What we used to call in the Army an eager beaver. Ever heard that one?"
"Yes, I've heard of eager beaver."
"What did you hear about him?" Eddie bent over laughing, and slapped me on the back. Then he winked at me as if we had shared a valuable secret. "Well, I guess I can sign just as soon as you amend the paperwork."
"Yes, please, right now."
"Just get rid of what you wrote down."
"Can I borrow your handkerchief?"
"Oh, so you're a smart ass? I like that, I like that a lot. You could learn a lot from Bill here, Jody."
Jody stood fully erect. "I would welcome the opportunity anytime."
"Shut up, Jody," said Eddie. "Bill, have you ever been in a towel popping contest?"
"You know, in a school gym, a good old fashioned popping towels on your buddies' bare asses towel popping contest."
"Never? I find that hard to believe. In fact, I think you are just being shrewd and playing your cards close to the chest. Am I right?"
"I would love to get into a towel popping contest with you just to see who is the better man."
There was a pause. "Ready to sign?" I asked.
Eddie giggled. "Bill, you are a freakin' broken record with that stuff. OK, OK, I will sign, is that gonna make you happy?" Eddie signed, and I reached for the paperwork. He yanked it away from me and held it up high. "What do you say? What's the magic word?"
"Please and thank you," I told him.
"Ding, ding, ding, you get bonus points for Thank You, we were only looking for Please." Eddie handed me both copies, and I gave one of them back to him. "Safe travels, Bill. And a friendly professional tip for you, try hard to be more punctual, its bad business to be late."
"I'll remember that."
"See that you do."
"Bye Bill, see you in Texas."
"Shut up, Jody," said Eddie with an air of exasperation.
I learned an important lesson from this experience, one that I will never forget. Spit and a handkerchief can make any problem just go away.
Monday, March 26, 2012
I hate riding Greyhound more than anything. It used to be a necessity to get around on my job, in between the cars I drove. I’d deliver a car, ride a Greyhound to the next car I had to pick up. But after numerous bad experiences I got creative about how to get around otherwise. Trains, planes, rental cars, whatever. It was torture to me to ride Greyhound, with their uncomfortable seats and sardine can-like accommodations. I felt like I was trapped in a narrow tube full of bad versions of Bill’s people, all races, shapes and sizes. People who had forgotten the meaning of the word “soap.”
Three days ago, I was in Fort Wayne, Indiana and could not find any other way out. No other mode of transportation was available or even remotely affordable. I thought I would go to Columbus, where my rocker stoner friend Smokey lives. Indiana to Ohio would not be too long of a ride, and I could tolerate it. Barely.
I knew things would not go smoothly. First off, the bus I was to catch was two hours late arriving in Fort Wayne. Then a half hour later, when the driver was about to board us, he started chatting up three gals who were standing behind me in line. I had been there for three hours myself, and was first in line at the door. The driver announced to us that his bus was very full, and that not all of us were going to get on. Which made me glad that I was first in line. As the driver opened the door in front of me, he put his arm across my path and said, “Hey brother, ladies first.” And the three girls he had been talking to walked by me defiantly, with their lips curled with superiority. I am a gentleman and do believe in ladies going first, but this was what I consider line-cutting, and I hate that.
Once on the bus, I could quickly see that there was only one seat left. The hyper guy behind me said, “Excuse me” and tried to push his way past me. He seemed intent on getting that last seat, but there was no way that was going to happen. I very effectively blocked his path in the very narrow aisle, until I thought he was going to climb over the people in their seats to get around me. When I plopped down in the one empty seat, this guy let out a loud, long sigh.
I looked at the man in the window seat next to me. He was a long, lean Black man, wearing a gold colored velvet athletic suit and matching driving cap. He looked me up and down, slowly and methodically, like he was taking a measure of me. “You cool?”
“No need to beg. I just axed if you cool.”
“We’ll see about that.” He cleared his throat and relaxed in his seat. The driver boarded thirty minutes later and started making announcements as we pulled out of the station three hours late. When some rowdy folks in the back of the bus interrupted his announcements, the driver said he wasn’t going to compete with loud rascals.
I looked at my watch. “Three hours late. Typical Greyhound.”
My seat neighbor looked over at me. “You in a hurry?”
“No, not really. I just hate riding Greyhound.”
He laughed. “Yeah, you and the rest of the world.” The rowdy crowd in back got louder, and the driver came on the mike and told them to settle down or they’d be walking. “Them boys ain’t had no home training. My momma would’ve whipped their butts.” He grinned at me. “Hey man, I’m Virgil.”
I smiled and held my hand out to shake. “Bill Thomas, pleased to meet you, Virgil.”
He took my hand in a flimsy grasp and smiled. “Yeah well, I don’t know about all that, but hey, it’s cool. Know what I’m sayin’?”
“You going to Dayton?”
“Man, forget about Columbus, you need to stop off in Dayton, that’s where I’m going.”
“I have a friend in Columbus.”
He adjusted his driving cap. “Well now you got a friend in Dayton, know what I’m sayin’?”
“Yes, and thank you.”
“Man, I got Dayton all wrapped up tight. I can get you anything you want there.”
“Good to know.”
“Weed, blow, women. And I mean fine ass women, prime meat. You will be lovin’ on them, know what I’m sayin’?”
“I think I do.”
“No thinkin’ to it, it’s all real. It’s a natural fact. And I know that’s right.”
He shook his head. “No man, seriously, you need to detour off the bus in Dayton and stay with your old friend Virgil for the day, know what I’m sayin’?”
“I follow you.”
“You should follow me, Bill, cuz you will have some wild adventures. Mr. Virgil’s Wild Ride, it is a joy to behold. It’ll be a magical and wondrous experience for you, for sure. I got some women in my stable that will rock your world across the universe. You dig?”
“I dig. But… did you say your stable?”
“Yeah, well, not like a horse stable. It’s be my stable of hoes, and they is good, know what I’m sayin’? In Dayton I got a rep as King of the Pimps. But hey, I like to keep that on the down low, know what I’m sayin’?”
“I know, I know.”
He leaned back in his chair and pulled his driving cap down over his eyes. “I’m gonna rest my eyes for a minute, why don’t you tell me about why you hate Greyhound?”
I started to tell him the story of the man who fell into a deep sleep on my chest then started having erotic dreams. As I was doing this, I saw his left hand slip under the waistband of his pants. Then his hand began roaming around. He appeared to be manipulating himself, and I was praying that he wouldn’t erect a tent in his pants. I just looked away and kept on talking, trying to pretend that I was blissfully ignorant of what Virgil was doing. “And that is one of the many reasons I hate Greyhound so much,” I concluded.
“Yeah, man, that is a good story but it’s messed up. Know what I’m sayin’?”I did know what he was saying, though I was unsure why he kept on asking me that question.
When we got to Dayton, he stuck his left hand out to shake with me again. I avoided it and just patted him on the shoulder. He pleaded for me to get off and promised to show me a good time. I declined, but not before he made me promise that I’d call him next time I delivered a car to Dayton so I could see it through the eyes of the King of the Pimps. I feel sure that is a promise I will not be able to keep.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
A good friend told me the other day that some of my blog entries are too dark. “Lighten up, Bill,” he said, “People just want to laugh.” And my hope is that the tales I share are often amusing, through the sheer absurdity of the crazy folks I come across. I’m just living my life and driving cars around the USA.
My daily routine is simple. Unless I stay at a friend’s house, I wake up in a motel room. Splash water in my face. Do my morning push ups and sit ups. Jumping jacks, windmills, running in place. Take a long shower, and then hit the road. Life of a driving fool.
I get a morning call from my boss Riff, who yells at me and berates me. I find its best just to let him rant, arguing with him only makes things worse. I have a lot of miles to cover, and I do it best when I’m just left alone. Quietly. Calmly.
When I do feel stress from traffic, I put on a CD of George Strait. CARRYING MY LOVE FOR YOU. Or ALL MY EXES LIVE IN TEXAS. I particularly like THE BEST DAY, about the relationship of a father and son over the years. And of course his cover version of THE SEASHORES OF OLD MEXICO. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to say A BETTER RAIN. That one gets to me every time. Thank God for George Strait, who helps me get down the road when I think I can’t drive one more mile.
Customers rage at me. Bill’s people find me at every gas station, truck stop and Diner I stop at. And so many drivers are full of hate and anger, often taking it out on me for no particular reason. None that I am aware of, anyhow.
But I just keep on driving. Don’t have a home of my own. No car, no steady job to speak of. Other than driving. And so I drive. I pray for deliverance, for something good to happen in my life that will take me off the road and allow me to have some stability once again. I had it once, surely I can get it back.
I try to be friendly and kind and courteous even in the face of adversity. I still believe that the Golden rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But I think that most folks practice the new version, which is “Do unto others before they can do it to you.”
There is so much anger, bitterness and hatred in the world. Which is why I try my best to spread a little bit of sunshine wherever I go. Wishing people a Happy Monday (or fill in whatever day of the week it is). Not talking on the cell phone when someone in a store is trying to wait on me. Not talking on my cell in a movie. Being thoughtful of others, and trying to put other people’s needs before my own. I think that is what we are here for, and if more people could share this attitude, the world might just be a better place.
My motto has become “How can I help?” I ask this often to people I meet, almost every single day. Many times I get burned or taken advantage of. Yet I still take the risk and ask, because the times I can actually help someone… well sir, it just makes it all seem worthwhile. Love thy neighbor. Reach out to a friend in need. It will come back to you tenfold.
As I drive around this great country and I see many people and places, I am convinced that there is good within everyone. Some bury it a lot deeper than others, but its there. I say we celebrate the good and try our best to help others, even as we help ourselves. Other than that, drive safely, keep both hands on the wheel, and avoid the temptation of texting while driving.
This is your friendly driving fool signing off-- for now.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
"You'll just have to come in the morning. Can you make that happen?" she asked.
"Yes ma'am, absolutely," I said. "What time do you want me there, Miss Cooper?"
"8:15 on the button. I need you to be prompt."
"I will be."
"But hey, listen, I have a conference call meeting at 8am, so you can't say a word when you come to my house to drop off the car."
"OK, I won't."
"You don't seem to understand. You cannot utter a single syllable. You must remain completely mum."
"That's not a problem. I will knock on your door--"
"Yes, very softly. And I will hand you the keys, show you where to sign, and give you a copy of the paperwork. Then I'll be gone like the wind."
"Slow down now, cowboy. Don't be in such a rush, I'd like to come out and look over the car before you just fly away."
"Not a problem."
"But while I'm doing it, you cannot talk. Not a word."
"I'll be quiet as a mouse, Miss Cooper."
"You must! It is imperative."
"Really? Do you? Because it is so important that you do. This is my job we are talking about, I have important business to conduct and can't have an interruption."
"Please don't be so dismissive, I need a full commitment from you. You must keep your mouth firmly shut. You must not speak."
"No, no, you CAN'T! Do you see what I'm saying?"
"Yes I do. See you at 8:15 tomorrow morn."
The next morning, I got to her house a little early, so I drove on by and parked down the block. When it was 8:14am, I drove back to the house and parked in the driveway. I walked to the front door and knocked very softly. She quickly opened the door, holding her house phone in one hand and a digital clock in the other hand. The clock read 8:17, and she pointed to it and waggled her finger at me. She put the clock down and put a finger up to her lips. I could hear voices coming from the phone, as she had it on Speaker mode.
"Where's the keys?" she whispered. I handed her both sets of keys. She gave me a look like I was the dumbest guy on the face of the earth. I waved her outside, and silently showed her the car. "The car is blue? Why is it blue? I hate the color blue!" I just shrugged. She looked inside. "And the interior is black. Why black? Do you know how miserable that will be on a hot summer day?" She looked at the car and shook her head in disgust, and her voice level raised a couple of notches. "And its a sedan, I wanted a minivan. Would that have been too much to ask? A minivan?" I shrugged.
Now normally, I would find something polite and perhaps comforting to say. But I had been told to keep my mouth shut, and that is what I was doing.
"I'm very unhappy. How do you feel about that?" Once again I shrugged. "Have you nothing to say?" I shook my head no. "Aren't you supposed to please your customer?" I nodded yes. "Why are you not responding to me, you must be the most rude man in the world." I made a gesture of turning a key in a lock on my mouth and tossing away the key. "Well now, don't be ridiculous, no one said you couldn't communicate with me. I insist that you say something!"
"What would you like me to say?"
She seemed surprised. "Oh, you actually spoke. I was beginning to think that you were mute. I will sign for this car, but I want it on record that I'm not a happy customer."
She signed the paperwork, and I handed her a copy of it. "You have a way out of here?"
"Yes, it's all arranged."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm walking to the city bus stop nine blocks from here."
"Really? That's a long way. But I'm not giving you a ride."
"I want to be very clear, I can not and will not give you a ride."
"And I don't expect you to."
"You are just a little too good to be true. I'd like you to leave now."
And so I did, very quietly.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
This past Tuesday, I drove into Tallahassee to deliver a car. It could not be delivered until the next day, so I decided that I needed to get a hotel room for the night to get a shower and to sleep in a soft bed instead of the back seat of the car. I had a free pass for a hotel I had been given by a friend, and thought that this would be a good time to use it. I had identified the location in downtown Tallahassee, not far from the state Capitol building.
Once I had checked in, I went down to the lobby. I was feeling kind of frisky, and wanted to find the bar and have a few drinks. I saw a lot of people walking around wearing Hawaiian shirts, and I asked a guy what was going on. He explained to me that Jimmy Buffett was playing that night, and people had come to town from all over for the show. I had discovered Jimmy Buffett in the last year, when I was driving a car with a broken stereo and had no choice but to listen to a Buffett CD over and over. Since then, he had become my second favorite singer, just behind George Strait. The fellow I was speaking to also told me that there would be a great party going on in the parking lot near the Civic Center. “Classic,” he said.
I got directions to the Civic Center and walked down to it. I walked into the parking lot, and was overwhelmed by what I saw. There were many people wearing caps with fins on top, as well as guys and gals wearing grass skirts and coconut bras. There was a general sense of good cheer and happiness. A rather drunk looking man came up to me and said, “No way, I had nothing to do with it.”
“With what?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he said, and patted me on the back before walking away. Then another guy threw his arm around my neck and pulled me along in a familiar way.
“Where are we going?” I wondered.
“Shots!” he said. “Shots. Shots. Shots.” As we neared his group of friends, standing by a RV, they began to shout in chorus with him. “Shots. Shots. Shots!” I was given a shot glass with tequila in it, and we all tossed them down our throats at the same time. “Buffett, yeah!” the man with his arm around me screamed. And I heard a Buffett song playing that I recognized coming from the RV. I spoke to the group for a few minutes, and then I moved on because there was so much to see here.
I saw a woman setting up a wading pool in the parking lot, as her boyfriend was shoveling sand from the back of his pickup truck onto the ground. When the woman set up an inflatable palm tree, it gave the appearance of a beach. Very clever. About twenty yards from there, I came across a guy who was playing SON OF A SON OF A SAILOR on his guitar, singing his heart out. Then I came upon a lawn chair where people would sit as they were served inverted margaritas. This involves the victim sitting in the chair, holding their head back, and getting tequila and margarita mix poured down their throat. I was pushed into the chair and found myself complying and gargling tequila. And I am really not much of a drinker.
I found that walking became a bit more challenging than usual. An inebriated woman came up and grabbed me and kissed me long and hard. French kiss, in fact. I was surprised but not at all unhappy, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to me. “I love Jimmy Buffett,” she said. “You love Buffett?”
“You do, you do, you do. We both do. Doodle-doo-doo.” She kissed me again and then walked away, perhaps looking for another guy to kiss.
Each new car or RV I passed had their own stereo playing their own Buffett music. The sound was sort of confusing, but somehow pretty wonderful. I was getting caught up in the fun and frivolity of it all. Then I saw an amazing Tiki Bar that had been set up, with stools and party people having a grand time. I saw an empty stool and asked the bartender if I could sit there. “Of course you can. I insist that you do, if you don’t I’ll be offended.”
“Well we can’t have that,” I said as I sat.
“No we can’t have that, and we won’t have that. What we will have is a fresh batch of margaritas!” He flipped the switch on his blender, and the others at the Tiki Bar cheered. He turned the blender off and told me, “This is my mother’s blender, I always bring it to a party. It makes me very popular.”
“Shut up,” said the woman next to me.
“You shut up, honey,” he said to the woman.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too, cuddle-bunny.” Then he poured me a glass from the blender and said, “What’s your handle?”
“Bill, welcome to my Tiki Bar. I’m Harry, and the little filly next to you is my better half, Trixie.”
“Hello Bill,” she said.
“Hi Trixie.” I drank from my glass, and was amazed at just how good it was. “Hey Harry, this is really excellent.”
“I know Bill, I know. I have a gift with the blender.”
“He does, he really does,” agreed Trixie. “Who are you guys?” she asked the three men on the other side of her.
“We’ve got to go,” one of them told her. “Someone is smoking some good weed at the next RV over.”
"And two rows over they are grilling Cheeseburgers in Paradise!" said his companion.
“See ya later, guys,” Harry amiably called out as the three gents left the Tiki Bar.
“What’s your favorite Buffett song?” asked Trixie.
“I’m a new convert,” I told her. “I just discovered Buffett this past year. But I’d have to say the Pirate song.”
“A PIRATE LOOKS AT 40,” she said.
“Wait just a minute,” Harry said. “Have you ever seen Buffett in concert?”
“No, never,” I admitted.
“Never?” gasped Trixie.
Harry was very excited. “You are in for such a treat! Your very first Buffett concert? Boy, do I envy you. I still remember my first show.”
As I finished my margarita, Harry was quick to refill my glass. “I’m not going.”
Trixie was shocked. “Not going? That’s crazy talk, what do you mean?”
“I don’t have a ticket. I was told that the show sold out.”
“No,” shrieked Trixie. “This can’t be right. Harry, we gotta do something.”
“Calm down, sugar buns. We’ll think of something. Go see if you can find Captain Tony.”
“Right!” she yelled as she jumped out of her seat and ran off. As she ran I heard her sing "I went down to Captain Tony's, to get out of the heat!" I watched her serpentine as she ran, a bit unsteady but very determined.
“Bill, in all sincerity, you’ve never seen anything like a Buffett show. You can’t come all this way and miss out.”
“I don’t see what choice I have.” We talked some more. Actually, Harry did most of the talking sharing his past experiences at Buffett concerts. He had been to twenty shows, and seemed to enjoy each one he saw even more than the one before. I was on my third margarita when Trixie returned with Captain Tony. He was a salty old cuss, wearing a black T-shirt and a Skipper’s hat.
“I found him,” Trixie proudly proclaimed.
“Got a drink for me, Harry?” asked the Captain.
“You know I do.” Harry poured a fresh glass and handed it to the Captain. “You got any tickets for sale?”
“Of course, I got plenty. What do you need?”
“Captain Tony, this is Bill here. He’s never been to see a Jimmy Buffett show.”
The Captain looked shocked. “You gotta be kidding me? A virgin? Dear Lord in Heaven, we gotta do something about this. Who are you with, Bill?”
Trixie wrapped her arm in mine. “He’s with us.”
The Captain pulled out a pile of tickets and fanned them out like a deck of cards. “Let’s see. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you give me your tickets, Harry. I’ll swap you.”
Harry pulled out two tickets. “OK, but these are pretty decent tickets.”
The Captain shook his head. “These are better, you’re trading up. I’ve got three floor seats for you, a few rows from the stage.”
I pulled out my wallet. “How much do I owe you, Captain Tony?”
“Put your money away, this is on me. Call it Buffett karma. I’m giving you the gift of seeing the best damn show you’ve ever seen in your life. Welcome to Margaritaville!” We all raised our glasses and toasted Captain Tony and Jimmy Buffett. I expressed my gratitude continually to the Captain until he walked away.
We went inside and I saw a party going on. Huge beach balls were being batted around all over the Civic Center. And then the main event. When Buffett took the stage, the crowd went wild. I was so close I could almost touch him. Somehow, Harry and Trixie had managed to smuggle in more booze, so we drank throughout the show. And what a show it was! Jimmy Buffett is unique in that it is as if you are at a party and he just happens to be the guy who gets up and plays his guitar. He’s your buddy, he’s your pal. At one point, a girl pulled me into the aisle and wanted to dance with me. I did the best I could, although my coordination was a bit off.
I enjoyed all of his music more than ever. And when he did an encore and played A PIRATE LOOKS AT 40, I found myself rocking back and forth with my new found friends. I woke up the next day with a whopper of a headache, but it was worth it. It was an experience I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.