I had to meet a guy in Cleveland to pick up his car. He was moving to south Texas, and I was moving his company car down so that he was free to drive a U-haul truck and tow his wife's car. His name was Jody, and he was a friendly fellow.
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.