Monday, April 30, 2012
I arrived in Richmond the day before I was set to deliver. I went straight to the Garden Of Eat'n Cafe, and I looked in the window to see her. My heart leaped to new heights, and I felt so good all over. She didn't see me, but I stood there for a moment just watching her. Enjoying her glow, her sweet and simple beauty. And yes, her shiny blonde hair. I love this woman.
And then something completely unexpected happened. Her ex-girlfriend Cheryl stepped out from the kitchen door. They spoke for a minute, and laughed together. Then Cheryl leaned in close and kissed Karen on the lips. Suddenly, my heart sunk.
When Cheryl walked back into the kitchen, Karen turned and looked out the window. Her face lit up and she ran to the door to greet me. "Hey you!" she said cheerfully.
"Get over here quick and give me a hug. Its been too long."
I walked over and hugged her, though I must admit that she was hugging tighter than me. "How have you been?"
"The question is, how have You been? I thought you would have come to visit me before now."
"I did come, several times. You were either gone the days I came, or the Cafe was closed."
Karen looked down at her feet for a minute. "Uh, yeah, well I made a few trips back to Indy. There was some stuff to take care of."
"Yes, Cheryl, is that a problem?" she asked in a defensive tone.
"No, no. I'm just a little confused. I thought you moved here partly to get away from her."
"I did, partly. But she... I mean we... Bill, she wrote me poetry. No girl has ever written me poetry."
"I used to write you stories all the time."
"You're not a girl, silly."
"Thank God for that."
Karen looked at me with an odd expression. "Am I detecting a little attitude from you?"
I shrugged. "I just thought we'd have more quality time together."
She nodded. "I think I know what you thought. What did you think, Bill? That because I broke up with my girlfriend I wasn't gay anymore?"
"Clearly you haven't broken up with your girlfriend."
"We did, but... well, she missed me. And I guess I missed her, too."
I shuffled my feet around. "Does she live here now?"
She shook her head no. "She is just here for an extended visit. She doesn't like it here. I think she wants me to move back to Indy."
"Are you gonna?"
"Would that be a problem for you?"
"I don't know, Karen, would it be a problem for you?"
She gave me an appraising look. "I don't like you like this. Your kind heart just flew out the window."
"No, I don't think you are. I was going to invite you in for a bite, but I don't need the negativity in my Cafe."
"Alright, then." I began to walk away.
She stepped towards me and grabbed my hand. "Hey." I turned around. "Get this crap out of your system then come back and see me. OK?" She paused. "You know I love you, right?"
"Love you, too," I mumbled. And then I got into the car and drove away.
Monday, April 23, 2012
I was told by my boss Riff to pick up a car from a lady in Florida. The car was going to her horse ranch up in Virginia, 30 miles outside of Washington, D.C. And he told me that she was the great niece of a famous former President of the United States.
Riff called me at the last minute to say that another driver would be meeting me at her Florida mansion. He said that she had two cars, and that we were to drive them north in tandem. When I walked up her driveway, I heard a male voice say loudly, “It’s you!” Out from behind a big tree stepped Andy, the paranoid driver who I had come across several times in the past. He was obviously high as a kite.
“Hello Andy,” I said.
“Don’t call me that. Do not call me Andy like we are friends. You always conspire against me.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean you to mistake me for being a friend. I was just trying to be polite and civil.”
“Don’t try any of that stuff either. Hear me? I’ve had just about enough of you, Mister. I know you and your game, you are out to get me!”
“Oh no, you can’t just blow me off like yesterday’s news. We are being forced to work together, to ride in tandem, to caravan together. So just remember that I’m in charge.”
“I’ll be going my own way, I suggest you do the same.”
“You will be subservient to me, you will follow my directions. You follow me? Cuz if you don’t, I will punish you. I will come down on you like the wrath of God, or worse, like the wrath of a woman scorned. God has no wrath like a woman scorned!”
The lady walked out the door. She seemed distracted and a little bit haughty. I tried to shush Andy. “Shh, quiet, here she comes,” I pleaded.
“Don’t you shush me, I will not be shushed.”
“I will not be shushed by the likes of you. Say, do you know who her father is?”
“Andy, shut up.” She stepped up to us. “Hello ma’am, I’m Bill Thomas and he’s Andy.”
“Fine. Who is driving the Escalade?” She held out a set of keys.
Andy stepped forward and snatched the keys from her hand. “That will be my honor. I am the best driver in our company, and proud of it. By the way, I loved your father. He was the best leader this country ever had.”
She let out a resigned sigh. “He was my great uncle.”
Andy winked at her. “I know he was, I just bet he was. You guys must be rich, based on what I’m seeing here. How much would you say you’re worth, total assets?”
The woman looked perturbed and not a little shocked. “That’s none of your business. Just do your job.”
Andy acted like he was trying to flirt. He leered at her and spoke suggestively. “You do YOUR job.” Much as I don’t care about Andy, I was feeling embarrassed for him. He was so clueless.
She turned to me. “So you’ll be driving my Mercedes?”
“Yes. I will be there day after tomorrow.” She turned and went back into the house.
Andy began to give me instructions about how we were going to drive, when we were going to take breaks. I completely ignored him, climbing into the Mercedes sedan and taking off. The car was so full that there was barely enough room for me and my duffel bag. She had loaded it beyond capacity, and I was worried that I couldn’t see out the back window.
It was a long hard drive up to Virginia. There were a whole lot of snowbirds going up I-95 from Florida to their summer homes in the northeastern states. The problem with all these many senior citizens on the road all at once is that some of them go 65mph, some 60, and some 50. It causes a whole lot of unnecessary traffic backups. Especially when the ones going 50mph get in the left lane and just stay there. Most people just line up behind them like there is no other choice. I personally get into the right lane and cruise on by them. The speed limit is 70, and that is what I intend to do.
I called the former President’s niece early on the day I was set to deliver. She was not answering her phone, so I simply told her voicemail what time I would arrive. As I neared her horse ranch, the roads got more winding and narrow, and following the Mapquest instructions became increasingly difficult. The final dirt road that led five miles to her property was one lane, and made things tricky when an huge truck came towards me from the opposite direction. I had to press the car on the side as close as I could snuggle up to a barbed wire fence. Even then, I was not too sure that the truck would get by me. There were literally inches to spare.
When I pulled up in front of her ranch house, she came marching out in a huff and put her hands on her hips. “Where is the other guy?”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“The guy driving my Escalade. He left a very strange message for me this morning saying that he was going to take some time and stop at Civil War battlefields along the way. He said my father would understand.”
“I think he meant your great uncle.”
“I know what he meant. I don’t care what he meant. Where is my Escalade?”
“I think you should call my boss Riff.”
“No, I’m asking you.”
“No disrespect meant, but I got your Mercedes here safely. I can’t be responsible for another driver.” Especially when it’s Andy, I thought to myself.
“Leave the car there, I’m going inside to call your boss. You may leave.”
“I have to wait for the airport shuttle to come and pick me up.”
“Honestly, I am not happy with you waiting here on my property.”
I looked around at the vast nothingness. “I’m not sure where else I can wait.”
“Just please make yourself scarce.” She stormed inside, very unhappy.
I walked up the driveway to the dirt road, guessing I could see the shuttle better when it came to pick me up. As I walked along, a large mocha colored dog came running up to me. He really wanted to be friends, and I really love dogs. So I bent down and petted him. He licked me on the face. After a few minutes, I continued up the driveway, and he followed me. The woman came out the door and began to shout. “Potus! Potus! Come back here.” The dog didn’t budge. “Potus, get down here right now! Potus! I will whip you if you don’t get down here.” I felt sorry for the dog. I would not want this woman to be mad at me, but Potus seemed happy to hang out with me. So I started walking back down towards the house, and the dog followed me. She pointed at me. “What are you doing?” she said, sounding confused and nervous.
“Why are you coming back into my yard?”
“The dog is following me.”
“The dog is coming because I called the dog. You can stay up by the road.” I stopped, and the dog stopped next to me. The woman seemed irritated. She turned on her heel and went into the house. Then she came back out onto the porch carrying a raw steak. “Potus!” The dog went bounding towards her, and she went into the house. The dog followed her, and she slammed the door hard.
As I stood waiting for the airport shuttle, my cell phone rang. “Hello, Riff.”
“I just got a very upset call from the lady you delivered to. She said you were molesting her dog.”
“I pet the dog, that’s all.”
“Why in the world did you deliver without Andy?”
“Because Andy is a flake. He called the lady and said he is stopping to tour Civil War battlefields on his way up. He may show up in the next two days.”
“Well then, your job is to back him up. He happens to be patriotic. If he delays delivery, then so do you.”
“No sir. I deliver promptly and responsibly, on time as promised.”
“You are a freakin’ boy scout. No one likes a good citizen. You need to get rough around the edges and learn to be a man!”
I hung up. Then I turned and looked at the house where Potus lived. Suddenly, I remembered having seen pictures of this particular President and his family in front of this house. Wow. With all the weird people I meet and strange adventures I experience, there is something pretty cool about this job sometimes.
Monday, April 16, 2012
"Hello, Mrs. Sherman," I said.
"Bill? Bill, is that you? Oh, it is so nice to hear from you. I was just thinking of you."
"That's probably why you called me."
"Did I call you? I thought you had called me. Isn't that funny?"
"I so enjoyed seeing you at the Valentine's Ball two months ago. I wanted a chance to dance with you."
"Your friend seemed to want me as her exclusive dance partner."
"Well, I say that was mighty selfish of her," she huffed. "I wanted my chance with you. Why, we would have tripped the light fantastic, just like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers."
I laughed. "Well, I don't think I can dance like Fred Astaire."
"Maybe, but I can tell you that I dance exactly like Ginger. Mmm, that reminds me, I was going to bake you a batch of Ginger snaps. Would you like that?"
My cell phone beeped, and I had to excuse myself to Mrs. Sherman. I switched over to the other line, and my boss Riff growled at me. "Where the hell are you, you dumb loser?"
"Just about to arrive at the drop off point in Monroe, Louisiana."
"How did you like driving that big Ford Super Duty cargo van?"
"It's not built for comfort."
"Neither are you."
I shook my head, baffled. "What does that even mean?"
"Don't question me, just get the job done. Call me when you've delivered, I have another car for you to pick up in Shreveport."
A half hour later, I pulled into the man's driveway. He walked out with a frown on his face, and was not too happy when I tried to introduce myself. "Bill Thomas," I said.
"I really don't care who you are or anything about you. I just want my vehicle."
"Well sir, here it is."
"Yes, thank you, I can see that. Not much to look at, is it."
"It has lots of shelves and drawers built into the back of it."
"Good, that's one good thing. It will hold all of my tools. OK, you better start loading them up."
"Beg your pardon?"
"My tools. I have a whole lot of them, and they're not going to just load themselves. You had better get to work."
"Sir, I mean no offense, but it is not my job to load your new van with your tools."
"They are good tools!" he shouted defensively.
"I am sure that they are, but that's irrelevant."
"To who? Certainly not to me."
"I used the wrong word. The quality of the tools does not change the fact that you are responsible for loading them yourself."
"Well I thought I had offered you a ride to the rental car agency to get a car out of here. That's about 15 miles away. Perhaps you'd like to walk that distance."
"Um, that is entirely up to you."
"Yes it is," he said, grinning. "It surely is. And it is also my decision as to whether to accept this van and sign your paperwork. Might cause you a bit of trouble if I do not choose to do so. Right?"
"I'd say you had better get busy loading my tools."
And so I did, very reluctantly. I was in the right, but he could obviously make my day much more difficult than it had to be. And he seemed ready and willing to do just that.
When I finished, he looked at the job I had done. "I'm not entirely satisfied, but this will have to do."
"Anything else you need, or can you take me to Hertz now?"
"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't mind painting my house." I stared at him slack-jawed. He burst into laughter. "Now I'm just joshing you. Look at your face! Don't take life so seriously."
As he drove me to Hertz, I was thinking that this was one of those days when I find a sincere lack of appreciation for the customers that I serve.
Friday, April 6, 2012
On Tuesday of this week, I picked up a car in Richmond that was headed for Knoxville. Since I was in Richmond, I called my old girlfriend Karen to see if I could come visit her at her new Café there. But once again, she didn’t answer her cell phone and there was no reply to my voicemail messages. I was beginning to wonder what had happened to her. So, I went ahead and got started on my trip.
Once in Knoxville, Tennessee I found myself delayed on the delivery. I had planned to deliver at noon as determined by the customer. But at the last minute the man called and said he couldn’t be home until 4pm, so I would have to wait until then to meet him. It kind of messed up my plans for getting out of town, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I decided to make the most of my time. I found a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins hybrid, where I knew I could indulge in an iced coffee and free Wifi. I got onto the Internet and plotted out a new game plan for getting out of Knoxville since the timing had changed.
A poor Black family came in and sat down. At least they seemed poor, with ragged clothes and carrying their possessions in Hefty trash bags. The two children were somewhere between 3 and 5 years old I would guess, and they were shouting for ice cream. Their Father said, “I ain’t got no money to get you no ice cream, now hush.” The Mother walked up to the counter and asked for four cups of ice water, and the cashier had a patronizing attitude as she served them up.
Kids will be kids, and these particular children were full of beans. They ran around the place in circles, yelling and whooping it up. I have noticed this as a phenomenon all over America, that kids run around out of control screaming and the parents say nothing. This is not isolated to any particular section of society, I’ve seen Whites and Blacks and Hispanics and Asians, rich and poor. The thing of it is, when I was a kid I would not have even considered behaving like this in a public place. And if I had, my Mom would have whipped my butt harshly. I certainly could run like a maniac and scream my head off, but in my own backyard or perhaps a public park.
Yet I could not begrudge these kids from just having some fun. The world is such a crazy place, and who knows what tomorrow will bring? So I say let them be wild and have fun. Besides, they could not even afford an ice cream cone, so they deserved all the wild fun and frivolity that life could afford them.
As I continued working, the children began to run into the counter and freezer doors, kicking things and banging things. Their screams began to get even more frenzied. I finished my work on the Internet, and packed up my laptop and prepared to leave. As I headed for the door, I stopped. Something inexplicable overcame me, and I walked back to the cashier.
“You want something else?” she asked, seeming somewhat perturbed.
“Yes,” I said. I lowered my voice. “I’d like to buy four ice cream cones.”
“Four? For you? You want four for you?”
“No ma’am. I’d like to treat that family there to four cones.”
“How do you know they’re a family?”
“Well, I… I guess I just assumed.”
“I see. Why you want to do that?”
I shrugged. “How much do I owe you?” She rang me up and I paid for it. “Please just wait until I leave and then ask them what flavors they want.”
As I started to walk out, the kids had reached a whole new level of loud wildness. The Father had been ignoring them up to now, but stood up and yelled, “You children need to calm down, you are too wild! Where do you think you are, Sunday church service?”
I wondered as I walked out the door what kind of church service they attended. One where people ran around in circles screaming. Pentecostal, maybe? I got into the car and started the engine, but sat and watched as the cashier gave the news of free ice cream to the Father. He ran out the front door and looked around, but did not see me sitting in the car across the street. He looked up at the sky and said something then winked broadly. I presumed he was thanking God for the treat for his family. Personally, I was just thankful that I had enough money in my pocket to put a tiny ray of sunshine into this family’s day.