My cell phone rang as I neared Monroe, Louisiana. "Hello, who is this?" came the familiar voice on the other end of the line.
"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.