"I know, Riff, I know, but there is only so much I can do. I'm only one man."
"A moronic man!" shouted Riff into the phone. He was yelling at me as I drove to make my next car delivery, and I was growing very weary very fast of his grouchy demeanor. My boss was not a pleasant man. "You were supposed to be in Tallahassee to deliver that car two hours ago."
"Yes, but I ran into a huge traffic jam on Interstate 10 when I passed through Louisiana because of Issac."
"Issac? Who is Issac, your boyfriend?"
"No Riff, Issac is the hurricane that hit Louisiana a few days ago."
"I think you mean tropical storm."
"Whatever you want to call it, people who left their homes are trying to return, and its a huge mess. Look, I called the man I'm taking the car to, and he was very understanding."
"No sir, I'm on the level. Why would I lie?"
"I don't know, why would I screw my own cousin?" he bellowed.
I paused for a few seconds. "Well I... you got me there, I don't have an answer for that one. I'll call you once I've delivered."
Just under an hour later, I was pulling off the highway into the outskirts of Tallahassee. I called the customer, Mr. Duffy, to say I'd be there in a few minutes. He appreciated the heads up call.
When I pulled into the driveway, he came walking over to me from the front porch. I got out of the car and introduced myself. He reached out to shake my hand, which not all customers do. "Got caught in that traffic in Louisiana, huh?"
"Yes sir" I said. "I should have tried to go further north around it.
"Well, if you were coming from Dallas, it would have been a lot far north and way out of your way. Doesn't matter to me if you are a few hours late."
"Thanks for understanding."
Suddenly, a young girl came running down the sidewalk at full speed screaming "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" I winced as she ran into Mr. Duffy from behind, with both of her arms extended like a battering ram. She looked to be about ten years old, but she was beefy. Her father barely seemed to notice.
"So this is my new car, eh? It's a beauty."
"Daddy! Daddy!" she squealed.
"Its very nice," I agreed.
"Daddy!" She began to beat on his back. "Daddy!"
He ignored the girl completely and began to let his hand glide down the side contours of the car, as if checking out the areodynamics. "Nice build, good shape. I bet she just swims down the road."
"Swims?" I asked.
"Yep. Backstroke I'll wager."
"Daddy! Daddy!" The little girl grabbed onto her father's arm as if it were a thick piece of rope and began to hang with her full weight. "Daddy!"
"Good gas mileage?" he asked.
"Daddy!" She began to climb up his arm, hand over hand.
"Please tell me it has a nice stereo?"
"I played my favorite George Strait CD coming across the panhandle of Florida. Good sound," I assured him.
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" She came off his arm, then grabbed his left hand and began to chew furiously on the ends of his fingernails. Now I've seen many people chew their nails over the years, but never once have I seen anyone chew someone else's.
Mr. Duffy looked at me very seriously. "Now you did bring me the registration and insurance?"
"Of course, it's all here in the car's glovebox. Ah, Mr. Duffy, I don't mind waiting if you need to see what your daughter wants."
"Who, her? I don't care what she wants. When the kids scream and carry on we ignore them. That behavior is not how we operate around here."
"How many sets of keys do you have for me?" he asked.
"Two, right here." And as I handed him both sets of keys and remote door locks, the girl turned and ran to the other side of the yard. Then she turned around and rushed back towards us with both arms stretched out in front of her. Just like when I arrived, only she was coming much further much faster.
And she was facing her father, and with her height, when she made contact it was in an extremely sensitive area. Mr. Duffy bent over in pain, as he had been looking away and didn't see her coming. I saw it, but what was I supposed to do, tackle the girl?
"Now you have my attention," he said to his daughter. "You know that you never, ever hit Daddy in the jingle bells. That is a no-no. Even if the house is on fire, even if the dog is drowning out in the pond, no jingle bells. Got it?"
"Now you trot on into the house, we're going to have a conversation about this."
"No, Daddy, no, I don't want to have a talk. You talk too long."
"Well now, maybe you'll think about that next time you go for the jingle bells."
"But I never, ever will."
"That's right. Now go wait for me in my study."
The little girl skipped inside like she didn't have a care in the world. I smiled and said, "Kids can be so lovable."
Mr. Duffy looked at me with raised eyebrows. "Do you really believe that? You must not have kids."
"No, none of my own, but--"
"Neither do I. That one and her brother are my wife's from a previous marriage. Frankly, I could do without them. I never wanted to have kids. But, it came in the bargain with my wife. The woman can be a holy terror sometimes, but buddy, that woman can do the polka."
"The marischino cha-cha."
He demonstrated the twist. "You know, the tropicana tango."
"She likes to dance," I concluded.
"In the bedroom. The horizontal mambo."
"Gotcha." He signed the paperwork, I gave him a copy, and I was off to catch a city bus. I assume he had a long talk ahead in his study.