About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Christmas Eve 2013, and I was almost to my destination for the night.  My good friend Ed in New Jersey had suggested I stop by, as I was set to deliver in Rhode Island on the day after Christmas.  He insisted I stay with his family for Christmas, and I happily accepted.

I was a little bit surprised at first, because his wife Diane had asked that I not stop by for a while.  There has always been a bit of friction between us that I regret, and once it came to the point where I didn't think she wanted me there, I had avoided Ed's home.  So this invitation caught me off guard.

As I pulled into Ed's driveway, he came out the front door and met me as I parked and climbed out of the hatchback I was driving.  "Bill, welcome."

"Christmas Eve gift."

"OK, whatever that means."

"It is a Christmas tradition in my family."

"I'm all for tradition.  Listen, just wanted to give you a heads up on Diane.  She is not doing too well."

"Is she sick?" I asked.

"Sick at heart, you might say."  He folded his hands and looked down at the ground.  "I've never seen her like this."

"What's wrong?"

"You know that her Mother died last week, right?"

"No, I did not know.  I'm sorry to hear it."

"Yeah, well it was a long time coming.  It wasn't much of a shock for anyone but Diane.  And she just isn't coping with it at all."

"Should I leave then?  Is this a bad time?"

"Heck no you're not leaving," Ed proclaimed.  "It's Christmas buddy.  Where would you go?"

I shrugged.  He hugged me tightly, then we went into the house.

Ed had to go pick up the kids, and I said I'd just hang around the house until he got back.  He warned me that Diane should be left alone, but that she'd most likely stay in her room.  I sat at the kitchen table and began to write.  Sometimes it feels like I don't have enough opportunity to work on my writing, but I love it so much.

A half hour after Ed left, I heard a crash.  Diane appeared in the kitchen, and seemed startled to see me.  "Bill?  What are you doing here?"

"Ed invited me for Christmas.  Hope you don't mind?"

She held her hand up to her head and made a motion like she was knocking on her skull.  "Yes, yes, I remember now.  It's all set, it's fine, I don't have a problem with this."

"Good, I thank you for your hospitality."  I stayed quiet while she fumbled around the kitchen.  It looked like she was trying to find something, but I chose to leave her be.  That is, until she dropped to her knees and began sobbing.  I hurried over to her side.

"She's gone, Bill.  My Mom is gone.  How am I supposed to...?"

"I understand."

Diane lashed out at me.  "You do not understand. no one possibly can.  I've lost the woman who was dearest in the world to me.  And right before Christmas, for pity's sake!"

I nodded.  "I feel for you."

"Really?  You?  Well I guess that makes me feel so much better," she spat out sarcastically.

"Diane, did you know that my own mother died ten years ago."

This stopped her cold.  "What?  No."

"It's true.  She and my brother were riding to come and meet me over the holidays, and they were killed by a drunk driver.  Ever since, the holidays tended to be very hard for me to deal with."

"How did you get through it?"

"Just like in AA, one day at a time.  I know that sounds trite, but its a simple plan that really does work.  I know you miss your Mom, and I feel for your loss so deeply.  You are a dear, sweet, wonderful lady who adored your Mom, and now she has left us.  But she is somewhere so much better than here, and one day you will see her again."

"You think?"

"I know.  That is what gives me comfort."

Diane nodded, then got angry.  "But its not fair!  Its not fair!  Do you realize what a big hole there will be in my life without her."

"Yes, I do.  When my mother and brother died, it pretty much left me alone.  My Dad died when I was very young, before I had a chance to meet him.  So I would encourage you to be happy you still have your Dad around.  And Ed, who loves you very much.  And your kids, who couldn't get along without you.  I know you're hurting right now, but try real hard to focus on the living.  There are people here who need you very much."
"Thank you, Bill."

I took her hand and gave it a squeeze.  "And I'm your friend, and I will be here for you anytime that you need me."  Diane came at me fast and grabbed me for a hug.  It was warm and welcome.

I thought a lot about it as the day wore on.  Here was this woman who I had been having strained relations with for so many years, and now I was her friend and confidante.  I still have this theory that if we can overcome our petty grievances and jealousies and try to reach out and help others, the world would be that much better of a place.  I spent the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being as jolly as I possibly could, and being so thankful that I had a family to spend the holiday with. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I was on my way to pick up a car on Thanksgiving Day.  My boss Riff said that the company wanted their car in New York City by Monday, and the only day the terminated employee was free was on Turkey day.  Not a problem for me, I had no other plans.  My buddy Frank in Birmingham had asked me to dinner with his family.  In fact, quite a few of my friends who I visit with as I travel around the USA had offered invitations, but I didn't know where I would be.

As it turns out, Sante Fe, New Mexico.  I came into town on a crowded bus late morning, and then got off and climbed into a taxi.  The extremely dirty taxi finally turned onto the street where I was set to pick up, and I hopped out as quickly as I could in the driveway and paid cash.  There was a terrible odor in the cab that I could not wait to get away from.

I walked up the driveway, and a large burly man approached me.  He had on a filthy bathrobe which was wide open, and underneath was a T shirt and boxers.  He appeared to be in bad need of a bath and a shave, and I think he'd been drinking.  "You the guy?" he asked me.

I smiled and nodded.  "Yes Mr. Lombardi, I am Bill Thomas your friendly driver."

He grumbled.  "Yes, I just bet you are.  Come to take my car from me, have you?"

"Yes sir.  Hope you're having a Happy Thanksgiving."

"Oh sure, its a regular party around here!  I can't believe your boss and my boss both make us work on a holiday.  Oh wait a minute... I'm not working, I got fired.  That's why you're stealing my car away from me."

"Uh, your company said they needed the car in New York early Monday."

"And how is that my problem?"

"It's not, but I --"

"But nothing.  Couldn't you have been a little more considerate than to pick up my car on Thanksgiving day?  Do you have a heart?"

"I do.  I was told that you selected this day, that you wanted me to come today."

"That's entirely beside the point."


He shook his head and slammed his fist down on the roof of the Ford Taurus.  "Bill, I don't have a job now.  But you want to know what I do have?  I have a mortgage and a car payment and a wife with a fond affection for shopping with my credit card.  Know what else?  I have two kids, one of them needs braces and the other needs..."  He stopped and glared at me.  "Well sir, I don't think I'm going to tell you what the other one needs."

"I don't need to know.  I just want to do a quick inspection of the car, then you'll sign off on it and I'll be on my way."


I was confused.  "No?"

"No sir.  Not gonna happen."

"Which part is a No?"

"All of it.  The whole shooting match."

"I don't understand."

"The only way I'm gonna let you take this car is if you buy some of my homemade chili."  He lumbered over to ten stacks of boxes and grabbed one.  He hauled it over to the Ford and slammed the box onto the trunk.  "Best damn chili in the southwest, and I made it all myself."


"Did I stutter?  I thought I'd find a way of generating more income, so I made up a whole lot of this chili.  Figured I'd sell it on the Internet, and to friends and family.  You know."

I simply nodded.  "Yes sir."

"I used a special recipe.  Three kinds of beans, the fattiest, greasiest meat on the market, plus cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, tabasco sauce, and a healthy dose of that blazing hot Chinese chili sauce.  It packs a wallop, let me tell you.  Oh yes, and there is one full cup of brown sugar in every jar. "

"I used to love chili, had the best ever in Texas once."

"Texas?"  He roared with laughter, then became grim.  "Let me tell you something, Texas is a pussy state with pussy chili.  You hear me?  You're in the southwest now, we border Mexico in this state!"

I wondered if he realized that the state of Texas also borders Mexico, but chose to remain silent.  I just walked around the car and marked on my paperwork where I found any dents or scratches.  When I was done, I came back to Mr. Lombardi.  "OK, now if you can just sign here."

"I'm not signing nothing.  And you're not getting the keys."

"Why not?"

"I already told you.  If you want the car, you gotta buy five jars of my homemade chili."

"It's real nice of you to offer, but I can't eat chili."

"Everyone eats chili."

"Not me, not anymore.  I have a stomach condition, and all that fire you have in that chili would kill me."

"It would not kill you, don't stretch the truth."

"You're right, let's just say it would cause me some serious, horrible pain."

He slapped me on the back hard.  "Come on Bill, be a man.  This stuff will grow hair on your chest.  And your back and your feet and your hands.  It'll even put some hair on your chinny-chin-chin!"

I stood and weighed my options.  This guy seemed pretty firm in his convictions, and I really wanted to get in the car and get down the road.  Long drive from New Mexico to New York, and I would doubtless run into lots of holiday traffic.  "I don't have much cash on me."

"Look Bill, I'm out of a job now and this chili is all I have to make enough income to take care of my family.  My wife, and my kids.  Have a heart, man.  And ask yourself, just how badly do I want to take this car with me."

I shuffled my feet.  "How much will it be?"

"Five bucks a jar.  I'll sell you a case."

"I'll take two jars."

"That's not the deal."

I took out my wallet and opened it wide for him to inspect.  There was one ten dollar bill inside.  "That is all the money I have, take it or leave it."

He cursed a few times under his breath, then said, "You are very lucky, I'm going to take your ten bucks and let you take the car."

"Thank you, Mr. Lombardi."

He held out the keys for me, and when I reached for them he snatched them back.  "But remember one thing.  When you go to bed to night, you better hit your knees and thank the good Lord in Heaven above that you met a charitable man today.  I could have kept the car and sent you packing.  Hell, I could have beaten you and left you in a ditch where no one would find you."

I smiled politely.  "I'm awfully glad you didn't."  I took the keys and handed him the ten dollar bill.

He reached into the box and took out two jars.  Then he reached in again and pulled out a third. "Oh crap, here you go, I'll give you three because I'm in the holiday spirit.  Even if I don't have a job and may be in the poor house soon.  Merry Christmas!"

"Happy Thanksgiving," I replied.

"You don't have to go be some sort of smart assed smart aleck, correcting me on my holidays.  Just for that, I'm taking back your bonus jar."  And he did.  "Now hit the road before I change my mind and do some real damage."

I didn't know what he meant by that, but didn't want to hang around and find out.  I got in the car and headed northeast for New York City.  And I said a prayer that all of my friends and family were all having a very Happy Thanksgiving 2013.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


As I was walking down the street yesterday morning in Greensboro, North Carolina, I heard the ring tone on my cell phone which indicated that my boss Riff was calling.  It was a tune of doom and gloom, sort of a death march song.  "Hello Riff."

"Don't try to butter me up butterball,I am royally pissed at you."

"I'm not too happy with you, either."

I could hear the shock in his voice as he asked,  "What did you just say to me?"

"You heard me.  You owe me money, you always owe me money."

"I'm not a freakin' money tree!"

"I only want you to pay me what I earn, and you are about $900 shy of that right now."

"That's a damn lie."

"No sir, it's an understatement.  Check your books.  No wait, you don't need to check your books, because you know full well you've been cheating me."

"You impudent little bastard!"

"If you're calling about the car in Greensboro, it's still not ready.  It's at Firestone, and they say they will have it serviced by 5pm."

"And when will your delicate disposition allow you to deliver it to Wyoming, my little pussywillow?"

"Three days from now.  It's quite a drive."

"Sure it is, but if you were any kind of man you'd drive the entire 1700 miles without stopping."

"Well, I guess I'm not that kind of man.  Which is a crazy man."

"You are no kind of man at all."  That's when I hung up.

As I walked along, I felt the stress and tension in my back, neck and shoulders.  I drive and I write, and both jobs require long hours of sitting still in one place.  I get very tense and sore, and knew I could use a good therapeutic massage.  When I turned the corner, I saw a little house with a sign out front that read "THE HAPPY MONGOLIAN --Massage."  It could not have been more fortuitous, and I walked right up to the front door and went in.

Inside, the lights were off but many candles were burning.  A pretty young Asian girl ran out into the reception area and grabbed my hand.  She was wearing a peek-a-boo nightgown and spoke in pidgin english  "Hello, hello I'm Tina.  You come, I give you good massage."

"Hang on," I said, pulling my hand away from her.  "I just wanted to find out what your prices are."

Tina grabbed my hand again and held on tight.  "$80 for massage, and you get happy ending."


"Happy ending.  Very, very happy ending."

"Uh... I just want a good old therapeutic massage."

"Oh yeah, good ole thay-a-pootic, with happy ending."

"I don't want a happy ending."

"You like my happy ending!"  She smiled and nodded knowingly.

"I just want a massage."

"We called Happy Mongolian because the Mongolian was fierce warrior."  Tina held her hands up like claws and bared her teeth.  "Grrrrrrr!  They fierce, but we tame them with happy ending."

"But I don't want --"

"You don't like me?  We got four more pretty girls in the back."  She held up her hand and counted with fingers.  "One, two, three, four."  Then she leaned towards me and dropped her voice a few octaves as if to make a strong impression.  "One, two, three, four."

I pulled my hand away again, and she tried to grab it again.  I kept moving it around and she chased it with her own hand.  "I don't think I want a massage today."

"How about just happy ending?  Happy beginning, happy ending?"

"No, nothing, no happy.  I have to go."  As I turned to walk out, she quickly grabbed one of my butt cheeks and gave it a good squeeze.

"You come back.  I love you!"

I left and went to Firestone to wait and watched the TV in their customer lounge.  Just before 5pm, a promo came on for the local news.  A reporters voice said,  "And police raided The Happy Mongolian today for prostitution."  The images showed Tina and the other girls being taken out in cuffs along with some male clients.  So all in all, it did not appear to be a happy ending.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Halloween night, and I found myself driving on a dark country highway 65 miles northwest of Austin.  State Capital of Texas and home of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.  And of course SXSW film and music festival.  I was trying to think distracting thoughts so I would not soak up the forebording vibe out on this night of spooks and goblins.  I'm a driving fool and a fearless man... that's what I'm supposed to be, anyhow.

That's about the time my front tire blew out, and my heart jumped right thru my throat and up to my brain.  I swerved hard on this narrow two lane highway, but was able to control the car and get pulled over on the side of the road.  I got out and could see a problem right away:  it was so pitch dark out that I was going to have a heck of a time changing tires.  I got out my trusty flashlight and fumbled to keep it aimed on the tire as I did my task.

I kept on hearing noises from the woods on both sides of the road.  It was more than a little unnerving.  Some of them were louder and more odd than others.  I felt a chill go threw me.  I heard something pop to the left of me, and jerked my head to the side to see.  Then I heard a distinctive crack to the right of me and whipped my head in that direction.

Then just as I was finishing tightening bolts on the spare tire, the jack and crowbar slipped and I jammed my right hand hard.    I dropped onto my butt and grasped my hand in pain, and then I heard it...

Crashing and thrashing sounds coming from the woods.  Unlike any of the other sounds I had heard, this was big and it was moving steadily in my direction. A deer darted out of the woods and across the road.  I jumped up and climbed into the car, locking the doors.  Even in the dark, I could make out the movement of the trees and this huge object moved towards me.  When I caught sight of it stepping from the woods, I thought it was a bear.  Or could it be a really large gorilla?

Or maybe... I grew up being fascinated by the legend of Bigfoot.  Sasquatch.  I always just figured it was a really good story, but I think that this was him.  Or it.  And he is what ran for my car as I started up and screamed away faster than I've ever driven in my life.  With the car trunk wide open and the tools left on the highway.   It sounded like I hit something as I drove away.  It was 30 miles to the next gas station, and I stopped there to check on the tire and see what I hit.

Turns out I didn't hit anything.  But it looked like something had hit me.  On the right rear fender there was a large indention where it looked like a small tree had fallen.  And in the mouldings I saw lots of hairs.  I felt every hair on my neck stand up and salute.  A childhood boogeyman had just become very real to me.  And crossing paths with this terrifying creature would no doubt haunt me for some time to come.

Interestingly, I had just read yesterday that a company called Court Five is coming out with a movie called EXISTS which is about Bigfoot.   Since it is directed by Eduardo Sanchez, who did THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, I am certain that it will be very scary.  I am also certain that I will be squirming in my seat when I watch it, remembering the night that a driving fool had a close encounter with a legend.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I was filling up with gas on a rural highway in Arkansas, on my way to deliver in Fayetteville.  I had been to Fayetteville in North Carolina, but never the one in Arkansas.

A car came screaming by honking, followed closely by a big rig semi truck.  But the truck was getting progressively slower as it neared me.  It had two flat tires and was limping until it came to a complete halt very close to where I was pumping.

A huge woman jumped out of the truck and waddled towards me, screaming and cussing up a storm.  She had a red solo cup in her right hand, and was wildly gesturing with her left hand.  "I've had it!  That's it, no more!  All of them need to be caught and killed."  I did my best to pretend I didn't notice her, but she kept walking straight towards me.  Why oh why am I a magnet for the wacky people of the world?  "Hey you!  That's right, I'm talking to you!  I have just about had it with all you four wheelers."

"You were speaking to me?"

"Who else would I be talking to.  You're just another low down, no account four wheeler."

"What's a four wheeler?"

"You, and all those like you, who drive a car or pickup or minivan or some such.  Those who don't have the skills and pride to drive the 18 wheelers like I do."


"Oh?  Is that all you've got to say?  You don't even have the good manners to introduce yourself to a lady?"

"Hi, my name is Bill Thomas."

She went from outrage to homespun warmth in the blink of an eye.  "Madge Ferguson, seriously damn glad to meet you."  She grabbed my hand in a painfully firm grasp and shook it for all she was worth.  Then she spit into the cup.  I could see she had a very big chunk of tobacco in her cheek.  "Did you see what that fella did to me?"

"I just saw him fly by honking his horn."

"A honk of victory, but that victory was hollow, let me tell you.  He had cut me off, and I don't cotton to that kind of behavior.  No siree bob.  I had to teach him a lesson, but he got tricky with me, and next thing you know I ran over a pile of cut wood on the shoulder of the highway... and well, now it looks like I got me two flat tires."  She spit into the cup.

"Road rage is getting out of hand."

"His rage, not mine, I am a down to earth lady who treats others like I'd like to be treated myself.  Until they cross me.  Do not cross Madge.  No sir."

"Mind if I ask you a question?"  In retrospect, I should not have asked the question.

"I might, but go ahead anyway."

"Sometimes when I'm driving down the highway at 70mph, I come up on two semi trucks one behind the other.  Just as I get to them and am about to pass, the one in back jumps over to the left lane.  And just goes side by side with the other truck at 60mph.  It backs me up and all the other cars that are behind me.  And sometimes they just glide along side by side for ten miles before the one in the left lane finally moves back over to the right."

"Oh, well that's easy.  Some truck have a governor on the engine and can only go so fast."

"Then I wonder why once the truck moves over he speeds up and I have to do 80 to pass him."

She threw her head back and let out a loud guffaw.  "Well then in that case, they're duckin' with you."


"I'm trying to use less profanity.  They's messin' with you is all."


"I don't think they'd purposefully mess with you on accident."

"But why?"

"Cuz they're bored, and cuz we are superior to all you four wheelers.The way you all try to drive all the way up to where the lanes merge into one before a construction site.  That's when we ride the middle line and stop y'all from doing that.  Hell, we're more effective than the police at teachin' lessons."  She spit into her cup.

"I often think of the big rigs as Imperial Starships, and the cars like me are X wing fighters."

"I get that reference, but Darth Vader pretty much crushed your little rebellion, now didn't he?"  She giggled to herself.

"I think his son Luke led the charge to victory and defeated the Empire."

She shook her head and let out a hoot of laughter.  "Boy, it's clear that you need to brush up on your Star Wars.  You got it all ass backwards."  She spit into the cup, then wiped her hand across her face to mop away the juice.

"Maybe we can all just find a way to get along out on the road.  What do you think?"

Madge glared at me.  "You don't want to know what I think.  That's what I think!"

"I just see so much hatred and violence and nastiness among folks every single day.  I pray for peace."

"I'm a praying woman myself, but you are a fool if you think you can make a difference.  Or that any kind of peace is possible."  She sneezed into her hand, and then used the hand to brush her hair back.

"Is there anything I can do to help you, Madge?"

"Yes sir, go catch that asshole in the four wheeler who cut me off and kill him for me.  Could you do that?"  She waddled off towards the mini-mart portion of the gas station, and I topped off my tank and got back on the road again.

Monday, September 30, 2013


I had just delivered a car in Indianapolis.  I was feeling sort of melancholy and introspective.  Why was I still driving cars all over the country when it wasn't getting me anywhere?  Well, it got me from Point A to Point B, but it wasn't moving me forward in my life.  Bill Thomas, driving fool, lonely guy.  Something was missing from my life, and I just...  Lots of confusion, frustration and sadness flooded over me.

I walked downtown trying to clear my mind.  Think happy thoughts!  I walked past the Cafe where Karen used to work, only now it was just an empty space, not being used for anything.  Karen, my one true love, my fantasy girl.  Too bad she liked girls more than me, but I still loved her anyway.  Guess that says a lot about me.

Last time I saw her was last Thanksgiving at her home in Richmond, when I had the misfortune of taking a pain pill while drinking and getting all whacked out.  I professed my deep love for her and said I wanted her to be my wife.  Really freaked her out, and I hadn't had the chance to try to fix the situation.  Or more correctly, I had not yet made the effort.

I felt a poke in the middle of my back.  I turned around and couldn't believe my eyes.  It was Karen, standing right there in front of me.  "Karen, what are --"

"Shh!" she said.

"But I--"

She grimaced.  "I said SHH!"

"How did you--"

She interrupted me by putting her finger to my lips.  "Don't talk.  Don't say a word.  Just come with me."  She took my hand and led me down the block.  We turned down a street and went a few more blocks, then entered a very nice hotel.  She took me to the elevator and we went to the next to the top floor.  We got off and went down the hall, and she took out a key and opened a door.

"Karen, please tell me--"

She yanked me into the room behind her.  "What is it that you don't understand about SHH?  Be quiet, OK?"

I nodded.  But I really did want to know what was going on, why she was here, how she found me, and a lot of other questions.  Last time I saw her things were tense and dicey, so I wanted to know where we stand.  I watched her sit down and take off her shoes.  I knew I was supposed to keep my mouth shut, but I had to ask.  "Karen, last time I saw you things were kind of messed up.  Are we--"

This time she put her entire hand over my mouth.  She shook her head and laughed.  "Shut up and kiss me, will you?"  I didn't hesitate for a second, I grabbed her and kissed her passionately on the lips.  It had been a long time, although I had dreamed of this more times than I could count.  And the reality was so much better than the fantasy.

Four hours later, I woke up in the bed alone. I hoped it hadn't all been a dream.  And then Karen walked out of the bathroom, dressed and ready to go.  "Thank you," she said.

"No, no, thank you!"

"I needed that."

"Well I'm very glad I could be of service."

"Just don't ruin it and tell me that you're in love with me."

"OK.  But I am, you know."

She nodded and let out a sigh.  "Yep, I know."  She walked over to the door. "Can you let yourself out?  I have to get back to the east coast and make sure my new Cafe hasn't burned down or anything."

"You're leaving?"

"I have a flight leaving in two hours.  Gotta go."  She started to open the door and then turned around to face me.  "Cheryl died a week ago.  She's been sick for a while, that's why I had to rush off last Thanksgiving.  To be with her.  I was here for the funeral."  I didn't know what to say.  Cheryl was her ex-lover, and though they had split up Karen could not seem to get over her.

"I'm sorry to hear."

"No you're not.  But that's OK.  I thought I'd walk over and take a look at the old restaurant that we ran together, and there you were.  Just when I needed you."

I shrugged.  "I'm sincerely sorry that you are hurting."

She smiled at me.  "Come see me in Richmond soon.  I miss you all the time."

"Count on it," I told her.  She walked out the door, and my heart went with her.

Monday, September 16, 2013


As I drove through Minnesota, my cell phone rang.  "Hello, this is Bill."

"Bill?  Bill who?"  I recognized the voice of sweet old Mrs. Sherman, whose car I moved up north in the summer, and back down to Florida for the winter.  At the age of 95, she was active but got confused sometimes. "Who is this?"

"Mrs. Sherman, its me, Bill Thomas, your favorite driver."

"Oh Bill, yes, yes, my little Bill.  I am so glad you called me, I have been thinking about you."

"That's nice to hear."

"Yes of course.  Bill, I have a question, I'm deeply concerned."

"Well, what's the problem?"

"I was watching my TV the other night, and a young girl was on in her underwear doing some type of dance or something.  But it looked more to me like the kind of actions a woman would reserve for her husband in the bedroom.  Do you understand my meaning?"

I smiled.  "Yes, quite clearly.  I think you are talking about Miley Cyrus."

"No, I don't think that was her name."

"She also used to go by the name of Hannah Montana."

There was a long pause.  "Now Bill, I know you're just teasing me.  No one would have a silly name like that."

"It was the name of her character on a Disney channel TV program."

"Really?  Are you serious?"

"I am."

"My goodness gracious."

"Miley was a teen goddess while on that show, and now she's trying hard to break free of that image."

"Bill, I can tell you that Mr. Walt Disney would not have approved of what I saw her doing on TV."

"I'm quite sure you're right, ma'am."

"She was moving and shaking and humping and pumping."

"Yes, I saw it."

"She was gyrating till the cows come home.  It was just plain nasty."


"What is happening to our world, Bill?  Can you please tell me?  First Syria, and now this Miley girl doing that naughty nonsense."

"They call it twerking."

"Oh go on!"

"No really, that's what they call it.  Miley was twerking."

"Well sir, she was doing something that should not be done in mixed company.  Much less on TV where hundreds of people can see her.  Maybe even thousands."

"Maybe even millions."

"Oh goodness, I hope not.  Bill, I am baking my famous blackberry cobbler, I wish you were here to try it later tonight."

"So do I, but I'm in Minnesota."

As she spoke, it sounded as if her voice were cracking.  "I miss you, when can you come see me again?"

"Next time you want your car moved, I'll be there."

She hesitated.  "Does it have to wait till then?  Could you just come visit when you're in the neighborhood?  I've grown very fond of you, Bill."

"As I am of you, Mrs. Sherman.  But right now I'm in Minnesota."

"Oh, OK.  Well thank you for thinking of me and calling me tonight."  She hung up the phone.

I smiled as I thought about her watching Miley doing the twerking routine on MTV.  And that's when my front tire blew out.  It was a chilly night, and I did not look forward to having to change a flat in the dark.  But that's the life of a driving fool.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Yesterday I was in a diner in upstate New York, not too far from Rochester.  I was taking a break from the road, sitting at the counter enjoying a diet Dr. Pepper and slice of apple pie.  The waitress offered me a slice of cheddar cheese on the pie, which I had never heard of.  Had many scoops of ice cream on pie over the years, but never cheese.  I tried it and found out I enjoyed it very much.

A hefty, rugged-looking man came and plopped down at the counter two seats from me.  He turned to me as if we already in the middle of a conversation and asked,  "Think we're gonna?"

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Think we're gonna?"

"Think we're gonna what?"

He looked at me as if I were dense. "You think we're gonna go?"

"Think we're gonna go where?"

"To Syria, to bomb the hell out of those bastards?"

"Uh, well I really don't know."  I knew to tread carefully, politics could be an explosive discussion topic.

"You know that Obama the Messiah wants us to go," he said with a sneer.

"Does he?"

"Oh come on, now you know he does.  But consider this:  Why does Obama insist on moving forward with this punishing strike against Syria?"

"I'm really not sure."

"And you're not the only one!" he exclaimed.  "Best case scenario,  we slap the Syrians down a few pegs for using chemical weapons, they learn their lesson and go on killing their political rivals with conventional weaponry instead."  He turned and called out to the waitress.  "Hey Maggie, how about a cup of coffee over here."

"The pie is good," I offered, trying to possibly change the subject.

"The pie is always good, but I bet they aren't enjoying pie over in Syria.  Don't forget the other side of the coin."

"Which is?"

"The worst case scenario.  That would be that we try to strike Syria only to encounter Russian military defending them."  Maggie brought him the coffee and set it in front of him without saying a word.  She seemed to be having a bad day and turned on her heel.  "And in the meanwhile Iran makes good on it's threat of retaliation against our ally Israel, emboldening other radical Muslim nations to join in.  And so with the purge of Jews in Israel and the middle east and attacks against any and all us embassies and military bases..."  He stopped and shook his head, then went silent.

Maggie came back quickly and pointed at me.  "You need anything else?"

"No thanks," I replied.

She turned to the man who had been speaking to me, and the tone of her voice suggested tension between them.  "You want pie, Jesse?"

He fumed.  "No I do not want pie!  I want democracy."  She threw her hands into the air and walked away.  
"The USA and France will just be standing there like two kids caught with their hand in the cookie jar until other nations, outraged by the destruction in Israel join in and we start World War 3."

"I really do hope not," was all I could think to say.

"Of course you hope not.  We all hope not.  But hope has nothing to do with this.  The other countries around the world do not support what we are planning, or I should say, what Obama is planning.  And now he is hiding behind Congress, saying that they have to authorize."

"Are you sure about that?"

He laughed.  "Am I sure?  Yes, I am very sure."  His cell phone rang, playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  "This is Jesse.  What?  Yep, I can be right over."  He hung up and gulped down the entire cup of hot coffee.  "Listen partner, I got to run.  Can you take care of this coffee for me?  Thanks a bunch!"  He ran out of the diner before I could answer.  But I guess I can afford a cup of coffee for a fellow American.  

Monday, August 19, 2013


As I drove through Nebraska, my hotheaded boss Riff shouted at me.  "So when you drop off that car, late as usual, you will be picked up by my new driver Chip.  He'll be passing through Council Bluffs and will bring you all the way down to St. Louis.  There's a car waiting for you to drive in St. Louis.  Chip will be driving a medical truck.  Have you got that, or do I need to speak slower for your mentally challenged brain?"

"I got it," I told him.

"This guy is a real pro, a decent man and a hard worker.  You could learn a lot from him."

"I'll look forward to his call."  I hung up. That was the same thing Riff had once said about Andy, a goofy driver I had encountered many times.    I was very tired, I'd been driving a lot of miles for many days with little rest.  It was catching up to me.

When I arrived at the delivery address in Council Bluffs, Chip was already there in the medical truck.  I did my paperwork, then grabbed my bag and threw it in the back of the truck.  I walked to the passenger door, but Chip was sliding over to my seat.  "You're driving," he told me.

I went around to the driver's side and climbed in.  "Good to see you." I drove towards the highway.

Chip looked like he was just about 70.  He smiled at me.  "I'm riding shotgun."

"OK," I said.

"No seriously."  He pulled a shotgun up from the floor.  "I got your back, shotgun style."

I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  "That's... great.  I was told you'd call me."

"Where's the fun in that?  Thought I'd surprise you.  My name is Chip."

I reached out to shake his hand.  "Bill Thomas, nice to meet you."

"They call me Chip because of my tooth."  He pulled his lip back with one hand and pointed to his upper front tooth with the other hand.  The teeth looked nearly perfect.

"I don't see a chip."

He nodded happily.  "Exactly.  So tell me about your experience with guns, Billy boy."

"Not much."

"Very sad to hear that.  Especially with all that's coming.  Guess I'll have to educate you."  Chip reached behind him and pulled out a 9mm automatic.  "This is your basic 9mm, good stopping power, auto reload, fast and effective."  He grabbed another one.  "Now this is a 357, it will put down the biggest man and quick."

"Thanks for enlightening me."

"Oh Billy, I haven't even begun."  Chip reached behind my seat.  "Now this monster is an AK-47.  It will stop any punk that crosses your path on a dark night."

"Seems excessive."

"Until someone starts shooting at you, and then you'll want all the firepower you can get to respond.  By the way, we are going to need to stop at some outdoor shops along our route.  I've got them all mapped out.  Our supreme Presidente has made it hard for patriots like me to get ammo, so I have to pick it up where I can.  While we're stopped, I'll help you pick out a gun.  Now this is a Walther PPK, the gun of agent 007 James Bond."  He pulled the gun out from under his seat.

"I love James Bond movies," I told him.

"But we aren't talking about movies, we are talking about real life, real guns, real bullets.  Life and death choices, man.  Serious business."

"I understand."

"I don't think you do, Billy.  Imagine you are walking down your street late one night, and some kid carrying Skittles and watermelon juice and robutussin looking to get high accosts you.  What are you gonna do, huh?"

"Avoid him?"

"Good luck with that.  I think you need one of these."  He pulled a 38 snub nose out of his coat pocket.  "This is your basic 38 special, easy to conceal, does the job especially at close range.  Hey, get off at this next exit, its our first bullet stop."

We stopped and I went in.  Chip engaged the man working behind the counter, and told him all about his experience with guns, and how he helps people learn to shoot.  "Teach the little punks a lesson, that's what I say!" he exclaimed.

Back on the road, Chip studied me long and hard.  "I'm a little bit worried about you, Billy."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"I don't believe you're taking this seriously.  Did you even pay attention to the types of ammo I bought?"

"One for each size gun, right?"

"No, no, I mean full metal jacket, soft point, hollow point, dum dum, and armor piercing."

"Armor piercing?"

He nodded enthusiastically.  "That can cut through just about anything.  Including bullet proof vests most of the time.  Billy, you gotta be ready."

"Ready for what?"

"The riots and wars that are coming!"

"What war?"

"Race war.  Don't you know its coming?  Obama is stirring things up, he wants it to happen."

"I don't agree."

"I don't much care what you think.  I'm trying to be a friend to you and tell you what's coming.  If you want to ignore my warnings and disrespect me, that's on you."  Chip turned in his seat to face the window and looked out at the countryside.  He kept on mumbling, obviously very unhappy with me.  He only spoke to me two hours later,  to tell me when to get off at another exit to buy more bullets.  This time I chose to stay in the car.

When Chip got back in, his attitude had changed.  "What a great store!  You shoulda seen the stock they had in there.  Oh Billy, I can't stay mad at you, hard as I try.  I just want you to be safe and get a gun.  To protect yourself in case the Chinese come knocking on our shores.  Or when the race wars begin.  Or to kill a man who kills someone you love, to get justice.  Or just to kill some dumb punk who is lurking in your neighborhood.  You get me?"

"I think so."  I was quiet for most of the rest of the ride.  As grateful as I was for the ride, this guy seemed to be a little off balance.  Which is the kind of person I seem to meet on a regular basis on the road.  I know that guns serve a purpose, but I feel that some folks get a little bit extreme.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I was having a really bad week.  Really, truly awful.

Two of the customers I had delivered to cussed me out for no good reason, and although that happens from time to time, this time it got to me.  Plus both of them called in formally complained about me.  Which was out of left field and completely undeserving.  Then my boss Riff chewed me out and told me that he didn't have enough to pay me for the back end of my last three car deliveries.  And my teeth hurt terribly, I think I may have an infection, but who has money for a dentist?  No dental insurance on my job.  It just seemed like the sky was falling on my head, except there were concrete blocks instead of clouds in the sky.

It was noon, and I was getting ready to deliver a car to Odessa, Texas.  The landscape was so sparse that it added to my feeling of frustration and depression.  I really needed something good to happen real soon to give me a positive shot in the arm.

I had to stop and get gas.  Stopped at a little Mom & Pop convenience store called the Gulp & Chew.  Tried to use my credit card at the pump, but no luck.  So I went inside and stood in a very long line just so I could prepay for gas.  We have to deliver all cars with a half tank of gas in them.

The man in line just ahead of me set down a 12 pack of beer.  The skinny cashier behind the counter sneered at him and yelled,  "Hey dude, its Sunday, you can't buy beer now.  Ha Ha!"  I watched how much the cashier enjoyed this.  He was covered in tatoos, had unkempt facial hair, and had more piercings on his face than I've ever seen before.

I stepped up to him and put down a $20 bill.  "Twenty on pump 3," I said.

"What pump?" he asked.

"Pump 3."

"How much?" he asked.

I held up the $20 bill.  "Twenty."

"Which pump," he asked.  Now I knew he was messing with me, and I just was not in the mood.

"Twenty dollars prepay on pump 3, please."

I walked out the door as he yelled at me.  "Yeah, but on which pump?"

Carefully I pumped the gas, aiming to be judicious and get just enough in the tank to register one half a tank.  When I had reached that goal, I stopped the pump.  It showed $14.33.  So I had to go back inside to get change and a receipt.

Inside, there was another long line to wait in.  I noticed that the cashier was being very rude to every customer.  When it was my turn, I told him I needed change and receipt for pump 3.  He looked at the register, then a machine next to it.  "Says here you pumped the entire $20.  Next!" he called for the next customer in line.

"No, no, there's a mistake.  I gave you $20, but I pumped only $14.33."

"So what?"

"So I need change and receipt."

"Sorry, my info says you pumped the whole $20.  Next!"

"No, I'm not done yet.  I need my change and a receipt."

"Now you're beginning to really piss me off," he said to me.

"Am I?  Well then, why don't you just do your job and I'll be out of your hair."

"Don't tell me my job.  We're done here.  Next!"

"No!  No next!  You aren't through serving me.  I need change from my $20."

"You spent the $20."

"No sir, I did not."

He leaned towards me, challenging.  "Prove it."

"Not a problem, just come on out to the pump with me and you will see that it says $14.33."

"I don't have the time or the interest to come outside."

"Then give me my money."

"You want your stupid damn money.  Here!"  He slapped a five and a one dollar bill on the counter.  I picked them up.  "Now get the hell out of here, ya dumb faggot!"

"As soon as you give me a receipt."

This made the gent behind the counter puff up to try to look tough.  "Don't you make me come over the counter.  I will jump over this counter and kick your ass."

I guess that was the last straw.  All I know is that something went "pop" in my head, and I used my hands to propel me up on the counter so that I was leaning in his face.  I spoke softly but firmly to him.  "Please come over the counter, I'm begging you.  And then be prepared to spend two weeks in intensive care at the local hospital, because I will mess you up beyond all recognition."

It was obvious that he was not prepared for this.  He felt that he was the king in his little fiefdom, and I was the one person who was standing up to his nonsense.  "Geez bro, you don't have to get all bent out of shape.  'Course I'll give you a receipt, no problem."  And he did.

I walked out to the pump and found an elderly man who I had seen inside standing there.  He looked at me and said,  "I saw the whole thing, and he should not have treated you like that.  I just took a picture of the pump price displayed with my camera phone.  I know the manager, and intend to show it to her when she comes in and tell her what happened.  She will deal with him."

"Thanks sir, I really appreciate it."

"Stay safe.  And stay cool.  Don't let an asshole ruin your day."

He was right.  I left feeling better, and said a prayer for safe travels and peace of mind.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Last month on Father's day, I was once again focused on the father who I never met.  My mom always told me that he left us and never loved me.  Then he died soon afterward.  There has always been an empty space in my heart, and as I drive cars around America I often ponder what it would have been like to meet him.

My cell phone rang, and when I answered the familiar voice of sweet old Mrs. Sherman said  "Hello, Bill."

"Hi, Mrs. Sherman. How are you?"

"Oh my, why thank you for asking.  I am about to make a big batch of cookies.  Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter.  I just thought you'd like to know."  And with that, she hung up.  She is 94 years old and gets a little more eccentric with each passing day.

I was on my way to deliver a minivan to Albany, NY.  Trying to decide where to stop for the night as I drove through the garden state of New Jersey.  My cell phone rang again, and I saw my old friend Ed's name pop up.  "Ed, how you doing?" I said into the phone.  Hearing from him was just what I needed.

"Hey Bill, just wanted to let you know that Diane and the kids have gone to Oregon for two weeks.  So if you pass by anywhere near here, the door is open and you can stay."

"Ed, I'm in New Jersey."

"Right now?"


"I live in New Jersey, Bill."

"Yes, I'm aware."

"Where are you right now, right this minute?"

"A little over an hour from your house."

"Get a move on, the party won't start till you arrive!"

I hung up and drove with a sense of purpose.  I was so happy to shake off the gloom of missing my Dad and bemoaning another sad Father's day.  I arrived at Ed's one hour and fifteen minutes later, and he was waiting for me at the door.  He gave me a handshake-hug, and it felt really good to be back.  About a year ago, Ed had told me I couldn't come stay overnight for a while, due to his wife Diane's issues with me.

"Get your ass in here, pal," said Ed enthusiastically.

"Great to be here," I said.

"Great to have you."

"Great to be had."

Ed handed me a large glass of Coke.  My first sip told me it was heavily laced with Jack Daniels.  Then he offered me a large chocolate chip cookie.  I thought of Mrs. Sherman and chuckled to myself.  "I baked these myself," Ed said with pride.

I ate the huge cookie hungrily, and sipped some of my cocktail to wash it down.  I was halfway through eating it, enjoying every last morsel.  "This is delicious."

Ed pointed at me.  "Now drink your drink, and then let's go to the Deja Vu club."

"Deja Vu?  For gentlemen only?"

He shrugged.  "I don't see why women wouldn't be welcome.  But all I know is that I need a lap dance."

Well, maybe so did I.  I do not frequent gentleman clubs, but on rare occassions I have gone to them and enjoyed cutting loose a bit.  After all, I am a single bachelor, I have basic needs.  The way I had been feeling all day today, I needed a distraction.  "I'm driving," I told Ed.

"OK, but we are taking my new SUV.  And shotgun!"

"Sounds about right."

30 minutes later, we were at the Deja Vu club.  We walked in, and I must say that the women there were a cut above what I've seen before.  I was also noticing that Ed was getting beyond tipsy.  I knew that I had to stop drinking so that I could be the designated semi-sober friend.

We sat at the stage and tipped girls as they danced for us.  Then Ed paid several girls to take me into the back for private dances.  Oddly enough, my mind kept drifting to Karen, the love of my life.  But truth be told, she likes women so if she were here she'd be getting her own private dances.

After an hour or so, Ed started telling me that he thought he was in love with one of the dancers.  "I don't know Bill, I sorta kinda feel like we made a connection."  Experience has taught me that this is the time to pack up and leave.  When Ed talks about a connection, he's had enough.

I was driving us home, feeling a bit of the effects of my cocktails.  Even though I had been drinking only water and coffee for the past hour.  "Happy Father's day," I said to Ed.

"Same to you, bud.  Oh but wait, you're not a dad.  I'm sorry."

"Don't be.  My only regret on Father's day is that I never got to meet my own dad."

Ed looked down and shook his head sadly.  "That sucks.  That really sucks.  And you don't know anything about him."

"I've been researching and learning some stuff.  Like I think I just found out where he was buried.  It's in a cemetery right here in New Jersey."

Ed sat upright and alert.  "Turn here!" he demanded.


"Turn right here, now!"

I did as he said, then followed his further directions.  "Ed, where are we going?"

"Just shut up and trust me.  I know what I'm doing."

I had my doubts about that, as he had been drinking a lot.  But he seemed determined, and curiousity made me feel that I had to know our new destination.  His last instruction put us onto a small road, and we rolled up to the gates of a cemetery.

"This is it!"

"This is what?" I asked.

"This is where your father is buried.  I just know it, I am sure about this."

"Why?  How could yo know?"

"Don't doubt me, I just know.  You said a cemetery in New Jersey, this is it."

"But how--?"

Ed interrupted me by shushing me.  "We gotta get in there and find his tombstone.  You know his name?"

"Of course I do."

"Good, good.  Now we just gotta get in there."

"Ed, they are closed.  Maybe we ought to come back tomorrow."

"Tomorrow is too late!  We gotta go now!"  He jumped out of the car and ran to the gate.  I got out on my side of the car.

"What are you doing?" I asked with a laugh.

"I'm going over the top.  Correction, WE'RE going over the top."

"I think that's a very bad idea."

"Don't you want to say hello to your father?"

"More than anything, but--"

"This is your chance, Bill.  I want to introduce you to your father.  Cuz that's what a true friend would do."

Ed tried in vain to scale the gate.  It was a pretty pitiful attempt, but I guess he deserves an A for effort.  I finally walked over to him as he fell for the tenth time.  I was trying to figure out how to dissuade him from this plan so we could go back to his house.  Just then, sirens blared in the distance, and Ed's eyes got very wide.

"Bill, its the cops!  The jig is up, they're after us.  We have to get out of here, now!"  He ran to the driver's side of the car and jumped in.  "Quick, get us out of here.  Drive, drive!"

I looked in at him.  "You'll have to get in the passenger seat if you want me to drive."

"Huh?  Oh right, OK."  He crawled over to his side of the car and I got in and drove us slowly home.  By the time we got back to the house, Ed was out like a light.  I carried him inside and dumped him onto his bed.  Then I went to the guest room and fell fast asleep.

When I woke up in the morning, Ed was still sound asleep.  I left him a note and had to get on the road to make my delivery in Albany later that afternoon.  It had definitely been a Father's day to remember for a driving fool.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I could hardly believe it was my birthday again, that another year had passed so quickly.  Last year my Cousin Chris had popped up and surprised me.  He tracked me down to Charleston, SC and spent the day with me.  It was pretty fantastic, and very memorable.  I said to him  "Same time next year?" and could tell he was taken aback.  I told him I was kidding, but he said we'd have to wait and see.

Much to my delight, I got a call a few months back from his only daughter, Celia, asking me to please be in her wedding.  She wanted me to be an Usher, and I was honored.  And it just so happened that the blessed event was set to take place on my birthday.  Double bonus!

Chris contacted me and offered to fly me up to Chicago, where he and his wife live.  He said he'd get me a room at the Palmer House and buy me a new black suit for the wedding.  I was more than overwhelmed by his generosity, and any attempt to argue with him about doing too much was completely futile.

I was feeling a bit melancholy after the rehearsal dinner, because they had shown a video-slide show retrospective of Celia and her husband to be.  Their whole lives flashed before our eyes.  But it also showed me Chris' life with his own little family, and I was saddened to realize just how much time we've missed over the years.  When we were kids, Chris and I were inseparable, we loved to hang out and get into mischief.  And since I was a year older, I was the leader and the one who often got us into trouble, always with our mothers.

Watching Chris' family life also made me think about the choices I've made.  I have no wife, no kids, no immediate family.  I don't have a good career and a nice house like he does.  I drive around the USA, with no real home base.  It gave me a case of the blues.

But after a night in the suite Chris had booked and paid for, I woke up refreshed and took a swim in the indoor pool.  I got myself into the mindset that this day was all about Celia, and any emotional baggage I was carrying around needed to be jettisoned, pronto.

I went to the church early, and when it was time I did my job.  The other Ushers were teenagers, sort of lackadaisical and distracted, so I had to pull them together and get them to focus.  I've been in weddings before, and also used to be a movie theater doorman years ago.  So I know the routine pretty good.  In this case, no woman enters the church without being taken gently by the arm and led to a seat.

Once everyone was seated, including the other Ushers. I stepped into the church "lobby" area where Celia waited for Chris to walk her down the aisle.  But Chris was absent, and it was time to go.  Suddenly Celia began to cry, and I told her,  "Chris will be here any second, please don't cry."

"I'm scared Uncle Bill.  I don't know why, but I'm scared."

I shrugged.  "I can tell you something about the guy you're going to marry."

She stopped crying and stared at me.  "Tommy?  What is it?  Did he say something to you?"

"Nope.  But I can tell you that Tommy is the luckiest guy on the face of the earth today, because he gets to marry you!"

Celia laughed and wiped the tears from her cheeks, then leaned in to give me a hug.  "That was the most perfect thing you could've said.  I love you, Uncle Bill."

Chris came hurrying in to join us.  I tapped on my watch.  "Son, son, son, you can't keep your daughter waiting, not today."

"I had to go to the bathroom."

"You couldn't have done that earlier?  Plan ahead, Chris."

He punched me playfully on the arm, then took his daughter's arm.  "You ready, honey?"

"Yes, Daddy."  I opened the doors and they walked down the aisle.

The wedding was beautiful.  Afterwards, everyone went to the Palmer House for a grand reception. Chris really pulled out all the stops, it was truly glorious.  A ballroom full of tables was very crowded, and I'd never seen so many people at one wedding before.  I noticed that there was an adjoining room, and I stepped inside to find a man setting up a sumptuous buffett.  He had a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

"Sox or Cubs?" he said in a raspy voice.

"Beg pardon?" I asked.

"Simple question, Sox or Cubs?"

"I don't get the reference."

"What are you, a freakin' retard?  Sorry, I mean a mentally challenged retard."

I shook my head.  "I still don't know--"

He cut in.  "Do you pull for the White Sox or the Cubs?  Which baseball team do you like?  Jeez, its not a tough question."

"Oh, well I'm not from Chicago."

He stared at me as if I was a complete idiot.  "What does that have to do with anything?"

"I... well I...  I guess I'm not sure."

"Dammit, just answer the question.  Which team you root for?"


He slammed down the serving spoons he was holding.  "I hope you're yanking my chain, cuz if you're serious I'm gonna be very pissed off."

"I usually cheer for the hometown team."

"What's your hometown?"


"Ain't no team in freakin' Birmingham."

I nodded.  "And there you have it."

"Have what?  You're talking in riddles."

"I like the team that plays in Wrigley Field."

He flicked the ashes from his cigarette onto the floor.  "Now we're getting somewhere.  I happen to be a Sox fan, but I won't hold it against you for being a Cubbie."


"So I'm gonna give you some advice.  When they ring the dinner bell, you better get in here fast, cuz these fat motherfuckers are gonna be like pigs in a trough.  Get my meaning?  Whoa!"  The last thing he said was in reference to a beautiful waitress who had just passed in front of us.  "You know what I'd like to do to her?  This!"  He began to hump the table with the food on it.  "And some of this!"  He made crude gestures with his hand, then flicked his ashes.  Half of them fell onto the food table.

"Hey!" yelled a large, round, hairy man as he came marching out from the kitchen.  "What in hell you think you're doing?"

"Nothing, not a thing," said the man I'd been talking to.

"You're smoking around my food.  You're humping my food table and making rude gestures towards a lady."

"Hey, she's just a waitress," he protested.

"She's your cousin!  And you, you're fired!  Get out!"  The big man walked towards the kitchen.  The younger man ran after him.  "Oh come on, Pop, I didn't mean nothin'."

Celia peeked into the room.  "Uncle Bill?"

"Hey girl, how are you?  I was just trying to be first in the food line.  Kidding, kidding."

She walked over and took my hand and gave it a squeeze.  "You've been around all my life, and I love you and appreciate you.  I just wanted to tell you how much it meant to me that you came here for my wedding."

"I'm honored that you asked me."

Chris poked his head into the room.  "What are you two doing?  Food isn't being served yet Bill, you trying to be first in line?"

"Always."  We all laughed.  "You know Celia, your Dad is a big success in the business world, but when we were kids I was the leader."

Chris snorted.  "Yes, the one who was always leading us into trouble.  Like the time you had me sit on the handle bars of your bike and went down a big hill?  I went flying off, face first into a tree."

"Well, accidents happen."

"You were supposed to be the adult.  You were supposed to take care of us."

"Stop right there.  As you know, I have never been the adult."  Chris and I chuckled.

"Really glad you could be here," he said to me.

"Remember last year on my birthday, I said  'Same time next year.'?"

"Yep, and I said 'We'll see'.  And here we are."

Celia looked shocked.  "Wait, today is your birthday, Uncle Bill?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"That makes it extra special that you came."  My heart was warmed by this sweet girl.

After the past two years, I don't know how I can possibly top it on my birthday next year.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


"What do I have to say or do to get through to you," shouted my often angry boss Riff.  His voice boomed through my cell phone, and I had to hold it away from my ear.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You know full well what I'm talking about.  The car you forgot to deliver in El Paso."

"No clue, Riff."

"The one you picked up last week in Wyoming?  The one you were supposed to deliver to a very anxious VIP customer in El Paso?  The 2013 Mercedes Benz that--"  his voice drifted off.

"Riff?  Hello, you there?"

"Uh, yes.  I believe I gave this car to another driver."

"I believe you must have.  I'm just north of Tifton, Georgia getting ready to deliver to a Mr. Gilford.  He called to say he wouldn't be there but his wife would sign for it."

"That's fine, that's fine.  Just don't mess this one up like you did in El Paso!"  He slammed down the phone, and I had to laugh.  Even though he realized his mistake, he still had to get one last jab in at me.

As I got near to the delivery address, I saw that it was going to be in the middle of nowhere.  24 miles minimum to get back to Tifton so I could rent a car and get to my next assignment.  I had a list of phone numbers for cab companies, always wanting to be prepared.

When I pulled into the driveway, an attractive younger woman came out with a baby in her arms.  I'm not good at guessing ages, but I'd say the child was just under one year old?  No longer an infant, but not quite old enough to walk yet.

"Mrs. Gilford?" I said politely.

The woman put her ear down to her baby's mouth and appeared to be listening.  "My baby Shannon wants to know who you are and what you're doing here."

"Oh, well I'm Bill Thomas and I'm here to deliver your husband's company car."

Mrs. Gilford once again put her ear up to the baby's mouth.  "Shannon is dubious about that."

I was confused. "Didn't your husband tell you I was coming?"

"Oh yes, he told me.  But little Shannon brings up an excellent point:  how do we know who you are?"

I pulled out my Driver's license and got all of my paperwork on the car for her.  Mrs. Gilford took it and held it up in front of the baby to inspect.  She whispered to her daughter.

"Is everything OK?" I asked.

"It may be.  It probably will be.  But I'm not going to take this car from you until you write down every single scratch on it onto your paperwork."

I pointed to my Condition report.  "That's already been done."

She smiled at me sideways.  "That's very much incomplete.  Shannon says she sees many scratches on the car that have not been noted."

"She did?"

"You doubt me?"  Her voice went up.

"No, no, you just show me where they are and I'll write them down."

Mrs. Gilford put her ear up to the baby, then nodded and said,  "I have to agree with you, he certainly is!"

I followed them around the car, as Mrs. Gilford pointed here and there and everywhere.  She found over 50 places she wanted me to mark, and while some were scant, some just did not exist.  When I suggested that I should only mark down scratches I can see, she threatened not to sign my paperwork.

When she finally signed the paperwork, she paused to put her ear up to Shannon.  "Oh yes honey, I agree."  She turned to me.  "Shannon says that it must be difficult for you to deliver a car to someone in this condition.  Do you feel a certain level of shame?"

I could only shake my head and keep my cool.  "I take pride in delivering them in the exact condition that they are delivered to me."

She shrugged.  "Whatever helps you sleep at night.  What's that, Shannon?"  She leaned in and listened, then giggled, then whispered something back to the baby.  "Uh, I was thinking of offering you a ride since we are so off the beaten path, but Shannon says I shouldn't trust you."

"That's fine."

"She really doesn't like you at all."

"I have a taxi I can use."

"She is a good judge of character, and she thinks you don't have any."

"That's her right as a human being."

"Are you trying to patronize me?"

"Mrs. Gilford, I wouldn't know how."

"What's that supposed to mean?"  She leaned in to listen to Shannon.  "Just a minute, baby, I've got this under control."

I pulled out my cell phone.  "I'm just going to call the taxi now."

"Shannon doesn't want you standing in our yard. She wants you to leave now and wait somewhere else, down the block."

I was a bit shocked by this.  I had never been asked not to stand in front of someone's house to wait for a ride.  "Seriously?"

"Shannon honestly feels that your presence brings down our property value."  She held her hands up as if surrendering.  "Hey, this isn't coming from me.  I'm just telling you how Shannon feels about you.  And it's not good."

I picked up my bag and began to walk down the block, dialing on my phone as I walked.

Mrs. Gilford called after me.  "Thanks so much for bringing the car.  I hope you have a wonderful day!"

Thursday, May 30, 2013


As I was driving north on I-75 in Florida, I saw a billboard just south of Lake City that said STOP OBAMA 2012.  Now I assume it was put up before the election as a campaign tool, but it has been many months since Mr. Obama was re-elected, so I started to wonder about it still being there.

I was raised on the principle that you never discuss politics and religion.  I watch on Facebook as people proudly state their political views, and then dozens of other people get agitated and serious arguments begin.  So I will keep my own personal leanings to myself.  But I would like to say that there is a division in our country that really worries me.  Democrats vs. Republicans.  Hard line conservatives vs. bleeding heart liberals.  I hear Rush Limbaugh on one station spouting his rhetoric, and some "progressive" talk show hosts on other stations lambasting Republicans.

I drive all over the USA, and I see a lot of things and a lot of different people.  The differences and diversity are what make America great, in my humble opinion.  Why all of the anger and hostility?  Why all the divisiveness?  This is a great country founded on good, solid principles.  We have a good constitution with rules to live by, and for the most part they have all served us well for over 200 years.

So why are so many people angry at our President?  And how come I overhear a person criticizing Obama, followed quickly by another person screaming that they must be a racist?  The issues are deeper and much more complicated than that.  In fact, that shouldn't even really be an issue.  Too much time seems to be spent on people's personal gut feelings and not on the problems of the world.  Most important, it would seem, is our economy, and something has to be done fast or it may just be too late.

I also hear each day on the radio about how the President wants to pass this or that, and that Congress blocks him every step of the way.  Now in each case, whether Obama is right or the Congress is right, stonewalling on either side is just completely counter-productive.  Nothing will get done that way, and now more than ever we need things to get done.  Progress.  Moving forward.  Looking ahead.  Go, baby, go!

Is Obama care the answer to the health insurance issues in our country?  Do people need to be told what Doctor's they can see, or what procedures they may or may not have?  Should the IRS be allowed to be the enforcer for Obama care, especially in light of recent events?  I don't have any answers here, but I do know we all need to be focused on finding answers, not endlessly debating the questions.

I'm just one man.  I have my opinions, but that's all they are... opinions.  One thing I know for sure is that action must be taken.  Something must be done.  We need serious leadership, and we need to let all of our representatives know that they work for us.  We put them in office, they must fight for what we need or else they can be replaced.  I love this country, I see so much of it each year.  I love the big cities, but I also love the backwoods country roads.

When I saw the billboard that said STOP OBAMA my heart sunk a little bit.  Not because I like or dislike him as President, but because I just felt a deep sense of regret that we are not as united as we could be as a nation.  Can't we all work harder to try and get along and make some progress?  Just my thoughts, take it or leave it.  But this is one driving fool who still proudly salutes the flag and says God Bless America.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I was having a really bad day on Mother's Day this year.  I had been stopped by a cop because the car I was driving resembled one they were searching for.  My boss Riff had been extra-specially abusive to me on the phone that morning.  I was about to deliver to a rude customer, who sounded as if they were going to be a challenge at minimum.  I needed to hear a friendly voice, but had called Karen and Lisa and could not reach either one of them.  Also called some other friends, but no luck.

The root of my feeling down probably had to do with the loss of my Mom.  She and my brother died ten years ago while driving when a very drunk driver slammed into them.  I still think that I'm not over it, and don't know if I ever will be.

I decided to cheer myself up by finding a place to eat here in Topeka, KS.  There was a chicken place that looked similar to Boston Market, so I drove in and parked.  I walked in and saw some people lingering a little bit away from the counter.  It was an older man and two kids, and they seemed to be in no hurry.  I slowly stepped around them and walked up to the counter.

Halfway through giving my order, I heard, "Hey.  Hey you!"  I turned to see it was the man with two kids, and he looked really pissed.

I smiled and nodded.  "I'll be done in about five seconds, then its your turn."

"It's my turn right now, and you're taking it."

"I am?"

"You are, and you know you are you mofo."

"Did I cut in line in front of you?  I sure didn't mean to."

"Shoulda, woulda, coulda... you are a line jumper, and you need to be punished."

I felt badly.  "Why don't you go ahead and order for your family, and I'll finish up after you're done."

He looked at the kids.  "Who says this is my family?"

"Well I... forgive me, I assumed."

"Yeah, you assumed, and you keep right on offending me, you mother."

I held up my hands.  "This is a misunderstanding.  Go ahead and order, please.  I certainly didn't mean any harm."

"But harm you caused.  The damage is done, letting me cut in front of you won't fix it.  Besides, I ain't a line jumper like you."

"I am truly, genuinely, sincerely sorry, and I hope you can accept my apology.  In the spirit of Mother's Day and goodwill?"

"Oh damn, just like you mentioning Mother's Day when my children lost their Mother.  How do you feel about that?"

I looked at him gravely.  "I lost my Mom, too."

"You think I care about that you motherducker?"

I scratched my head.  "Did you just say motherducker?"

"You know I did.  And you know what I meant by it.  Just trying to protect the virgin ears of my children."

There was nothing more I could say.  Continued attempts at conversation were only making things worse.  So I cut my losses and went to the car, guessing I'd find another place to eat just down the road a piece.  I was feeling low, and didn't need this man and his attitude to bring me down further.  But I did say a little prayer for him as I drove away.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


As I drove into Memphis last week, I was talking on my cell phone to my boss Riff.  "Glad to hear you're alive and well."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he barked at me.

"My fellow driver Andy told me you were dead and buried."


"No, really."

"You must have a screw loose, Andy would never say something like that.  He's much too respectable to lie."

"It was his idea of an April Fool's joke."

Riff chuckled.  "Oh, that little scamp.  He's just up to some boyish mischief."

"If you say so."

"Well I do say so, dammit!  Now when are you going to do your job and deliver that Chevy Malibu to Memphis?"

"I should be there in 20 minutes."

"Move your fat, stupid ass.  And one more thing-- "  I hung up on him, because I knew from experience that the one more thing would be hateful and negative.

When I drove into the driveway of the customer, she came out of the garage looking forlorn and shook her head.  "No!  No way!  Oh dear God, no!"

"Hello Mrs. Carmichael, this is your new company car."

"This is terrible, I don't want this car."

"You don't?" I asked.  "Why not?"

"Isn't it obvious?  There are scratches all over it.  Here.  And here.  And over here."  I watched as she pointed to the car, and if you looked real closely you could see some very minor tiny scratches.  Extremely hard to notice unless you were looking.  "I do not want this car, and you can't make me take it."

"What do you want?"

"My old car, which I love."

"I'm supposed to swap you and take your old company car."

"Yes I know, you bastard.  That's been your plan all along."  She was getting very emotional.

"My plan?"

"You know how to hurt me, don't you?  Taking a car I've been perfectly happy with and substituting it with a far inferior model."

"It's newer and has less miles on it."

"Just shut up!  Hush your mouth and mind your manners.  I'm going to get my things out of my older, better car."  She walked away in a huff, and began to pull things out of the other car.  I began to write up a condition report on her old car, and noticed that she pulled out the registration and insurance cards.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Carmichael, but I'm going to need to keep those with the car."

She looked grief stricken.  "No, please, I beg of you.  Let me keep some small memento."

I shook my head.  "I'm afraid I must insist."

She turned ugly.  "Oh shut up, you don't have to insist on anything, you're just enjoying my predicament.  You are a sadist!"  She really looked like she was about to cry, and ran over to the new car I had brought her.  "Oh my God!  Please get over here right now!"

I ambled over.  "What's the problem?"

She pointed to the license plate.  "How am I supposed to live with this?"

"With what?"

"Look at this license plate, then look at the one on my old car.  Tell me what the difference is."

I looked at both of them.  "The numbers and letters are different.  The expiration dates are different."

She hauled off and slapped me across the face.  "I've had just about enough of your impudence and smart assery!  How dare you mock me."

I rubbed my face, which felt hot and was no doubt reddened.  "What did I do?"

"The difference is the screws holding the plate.  The ones on the car you brought me are rusted!  How am I supposed to drive this car in this condition."  At that point, the woman burst into tears and looked like she was going to collapse.  "No, no, no!  I can't take it.  You must remove the screws from my old car and put them on the plates of this car."

I nodded.  "Sure thing, if that will make you happy."

"Nothing will make me happy at this point, you just shut up and do as you're told."

As I was switching screws, I noticed that her husband came out of the house with a cocktail in his hand.  "How's it going?" he asked me.

"Don't talk to the hired help, Herbert.  He brought me a horrible, inferior car."

"It looks OK to me."

"That's because you know nothing."

"Honey, it's just a company car."

Her eyes burned with rage, and she shouted  "You shut your mouth and get back in the house right now!"  Herbert held up his hands in surrender and went back inside.

As I was putting the plates back, I noticed the woman changing the plates.  "Pardon me ma'am, but the plates have to stick with the car they belong to."

"But, no, I want to keep my old plate."

"I'm afraid that won't work."

"Please?  I'm begging you.  Just a little memento, a souvenier of better times?"


I finished the job and got her to sign the paper work, which she was very slow to do.  I got into the old car I was supposed to take, and hit the eject button the CD player as I always do.  Some people forget their CDs.

I said,  "Have a nice day, enjoy your new car."

"Go to hell," she spat at me.

My friend Lisa called, and I started to tell her what had just happened.  Lisa tends to be very protective of me, and she was furious.  "You should have called the cops.  That woman assaulted you."

"She was emotional about her old car."

"She had a few screws loose, but that's no excuse.  I wish I had been there."  While we were talking, I kept getting a call waiting intrusion.  The number was Mrs. Carmichael.  I ignored it at first and kept on talking to Lisa, but after the fifth time I told Lisa I would call back. 

"Hello," I answered.

"You filthy piece of trash, why didn't you answer the phone?"

"I was on another call."

"When I call you, you hang up on the other person.  I am your priority."

"How can I help you, Mrs. Carmichael?"

"By getting back here and returning the CDs you stole from me.  And I mean right now."

"CDs?" I asked, as I pushed the eject button on the stereo again.  "The CD player is empty."

"Now you know very well that the two CDs I'm looking for are under the driver's seat.  Don't try to play innocent with me, you disgusting pig."

"Tell you what, I will mail them back to you."

"No, what you will do is turn the car around and get back here right now before I call the police and report you for grand larceny!"

"I'll mail them to you today."  And I hung up.  Then I wondered how long I should keep my eyes on the rear view mirror in case the police came after me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


March was a memory, and April had just begun as I was driving through busy traffic on the outskirts of Houston, Texas.  My cell phone rang, and I didn't recognize the number.  But you never know, so I answered.  "This is Bill."

"Hello, you dirty mofo."  It was Andy, the crazy driver who worked for my company.  I saved his life about six months ago, and had not seen him since.

"Hello, Andy.  What can I do for you?"

"I called you with some news.  Riff is dead."


"Riff, our boss, he had cancer and it killed him."

"Cancer..."  I was flummoxed.  "I didn't even know he was sick."

"That's because he didn't tell you.  He's been sick for a very long time."


"Yes, really.  So I guess that means the company will shut down and you'll be out of a job.  Chew on that a while and tell me how it tastes."

I shook my head.  A Porsche swerved into my lane in front of me and slammed on the brakes.  "Crap!" I yelled.

"Is that all you can say?" asked Andy.  "A man has died."

"No, I was...  Never mind.  When did this happen?"

"Is that all you care about?  Get your priorities straight.  You are about to be without a job.  Cold and hungry and out in the streets with no car to hide away in."

"What are you talking about?"

"Listen to me, fat boy--  I am still in rehab from the car accident.  The Doctor told me that you probably saved my life.  So you probably think I owe you some kind of life debt."

"No, not really."

"Let me tell you something, I don't believe you saved me.  If anything, you caused my accident."

A Mercedes came up behind me very fast, then began riding on my bumper.  It flashed its lights at me so I'd move out of its way, but traffic was so thick on either side of me that there was no place to move.  "How do you figure I caused your car to wreck."

"I think you know."

"I do not know."

"Oh, you know."

"Andy, I have no idea what you're talking about.  You were driving that truck pulling a trailer like a madman.  You had been drinking and were smoking a joint at the time when you flipped over.  I think that you have to --"

Andy quickly interrupted me.  "April Fools!  Ha, I got you!  Boy don't you feel stupid."


"Riff isn't dead you stupid ass.  I just wanted to yank your chain.  Consider yourself yanked.  You been punked."

I sighed.   "That doesn't seem like something to joke about."

"That's because you got no sense of humor."

"So Riff dying, the company closing, me being out of a job, and me being responsible for your wreck were all just a prank?"

"All except for that last thing.  I do hold you liable for my nearly dying, and I will get my revenge.  You will never see me coming.  April Fools to you, you dumb idiot."  Andy hung up.

Traffic got worse as I continued to drive.  I pondered allowing Andy to get one over on me.  Guess there's no fool like a driving fool... except for an April Driving Fool!

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Easter morning 2013.  I was driving across North Carolina when my cell phone rang.  It was my buddy Ed up in New Jersey, who I had not seen for over a year.  Last time I was there he said I could not stay at his house anymore... at least for the time being.  I had been too often, his wife was tired of me, I snore too loudly, etc., etc.

"Ed," I answered cheerfully.  "Happy Easter to you.  Is Peter Cottontail hopping down your bunny trail."

I heard deep, sorrowful moaning and then crying on the other end of the phone.  "How could you say something like that to me?  Oh my God!  What am I going to do?"

"Ed, is everything OK?"

"No, definitely not OK.  The Artful Dodger is dead."

"No surprise considering how long ago Oliver Twist was written."

"Bill, I'm talking about our pet bunny rabbit.  You know, the Artful Dodger!"

"Oh, was that the name of your rabbit?  He was always hiding when I came over."

"He was the house rabbit.  The house bunny.  And we loved him so."  Ed was slurring his words.

"Ed, have you been drinking?"

"Indeedy I have, and all night long.  The Artful Dodger is dead!  You hear what I'm telling you?  Deceased.  Pushing up daisies.  Breathing dirt.  Stiff as a board.  You get it?"

"Yes, a dead bunny."

"Dead as a freakin' doornail.  Gone, goodbye, rest in peace."  Ed let out a long, loud whistle.  "Right up to bunny heaven.  I'm drunk, or rather, I am drinking because I don't want to think about what Diane will say."

"She doesn't know yet?" I asked.

"She and the kids are in Oregon visiting her folks.  She is gonna kill me when she finds out I let him die."

"What exactly happened?"

"Someone gave him a poisoned carrot."


There was a long pause.  Then Ed said,  "I really have no idea, I was just jumping at the most irrational explanation possible.  You follow?"

"Not really."

"Bill, what the hell am I going to do?  The Artful Dodger died!"

I tried to take a motivational tone. "You move on with your life.  You pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you go forward.  You splash some cold water on your face and look in the mirror and say Yes I Can!"

Ed whimpered on the other end of the line.  "But my bunny rabbit is dead.  The Artful Dodger is gone forever."

"You really do miss him, don't you?"

"Yes, but the real crap is that Diane is going to call me a murderer.  A bunny killer!  She'll never forgive me in a million years.  The Artful Dodger died on my watch!"

I kept on talking to Ed til my cell phone battery ran out.  By the end of our conversation, he was starting to get sleepy anyhow.

So my take is that one bunny rabbit died last night in New Jersey.  And another rabbit rose early this morning to deliver Easter eggs to children worldwide.  You can't keep a good bunny down.

Monday, March 25, 2013


"Mrs. Sherman, I really can't talk to you right now," I said urgently into my cell phone.

"Was it something I said?" she asked, her voice sounding hurt through the phone.  She is my favorite driving customer, but she calls me frequently and this was very bad timing.

"No ma'am, always happy to talk to you, glad when you call me.  But I'm driving in some pretty hazardous conditions, so I need both hands on the wheel."

"Oh Bill, you should never call me on your cell phone, especially not when driving in poor road conditions."

I paused.  She had called me, as usual.  "Talk to you soon, Mrs. Sherman."  I hung up and dropped my phone in my lap.  I was driving through Massachusetts on my way to New Hampshire to deliver a car.  It was a tiny car, the first SMART car I had ever driven.  But this one had two scooters attached to the back of it, the kind of motorized carts that elderly people ride around on.  The scooters were rather precariously attached by a trailer hitch that was little more than an aluminum tray, and they wobbled like crazy.

The worst thing was the weather I was dealing with.  Here it is near the end of March, and I thought all the bad winter weather was over with.  But the storm I was driving through now was by far the most terrible weather I had ever had the displeasure to drive through in my life.  It made the drive I made in Ohio back in January seem like a day in the park, a comparatively simple task.  There was at least four feet of snow on the ground, the roads were iced over, the snow was coming down like a blizzard, and the winds were blowing 70 mph.  Each time a good gust hit the car, it would begin to slip and slide on the ice.  And the two heavy scooters on back made the tiny vehicle I was driving extremely unstable.

My cell phone rang again, and I looked down to identify the number calling.  It was the lady I was going to see, Mrs. O'Halloran.  She had been calling me once an hour ever since I left New Orleans, asking where I was and when I'd get there.  I was less than an hour from her house, and I was not going to pick up the phone again for anything.

It was just over an hour later when I pulled into her driveway.  She came out of the garage, pointing her finger at me and speaking in a scolding voice.  She had a lot of spunk for an old woman.  "Where have you been?  Why didn't you answer my phone call?"

"Hello, Mrs. O'Halloran.  I was driving in some seriously bad weather, and felt it would be unsafe to talk on the phone.  But I'm here, and your car is here, all safe and sound."

"Well."  She let out a sigh.  "Well, OK, you're right.  The car is here, that's the important thing.  But where is the tarp I had covering the scooters?"

"I don't think you had it tied down very well.  It blew off about 100 miles ago."

"Oh, that's a shame.  Well, come on in the house for a cup of coffee."

"No thanks, I just need you to sign the paperwork here."

She stared at me long and hard.  "I asked you to come into my kitchen for a cup of coffee."

"I really do appreciate the offer, but I have to get moving to catch my bus to the airport."

She put her hands on her hips, looking disgusted.  "Listen to me, if you want me to sign your paperwork then you will come in and be gracious enough to accept a cup of coffee.  Otherwise, I'm not signing anything."

I had no choice at this point but to follow her inside.  No customer signature, no paycheck for me.  The fact is that coffee can sometimes play fast and loose with my stomach, so I was trying to think of a way out of it.  "Mrs. O'Halloran, I wonder if I might just have a glass of water.  I've had so much coffee today that I'm feeling a bit wired."

"Sure, sure, I can get you water.  And help yourself to a finger sandwich."  She dropped three large freezer bags on the kitchen table in front of me, then went about getting me a glass of water.  I looked at the three bags, each one packed full of small sandwiches cut into rectangles.  She stepped back over to me and handed me the glass of water, then pointed to each bag.  "This one is roast beef, these are seafood salad, and the last one is...  well, let me see... oh yes, watercress and cucumber."

"That's a lot of sandwiches."

"I got them at the funeral today."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear."

"Hear what?" she asked.

"About your loss.  Was it a friend or family member?"

She smiled.  "None of the above.  There are a lot of old folks around here and they die pretty regularly, at least one per week I'd say.  I go to all of their funerals and load up on food.  Just take some storage bags in my purse and fill them up, then I don't have to cook all week."

I nodded.  "I'd say that's pretty frugal."

"Eat, eat."

I reached into the bag with roast beef sandwiches and took one.  It was very dry.  "Delicious."

"Yes, isn't it?  Now I want you to know, I have no intention of driving you to the bus station."

"No problem, I ordered a taxi."

"I'm putting my foot down here, I will not take you.  Is that understood?"  I heard a honk outside and jumped up.

"Not necessary.  If you could just sign here?"

She signed the paperwork, and I gave her a copy.  "So you're just going to eat and run?"

"Afraid so.  Have a great day, and thanks for the sandwich."

"I can't spare any food for you to take to go."

"Not a problem.  Have a good day."  I walked back out to the snow and to the waiting taxi.  I hoped the driver of the taxi, and then the bus driver, and then the plane pilot, would all be more secure driving in this mess than I had been.  Guess I'm just a driving fool not built for bad weather driving.