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."
"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.
"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?"
"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.