"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."
"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."
"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!"