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.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I had just driven into Los Angeles to deliver a Ford Fusion to a man in the Culver City area.  My cell phone rang.  "This is Bill."

"OK loser, what's your excuse this time?"  It was my not always charming boss, Riff.

"My excuse for what?"

"Exactly!  There is no excuse for you, not now, not ever."

"What are you talking about, Riff?"

"I'm talking about you taking so damn long to deliver a car."

"Riff, I picked it up in Chicago the day before yesterday.  I'd say driving this far and delivering the third day is pretty good."

"I don't really care about your opinion, blubber ball.  Call me when you're done."  And he hung up.

I had sent a text to my customer, Mr. Emerson, alerting him that I'd be there within the hour.  When I drove up into his driveway, I found him standing on his front porch.  By the look on his face, I thought he must be in a very bad mood.  "Are you Bill?" he asked as I climbed out of the car.

"Yes sir, Bill Thomas.  And this is your new company car."

"Well whoopee, isn't it my lucky day."  His glib and flippant attitude confused me.

"The car is in great shape."

"Oh really, is that your opinion?"  He dropped his head and shook it back and forth.  "Listen Bill, I'm sorry for my behavior."

"Don't worry about it."

"No, please hear me out.  I'm just real upset at the moment because I think my wife is going to lose her job.  She works at Sony Pictures, and I'm sure you heard about the hacking."

"Oh yes, it's all over the news."

"Damn Koreans, they don't like a movie that the studio is making so they start this shit storm.  I mean what the hell?"

"We live in a crazy world."

"You can say that twice and mean it.  She sent out some personal emails, and for that she is on the brink of unemployment."

"I'm sure everything will work out.  Would you like to look over the car?"

"How can I think about my new company car when my wife is in distress?  Why are the Koreans hacking into Sony anyhow?  Can you tell me that?  Can you please explain it?"

I shrugged.  "No, I really can't.  I understand that it was mostly about a new movie that they didn't want to see released."

"Yeah well, mission accomplished.  Now Sony won't be releasing the movie."

"I hadn't heard that."

"Come on Bill, pull your head out of the sand.  It's all over the internet.  There were threats about attacks on the theaters showing the movie and so Sony pulled it completely."

I nodded.  "Well, I'm sure it will be on DVD or video on demand."

"No, no, not at all.  Nothing, nowhere.  Done deal.  But the real issue is my wife, you don't know how this is affecting her.  What can we do, Bill?  I really need your input."

"My input?"

"Tell me what to do to fix this for my wife."

"I don't have any idea."

"Oh come on Bill, you can come up with something.  Please?"

"Say a prayer, cross your fingers, make a wish.  That's the best I can come up with on short notice."

Mr. Emerson nodded and patted me on the shoulder.  "Thanks for caring enough to try to help.  Do you have some paperwork for me to sign?"

"Right here."  He signed and I made a hasty retreat.  I felt for the guy, but he was asking me questions that I had no answers for.  Not even remotely.  As I walked towards the bus stop, I found myself feeling disturbed over the news about this movie THE INTERVIEW not being released.  We've come to the point where another nation can dictate what forms of entertainment we can put out?  We are submitting to terrorism?  And does the hack attack on Sony foreshadow bigger and worse cyber attacks in the future?

All I know is that I love movies, and I don't appreciate the Koreans or anyone else deciding what I can or cannot watch.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


My boss Riff was shouting at me on the phone yesterday, which is not at all unusual.  He is a bad-tempered fellow on his best days.  "The lady says you were supposed to be there to pick up her car an hour ago!  Just where the hell are you?"

"I'm at the Amtrak station here in Benson, Arizona.  We got in a little late, and the taxi I arranged to pick me up hasn't shown up yet."

"Aren't there any other cabs there at the train station?"

"No sir."

"Listen to me, you little putrid pudge-ball!  I don't care what you have to do or how, you just get your retarded ass to the pick up address. And I mean now!"  The line went dead.

I called the taxi service for the third time and stressed how important it was that I be picked up promptly.  This is why I had called ahead and planned in advance, which I always do.  The dispatcher I spoke to sounded lethargic and not at all interested in my situation.  Then I received another text from the customer whose house I was trying to get to.  The fifth such text.  She was growing more impatient by the minute.

A fire engine red mustang pulled into the parking lot in front of the station.  A giant goofy-looking man was behind the wheel.  He looked me over.  "Hey, are you Bob?"

"No, I'm Bill."

"Bill, yes, that's what I meant to say.  I'm your taxi ride."

"This is a taxi?"

"Well, it's my own car, but I use it for my job as a taxi driver.  Hop on in."

I climbed in and told him the address.  "It's five miles from here."

"What is?"

"The address I just gave you.  Where I need you to take me."


"Just turn left out of the parking lot."

"OK."  And with that, he turned right as he said  "My name is Horace."

"Hi, Horace.  No, you needed to turn left."


"Left.  A left turn."

"Oh.  I turned right.  Can I make a U-turn?"

"That would be a good idea."

Horace eyed me up and down.  "You seem a little tense."

"Sorry man, but I was supposed to be at this customer's house an hour ago.  She is really pissed at me."

"You and I have something in common then, Bob.  My girlfriend is pissed at me, too.  Guess we both just got our women mad at us, huh?"

"Not my girlfriend, just a customer."

"Who?"  Horace made the U-turn.

"Now we'll turn right at the next light up there."


"That next light.  Turn right."

"You're gonna have to give me real clear directions.  I don't know my way around this town much yet."

I nodded.  "How long have you lived here, Horace?"

"Born and raised here, never left this city one day in my life."  He made the right turn at the light.

"Now it's real easy from here, we just go 4 1/2 miles then turn right."

Horace looked terribly confused.  "But how will I know when we've gone 4 1/2 miles?"

"Just watch the odometer."

His brow furrowed.  "What's an odometer, Bob?"

"It's Bill. Tell you what, I'll watch it for you and tell you when to turn right."

"Here?" he said suddenly, preparing to turn right.

"No, no, not yet.  Just keep on going straight.  We'll turn right on Manor."

"Yep, manners are important.  My girl says if I had better manners we'd get along better."

"No, I mean we turn right on Manor."

"Now?" shouted Horace, preparing to turn right again.

"No, not now, keep going.  I'll let you know when its time to turn.  We have to get to Manor first."

"Exactly what I'm saying, manners is the key to everything.  Good relationships, good work.  Course I don't make too much money.  I depend a lot on tips... hint, hint, hint."

I looked around the dash for some type of meter.  "So how do you calculate how much I pay for the ride?"

"What?  No, I don't carry a calculator."

"No, I...  What I mean is that I don't see a meter, so how do I know what to pay you?"

"Oh, well its five dollars for picking you up, then two dollars per mile."

"OK, so the total will be fifteen dollars."

Horace slammed on the brakes and gasped.  It's a miracle that the car behind us didn't slam into our rear end.  "How did you do that?"

"Do what?"

Horace stepped on the gas again and let out a long whistle, obviously impressed.  "How in the world did you figure that out."

"Uh... well its five to pick me up, then two bucks times five miles is ten bucks, so fifteen.  It's pretty obvious."

"To you maybe, not to normal folks.  You must be one of them math geniuses.  I think I could get to like you, pal."


"No thanks necessary.  Now that fifteen won't include my tip, right?"  Horace winked at me broadly.

He went on to tell me about his troubles with his girlfriend, and how he suspected her of sleeping with all his best buddies.  And every few blocks, he started to turn right and ask me if this was the street.  Finally, I could see the street sign "Manor Ave." just up ahead.  "OK Horace, this is it."

"This is what?"

"Our turn."

"You want me to turn?"




"Now?"  And with that we passed Manor Ave.

"We just passed our turn."

"Want me to go back?"

"If you would."  He made another U-turn and went back to Manor.  When we pulled up to the ladies house, she was standing in the front yard with her arms crossed, looking very unhappy.  I had the cash ready and handed Horace eighteen dollars. 

"Hey, you gave me too much.  You said it would be fifteen dollars."

"Don't forget about the tip," I told him, winking broadly.

His roaring laugh reminded me of Herman Munster.  "Hey Bob, you know something.  You and I are a lot alike.  We're both very smart and clever and funny.  We are two peas in the same pod."

I grabbed my bag and walked up to pick up a new car and try to assuage an angry customer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


My friend Julie likes to text a lot.  And it always brightens my day to hear from her.  She has three great kids, and a husband who I liken to a bad ass superhero.  She had been texting me on my way to pick up a car just outside of Kansas City.

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and I knew it was going to be another lonely holiday for me on the road.  I stopped one block from the pickup address to use the restroom.  While I was taking a brief rest, I texted Julie back about the car I was about to get and the customer who kept on texting me instructions.  She ended each text by signing her name-- Barbie.

It made me chuckle a bit, so I wrote to Julie that my customer's name was Barbie, and I wondered if she lived in Barbie's dream house.  And I also wondered if her husband was named Ken.  Then I sent the text to Julie.  Only I realized a second later that I'd accidentally sent it to Barbie.  A cold chill ran up my spine, and I knew I was in deep doo-doo.  Oh my goodness, this woman would be furious with me.

I walked the last block to Barbie's address, and she came out the front door all smiles.  "Hello Bill, I'm Barbie.  Welcome to my dream house."

I dropped my head in shame.  I tried hard to say something, but no words would come.

Barbie pointed at a classic Dodge Charger sitting out in the front yard.  "See that car?  It's a 1975 Dodge Charger.  It's a classic, in pristine condition.  It belongs to my husband, Ken."

I shook my head.  "Miss, I am so, so sorry."

She nodded.  "For what?  My husband's name really is Ken."

"Oh."  I was a bit taken aback.  "I was trying to text someone else."

"Yes, I gathered that."

"But I never should have said that.  I never should have texted it.  I am so embarrassed and ashamed right now."

She passed it off with a wave of her hand.  "No reason to apologize.  I have a good sense of humor.  And with a name like Barbie, I've heard it all before."

"It was very unprofessional of me."

"Don't be too hard on yourself."  She stepped up to me and took my clipboard with her paperwork.  "Is this for me?"

"Uh, yes ma'am, if you can just sign on the bottom line."

 She did so then handed it back to me, along with the keys to the minivan I was there to pick up.  "I am a good Christian woman, and part of that means I always find forgiveness.  But a word of advice?  Be more careful what you text and who you text it to in the future."

I nodded enthusiastically.  "Yes, of course, I absolutely will."

"Good enough.  Have a wonderful day, and God bless."

"God bless you too, ma'am."

She winked at me.  "Just call me Barbie."

Now I really had something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.  As I drove out of there, I turned to the Guardian angel who I always imagine sitting next to me in the passenger seat and said  "Thanks for getting me out of that one.  Whew!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I was driving down the highway in the Hill country of Texas, on my way to see my friends Tom and Jenny at their ranch full of dogs.  I've made no secret of the fact that I love dogs, and all dogs that I meet seem to instinctively know this.  Because I am always on the road it is impractical for me to own a dog at this point, but it does my heart good to stop at the ranch.  With up to 50 dogs there at any given time, I get all the canine love I can handle.

I changed lanes to go around a slow car, and a car coming up behind me accelerated and began flashing their lights at me to express their extreme displeasure.  "Well I guess you showed me," I said as I looked into the rear view mirror.  "I guess I've been told off now.  You flashed your lights at me, I must now hide my head in shame.  I have been schooled, I've been taught a lesson that I won't soon forget.  You really showed me who's boss."  I chuckled to myself and pulled over to the right lane so that the speed demon could get past me in his bad Porsche.  As he passed, he swerved his car at me and gave me the finger.

I needed to stop for a restroom break, and saw an old country store and gas station I've been to many times before.  Just in time!  I pulled off to the side of the store, and I was startled to see a large man beating a small Beagle.  The man had his belt in his hand, and was repeatedly whipping the dog with it.  To make matters worse, the belt buckle was striking the little dog, and I couldn't stand to watch.

Jumping out of the car, I hurried over to the man.  I don't know if I thought somehow I would be able to reason with him, because he was in a wild rage and was screaming and cursing at the dog.  "You stupid mutt, I've had about all I'm gonna take from you!  I got no choice but to beat you bloody, and maybe you will learn to mind your manners and obey me."

I stepped up to the man.  "Excuse me, but--"

"Screw you!" he spat.

"Sir, you can't beat that poor dog."

"I'd say I'm doing a pretty good job of it."  And the man got even more vicious with his attack on the pooch as he spoke to me.  "He's my mutt and I can do what I want with him."

"It's not right, you can't--"

"I suggest you walk away before I turn my belt on you."

"No, I'm not going to walk away, but you--"

The man spun around and gave me a mighty shove that dropped me onto the ground.  I sat on my butt for about a split second, then heard the dog yelp.  Something snapped inside of me, and I jumped to my feet and sprang towards the man swinging my arm as hard as I could.  My balled up fist made contact with the side of his head, and the man dropped like a big sack of potatoes.  The dog quickly ran into the crop field that surrounded the country store.  I stood and stared down at the man.  He was out cold, and I couldn't believe I had knocked him out with one punch.  I must have struck him in the temple.  It was a lucky punch, but I was also acting out of rage.  I can't stand injustice, and it's not right and not fair to hurt a poor animal.

Rather than stand around and wait to have to explain myself to the next passerby, I jumped into my car and took off.  One mile later I came to a construction site on the highway and had to come to a stop.  I went onto Twitter and tweeted about what had just happened.  It felt very odd to me, because I'm a peace-loving, non-violent person who likes to avoid confrontation.

Around one hour later, I pulled into the driveway leading up to Tom and Jenny's ranch.  When I pulled up to the house, Jenny came rushing out the door.  When I got out of the car, she jumped into my arms and hugged me tightly.  "I love you Bill!"

"I love you, too," I said.

"I read your tweet, and I am so proud of you.  That man had no right to beat on a defenseless dog, and I'm glad you kicked his ass."

"It was just a punch to the head, but he passed out."  I opened the passenger door to my car, and the beagle jumped out.  Jenny grabbed him up into her arms and began loving him.  "Poor little guy took off running, but then I got stopped for road construction and he came running out of the field.  I grabbed him up, I thought he needed a new home."

"He will have one here!  Than man was damn lucky I wasn't there, I would've pulled out my gun and sent him straight to Hell."

"Then I am really glad you weren't there. And by the way, I really, really need to use your restroom."

Tom came to the front door and waved at me.  "Welcome, buddy."

Jenny looped her arm through mine.  "Come on into the house.  I'm going to fix you anything you want for supper.  You're my hero today."

I am definitely no hero.  But I had to stand up for an innocent dog.  And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I was driving through Texas last week when I got bit by a spider.  It happened while I was pumping gas, and it turned out to be a brown recluse spider.  My leg got all swollen up badly with infection, and I had no choice but to go to a hospital.

I got very lonely there, as I always do in hospitals.  I was in a city where I didn't know anyone, so there was no chance that a living soul would come to visit me.  I started to feel pretty down in the dumps by my fourth day, and then the door to my private room opened.  A young pre-teen boy stepped inside, wearing a hospital gown just like I was.

"Hello," I said to him.

He held up a hand to greet me and said,  "Hi."

"Are you looking for someone?"

"Nope, just really bored."

I smiled.  "I can certainly understand that feeling.  My name is Bill."

"I'm Nate, glad to meet you."

"Pleased to meet you too, Nate."

"What are you in here for?"

"I got bit by a brown recluse spider.  I guess I'm allergic."

Nate's face lit up and he looked very excited.  "Maybe you'll turn into Spider Man now!"

I shook my head.  "I very seriously doubt it."

He was determined in his conviction.  "You never know.  Anything's possible, it could happen."

"Okay, you're right.  I need to look at the glass more as half full."

Nate furrowed his brow.  "What?  Half full?  I don't understand."

I shrugged.  "I'm just saying you are correct.  Maybe I will turn into Spider Man."

He smiled again and nodded enthusiastically.  "Hey, I wrote a poem, you want to hear it?"

"Sure buddy, I'd love to."

He reached behind his back and pulled out a folded sheet of paper.  Since there are no pockets in the hospital gowns, I briefly wondered where he had been storing the poem.  Then I decided it was best to just focus on the poetry and not the location it came from.  "Ready?" he asked.

"Yes, go for it."

Nate cleared his throat then began to read.  "I knew a girl named Lola, she liked to drink Coca Cola, she liked to hear rock and roll-a, she played it on her Victrola, she said she came from Nola, and now I have Ebola, deep down in my soul-a."

I stared at the boy slack-jawed.  I didn't know what to say.  "Uh..."

He was beaming with pride.  "Pretty good for a 12 year old, isn't it?"

"Well, you sure do know how to rhyme.  But I have to ask-- do you really have the Ebola virus?"

He shrugged.  "I don't know.  I keep hearing about it on TV and used it for my poem."

Suddenly, two nurses dressed in Hazmat suits came in and quickly scooped up Nate.  "What's going on?" I asked fearfully.

"Can I come and visit you again sometime?" asked Nate as they whisked him out of the room.  Then a third nurse in a Hazmat suit came in.

"Are you feeling alright?" she asked me.

"So far so good.  But did that kid have Ebola?"

"What?  Goodness no, why would you think that?"

"Because of a poem he wrote."

"A poem?"

I was feeling frustrated.  "Yes, but also two people came in and rushed him out of here.  All of you are wearing those bio protection suits."

"That's not for him, that's for you."

"It is.  But why?"

"We've determined that you may have MRSA."

"What's that?"

"It's a really bad infection, and we are all going to have to wear these suits when we come into your room.  Until you are completely better or we can determine you don't have MRSA."

"Oh.  I guess that's comforting."

It took them 24 hours to finally decide definitively that I did not have MRSA.  And I am very thankful about that, dealing with the spider bite was enough.  I never saw Nate again, but his visit was very memorable.  It's always nice to have visitors when you spend time in the hospital.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


For a driving fool, its all about the daily routine.  Driving here and there all over the United States, seeing things most Americans never get to enjoy.  Meeting new people, often times oddly bizarre people.  But also folks who are in need or offer me kindness just when I need it most.

I have a lot of time and opportunity to study other people's driving habits on the road.  It gives me a lot of terms and definitions of my own.  For instance, a few of my pet peeves include people who get into the left lane on an interstate highway and go ten miles under the speed limit.  Refusing to move over to the right and let all the drivers behind them go the full, proper speed.  And texting while driving is not only irritating, its insane.  Robin Williams did a wonderful bit about it, explaining that your brain can't drive and text at the same time, and one day your brain will just quit on you and let you crash.

There is an event that often occurs on highways.  Say you are on a large highway, like the LBJ freeway that loops around Dallas.  It has four lanes going in each direction.  The far left lane, or number one lane, along with number two and three lanes, will collect three drivers who go side by side.  All of them at the exact same speed, usually five to ten miles below the posted speed limit.  I call this BUILDING A WALL.  I constantly find myself jumping over into the number four lane, aka the slow lane, to whip around them and get down the road.

And then there are those folks who like to drive in clumps.  They want to be in a group, as close as they possibly can to the other cars.  And some drivers seem to think driving is like swimming, you need the buddy system.  A car will speed up behind me, and when they are directly behind me they lock in on my tail and stay right with me.  This irritates me, so I speed up considerably.  They stay right with me.  So I slow down, sometimes as far as twenty miles below the speed limit.  But they slow down the exact same amount.  I've had to go so far as to just pull over on the shoulder of the highway so these parasites will go away.  I call them SNUGGLE BUNNIES.

There are the pleasant moments on the road, however.  Such as when I'm driving and suddenly notice that there is a clump of cars 100 yards ahead of me.  And there is another clump of cars 100 yards behind me.  But I am in a space all alone.  I call this being in a POCKET.  When this happens, I just immediately feel a sense of joy and pleasure wash over me.  I smile and relax and careen down the road on my way to my next adventure.  A driving fool rides again!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Two days ago I heard the report on the radio as I was driving a car from Chicago to Reno.  Actor-comedian Robin Williams, dead at 63, from what appeared to be a suicide.  My heart sunk like never before.  I felt like a thousand bricks had fallen on my head all at one time.  Celebrities die all the time, and I may feel a passing sadness.  But this felt like a close friend or family member dying.  Not just that, but a brilliant comic genius, an energetic force of nature, one that had never come before or would ever come after. 

The fact that it was a suicide made it that much more difficult for me.  One of my closest friends ever went out like that, and thus I have a big problem with suicide.  For my friend, I felt deep sadness, then anger, then regret, then betrayl, then denial, then profound grief.  In this case, how could this man who could make millions laugh take his own life?

I felt myself tearing up.  And so I thought back to happier times, when I very first met this amazing man.  When I watched Robin on MORK & MINDY, I felt I was discovering something completely new and wonderful in the comedy world.  This guy was incredible, and the way his quicksilver mind worked boggled my imagination.  It was Robin Williams that made me want to move to L.A. in the 80's.  And once there, it was him performing weekly at The Comedy Store in Hollywood that made me want to do the same.  And so I did.

I was with a group called the Pot Luck Players, and we opened the show in the Improv room every Monday night.  Robin was in the final group of the evening, The Comedy Store players.  I would watch him with undying admiration, wanting to meet him but not wanting to be like every fan that pesters a star.  I had a part time job working as head usher at a movie theater, and one night I did a favor for one of Robin's cohorts.  Jim Stahl, who performed with him at "The Store" and on MORK & MINDY came in with two girls on his arm to see a movie that was already sold out.  I found a way to find him 3 seats together, and he told me he owed me one. 

"And here's what I want," I told him.  "I perform on Monday nights, and would really appreciate it if you could introduce me to Robin."

He smiled and told me I didn't need his help.  "Robin is totally approachable, you can just go back stage and introduce yourself."

"Then I'd be like everyone else.  Can you help me out?"

He patted me on the back and smiled.  "You helped me out tonight.  If that's what you want, you got it."

That Monday night I got there early and sat myself at the table right next to the curtained entry way to back stage.  Around 10pm, Jim leaned out and wiggled his finger for me to follow him.  I walked behind the stage and saw Robin bouncing nervously from foot to foot, rubbing his hands in eager anticipation.  He looked like he was about to explode.

Jim said,  "Robin Williams, I have the great pleasure of introducing you to the one, the only Bill Thomas." 

Robin leaped over to me and grabbed my hand, pumping my arm for all it was worth.  "Oh my God, this the most wonderful moment of my life!  I can't believe this is happening to me.  I mean Bill Thomas!  One dreams of moments like this, but never thinks they will happen.  What a pleasure to meet you, what an honor, what a challenge.  I'm such a big fan, such a big fan!"  He went on like that, and then started bouncing off the walls doing comedy just for me.  Improving and riffing about anything and everything.  It climaxed with him opening the Emergency exit doors onto Sunset Blvd., where he started a conversation with 3 hookers as if he were their black pimp.

After that, I saw him many times performing, both at The Comedy Store and The Improv.  I have a distinctive laugh, and he recognized it several times while performing and would point to me, always sitting right down front. 

He was absolutely amazing, and I am just so darned depressed and frustrated that he is gone.  It leaves a big hole that can never be filled.  He had such an influence on so many people, and now he is gone.  He left behind wonderful films, from THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP  to  GOOD MORNING VIETNAM  to  MRS. DOUBTFIRE.  He will be missed very much.  I have a huge lump in my throat that won't go away.

But my own personal thank you to the man who is now finally at peace.  Robin Williams, you made a 20 year old kid feel very special and important one memorable night at The Comedy Store.  My comic hero, gone but never forgotten.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


As careful of a driver as I am, even a driving fool gets a traffic ticket now and then.  In this case, it was nearly one month ago in Naples, Florida, and it was for doing 37mph in a zone marked 35mph.  It felt a little extreme to me, so I called a place I heard advertised on the radio all over Florida to help you fight traffic tickets.

I was required to appear with my lawyer just yesterday in a courtroom in Naples.  When I arrived, I was surprised by the amount of odd and very unusual people waiting to plead their cases.  I suddenly felt like I was in a room full of "Bill's people," the strange folks who find me wherever I travel and are drawn to me like I'm a weirdo magnet.

The Judge came in and sat at his bench.  I noticed that there was an old fashioned telephone on the edge of his desk (or bench).  It was a black phone with a dial on it instead of push buttons.  The Judge introduced himself, and then explained the rules and procedures.  "But above all," he said, "I insist that you be prepared and just tell me guilty or not guilty.  Understood?"

The first name was called, and a grungy dude stepped up to the podium for defendants.  "Your honor, I got a story to tell."

The Judge groaned.  "Guilty or not guilty?"

"That's the thing, your Honor, it's not a black and white matter.  It kinda falls into a gray area.  Know what I'm sayin'?"

The Judge shook his head NO.  "Did you hear my instructions?  Please say guilty or not guilty."

"If only it was that easy, your judgeship.  See, it's kinda, well, you know how it is."

The Judge sighed.  "No, I do not."

"Sure you do.  I'm a good man, a real good man.  Oh sure, I've stolen cars and robbed ladies' purses, but I think we've all done that, right?"

"Guilty or not guilty?"

"Judge, I need you to know that prison is not for me.  I'm not a prison person.  If you send me to prison, I won't come out a better man, but instead I will come out being a bad ass criminal.  Now do you want to be responsible for that?"

The Judge shook his head in frustration.  "Why don't you take your seat and think long and hard about how you want to plead.  I will call your name when I'm ready for you, after everyone else."

"Hold up, you means I got to stay here all day?"

The Judge turned to the bailiff and said,  "Call the next name."

The bailiff did so as the grungy fellow made his way angrily back to his seat.  A very large obese latina woman came waddling up to the podium next. 

The Judge stared at her very intently.  "Guilty or not guilty?"

"Your Honor the Judge, I claim myself a sovereign state."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I am a sovereign state, I am independent, and I do not follow the U.S. laws or either am I bound by them.  See, I am a sovereign state."

The Judge slowly pulled his hand down over his face.  "That doesn't apply here."

"Of course it does."

"It does not."

"I think you're wrong."

"I know I'm right."

"What makes you so sure?"

The Judge held up his gavel.  "This gavel, my robes, and the state of Florida."

"That don't mean nothing to me.  Hijo de puta."

"A what?"

"Your Honor the Judge, I am a sovereign state.  Wherever I walk, the soil underneath my feet be my own state of sovereignty, and so everything that I do has diplomatic immunity."

The Judge looked over the court documents.  "It says here you ran a red light.  Did you do it?"

"Of course, but I am protected by--"

The Judge interrupted quickly  "Guilty," and pounded his gavel.  The woman continued to speak, but the bailiff went over and firmly yet politely escorted her to the courtroom doors.  And then my name was called.  I was a bit concerned because my attorney had not yet arrived.  I slowly walked up to the podium, and just as the Judge spoke to me my lawyer ran in and came rushing to my side.

"Good morning, your Honor."

The Judge smirked.  "Running late today, counselor?"

"The bigger issue here is justice your Honor, and I know we will find that in your courtroom today for Mr. Bill Johnson."

I whispered to my attorney  "Bill Thomas."

"Your Honor, I've just been informed it's Bill Thomas we are here to defend."

"You are here to defend him, not me, not WE."

My attorney chuckled.  "Yes your Honor, of course you're right."  Then my attorney whispered to me.  "Hi, I'm sorry to be late. We met on the phone. Jason Biggins, at your service."  We shook hands.  Then he turned to the impatient Judge.  "Your honor, what we are dealing with today is a serious miscarriage of justice to the most heinous degree."

"Guilty or not guilty?" asked the Judge.  And then the phone rang.  The Judge held up a finger towards me and Jason to indicate for us to pause.  The Judge answered.  "Yes?  What?  When did this happen?  And what did you do?  Oh, I see.  How much did they say it was going to cost?  How much?  Are you kidding me?  OK, I will speak to you later."  The Judge hung up and seemed very distracted and lost in thoughts.

"Shall I continue now?" asked Jason.

"What?  Yes, yes, go on."

"Your Honor, Mr. Thomas is a respected man and a professional driver.  He was passing through our fair town one month ago when--"  The Judge held up a finger again to pause Jason.  "Did you have a question for me, your Honor?"

"Yes I do.  My wife just called and said that a large rock hit her car windshield and caused a large crack.  How much do you think it will cost to replace the windshield?"

Jason seemed dumbfounded.  "I really wouldn't know."

"Come now, you are an intelligent man.  My wife says she was told that it would cost around $500.  Does that sound right to you?"

Jason shrugged.  "I guess that sounds fair..."

"Well I'd like to know what world you live in where that's fair!" barked the Judge.

"I meant no disrespect, your Honor."

"I mean really, $500!  That is highway robbery!"

"In retrospect, I suppose you are correct.  That is too high."  The Judge paused and pondered for a full minute.  Jason seemed to not know what to do or say at this point.  Finally, the Judge spoke.  "Do you have a motion?"

Jason's eyes widened.  "Uh, case dismissed, your Honor?"

"Granted."  The Judge pounded his gavel.  "We're going to take a recess now, we will start again right after lunch.  1pm sharp, do not be late."  He pounded the gavel once more, then hurried out of the courtroom.  I looked at my watch and it was only 9:45am.  Short session.

Jason beamed at me as we walked out of the courtroom.  "Told you I'd get you off."   Indeed he did.  But that had to be the most oddly interesting display of American justice I've ever witnessed.

Friday, June 20, 2014


As I drove up through upstate New York last weekend, I felt very concerned about the car I was driving.  It belonged to an old man, a snow bird, and he had packed the car so full that I could not see out the back window.  My rear view mirror was completely useless.  And the front seat passenger side was completely full from floor to roof, making it extremely tight to settle into.  I had to squeeze my backpack onto the console, and it rubbed up against me as I drove.

My cell phone rang.  "This is Bill."

"Hello Bill, this is Maggie up here in Skaneateles.  You asked me to find out about cabs going to the Syracuse airport."

"Yes ma'am, that's right."

"I've decided that when you deliver my Dad's car, I will give you a ride myself.  But you're gonna have to pay me."

"No problem."

"No, I am serious.  Your company raped me on the price to move Dad's car, and so this is payback."

"No problem.  I should be there in an hour."  I hung up and smiled as I peered at my Mapquest directions.  I was going to a town in New York called Skaneateles, but to me it sounded like Skinny Atlas.  I had nothing but trouble driving it up from Naples, Florida.  The car was overloaded and completely unsafe.  And Maggie had been calling me once an hour every hour since I started this trip.

Just over an hour later, I pulled into her driveway.  Maggie was standing in the driveway doing stretching exercises, and she marched straight over to the car with her hand out.  "Where's my money?" she demanded.

"How much did you want?" I asked.

"Fifty dollars.  And I will not haggle or bargain with you."

I shook my head.  "No need."  I pulled out my wallet and gave her the cash.  "Ready to go?" I asked, wondering how we could both possibly fit into this car.

"Come on into the house and have a cup of joe."

"No thanks, I just want to get to the airport."

She stopped and gave me a dead-eyed glare.  "We are not going anywhere until you come into the house and drink coffee and have some decent conversation."

I reluctantly followed her inside of her filthy house.  The first thing I noticed were the dolls, because there must have been hundreds of them, all lined up along the walls and on shelves.  The smallest were the size of a Barbie doll, but there were some three feet tall.  It was really strange to me, and reminded me of a movie about killer dolls that come to life and attack people.  She hurried into the kitchen and came back with two mugs of steaming hot coffee.  I didn't want any, but thought I could just blow on it and pretend to sip it.

She turned on the TV and Gilligan's Island was on.  "Oh this is good.  Do you ever watch this show?  It's about seven stranded castaways who went on a three hour tour.  And now they are stranded on this island.  It's very dramatic and thought provoking."

I smiled.  "So, what time do you think we'll leave for the airport?"

"You just slow down, hot rod.  Keep your pants on, there's no big rush.  Besides, I have to wake up my partner, well, my boyfriend, before we go."

"Why is that?"

"Because my partner, I mean my boyfriend, needs to ride along and give us directions to the airport."

I pulled a folded sheet of paper out of my pocket.  "Already got directions right here, printed them up off a computer."

"No, no, he has to come.  Those directions might get me to the airport, but then how am I supposed to get back home?"

I shrugged.  "Well, I guess I would just follow the directions in reverse."

She busted out laughing.  "And just how am I supposed to do that?  Read the directions upside down, from right to left."  I didn't understand what she meant, and so I simply remained mum.  She chattered fast non-stop for thirty minutes, then looked at her watch.  "Guess its time to go wake up my partner, I'm sorry, I mean my boyfriend."

Off she went down the hallway, and then I heard a voice mumble incoherently.  Suddenly, a booming male voice shouted,  "Bitch, why are you waking me up!"

"Because you told me to!  Because I need your help getting this idiot driver to the airport!"

"Oh you dirty whore!  I am trying to sleep, you know I love my sleepy time.  You have to ruin it like you ruin everything!"

"That's not fair, you rotten bastard!"

"You scum-sucking tramp!"

"You lousy son of a bitch!  Get your lazy ass out of bed and help me like you promised."

"Oh I will get out of bed, just long enough to break your nose and split your lip."

Maggie came back into the den where I was sitting, and she was all smiles.  "He'll be here in a minute.  Um, if you could, please don't mention anything about minority people to him.  He really hates them a lot.  If he owned a gun, I hate to think what he'd do."

Her boyfriend came trudging down the hall from the bedroom.  He was shirtless, and had his hands down the front of his sweat pants scratching his privates.  "Are we gonna take your Dad's car?"

I spoke up.  "I don't think there is room for all of us in that until it's unpacked."

He spun around and pointed his finger at my face.  "Did I ask you?  Was I even talking to you?"  I shook my head No.  He looked at Maggie. "Get me a cup of that awful coffee you make, you toxic Tinkerbell."

"Oh, shut the hell up," she said as she went to get his coffee.  He looked very slovenly, and I didn't even know his name.  She walked back with another mug of coffee, and said  "Here you go, Maurice."

He took it from her and took a long drink from it.  "So are we gonna leave now, or are we gonna stand around with our dicks in our hands all day?"

She put her hands on her hips defiantly.  "It may surprise you to learn that I don't have a dick!"

"Shut your freakin' pie hole, would you?"  He walked out the front door, and we followed.  We all piled into her car, and he told her that she would be driving.  "Don't kill us all like usual."

She held up a fist and shook it at him.  "I have never killed you, not once."

"You kill me a little bit every damn day.  Now drive."

"I will Maurice, but I'm gonna give you the silent treatment."

We all rolled along in the car for ten minutes in silence, and then she pondered, "I wonder if it's gonna rain today?"

Maurice shook his head and sighed.  "So much for the silent treatment.  Take the next exit."

"I was just asking if it would rain," she protested.

"Next exit!"


He screamed at her.  "The exit you just passed!  The exit you just passed, you stupid slut!"

Maggie looked sad.  "Now that hurt.  That was unnecessary."

"Well I say that you are unnecessary.  How do you like that?"

"I don't like it.  But we'll talk about that later."  She turned and looked at me.  "Maurice is a bit of a night owl, you know."

Maurice grunted.  "Shut up, will you please just shut up."

They continued to shout at each other until we arrived at the Syracuse airport.  I was eager to get out of the car, and Maurice called to me as I climbed out.

"Hey!" he called.  "Aren't you forgetting something?"

"What?" I asked.

"A little something for the driver?"

"I already paid her at the house."

"No, I'm talking about a tip for services rendered."

"No, I don't think so."

Maurice fumed.  "Mister, you've got no class."

I walked away, but could hear Maurice and Maggie continue to scream at each other until I entered the airport building.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


For over a decade, Mother's Day has been a tough day for me to get through.  Since my Mom and brother were killed by a drunk driver, it affected me deeply and I think of her a lot.  Mom and I had argued a lot, and when she died we hadn't patched things up.  It felt like we had unfinished business.  I'm a big believer now in telling the people you love just how much they mean to you.

On Mother's Day, I found myself in Austin, TX.  I was going to stay overnight and deliver my car the next morning.  So I went to get provisions at the local grocery store, food for dinner and breakfast the next day.

As I walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store, I had the eerie sense that I was being watched.  But I tend to be a bit on the paranoid side, so I ignored the feeling.  A few minutes later, I looked down the aisle and saw a woman staring right at me.  I made a U-turn and went two aisles down.  As I looked at the shelves, I saw her once again watching me intently.  This time, I grabbed my cart and walked to the other side of the store, as far as I could go.  I stood there for a few minutes, just wasting time.  And then I felt a tap on my shoulder and nearly jumped out of my skin.

"Excuse me," said a frail female voice.

I turned to see the woman who had been following me.  She had a very tragic look on her face.  "Yes ma'am, how can I help you?"

"I'm afraid this is going to sound very strange."

I meet strange people on a daily basis as I drive.  I classify them as "Bill's people", the odd folks who like to pop up and creep me out at the most inconvenient times.  I could barely wait to hear what was coming.  "Go ahead and give me a try."

"Mother's day is very hard for me."

And with those words, I was suddenly feeling a change in my thinking.  I felt empathy for this woman, whatever she had to say.  "I can relate to that."

"Five years ago, my son and I had a terrible argument one Saturday night.  Things were said, mean and nasty things.  He was furious when he stormed out of the house."  She began to sniffle.  "My son was killed that night when a dumptruck's brakes failed to function.  He died, being mad at his mother.  Do you know how horrible that is?"

"I think so."

She shook her head.  "No, you can never know.  Where are my manners, my name is Beverly."

She held out her hand, and I took it and gave it a light shake.  "Bill Thomas."

"Bill, the reason I was staring at you is... well, you bear a striking resemblance to my son Don."

I felt a chill go up my spine.  "Really?"

"Yes.  I know that I have no right to ask you, but...  The thing of it is, I never got to say goodbye to my son.  Is there any way you might consider just saying goodbye mother?"

I got a knot in the pit of my stomach.  "Uh, no.  I don't believe I could do that."

Beverly nodded.  "I understand.  It was presumptious of me to ask you that.  God bless and have a nice day."  She turned and walked off, pushing her cart loaded down with items.

I wandered around the store for a while, lost in thought.  A million memories of my own Mom, and thoughts of Beverly who had the same lack of closure with her own son.  

One half hour later, I pushed my cart to one of the cashier stations.  And who should be right in front of me but Beverly.  She smiled at me and said  "Hello, Bill."

I nodded and smiled back at her, starting to open my mouth but not knowing what to say.  She grabbed her cart full of groceries in plastic bags and started for the door.  Suddenly I blurted out  "Goodbye Mom."  She turned at me and smiled sweetly, and then she hurried out as if washed away by waves of emotion.

The cashier rang up my ten items, and then announced I would owe him one hundred fifty one dollars.  I asked him to repeat, as I was certain I misunderstood.  He repeated it for me, and I felt full of confusion.  "It's the combined price for you and your mother's groceries.  She said her son Bill was paying."

"She said--  what?"  My mind was reeling.  "She's not my mother."

The cashier smirked.  "I heard you say 'Goodbye mother'."

"But that was... no, I mean it--"

"Someone has to pay for this."

And so I did.  I ran out to the parking lot to see if I could find her, but she was long gone.  I had been conned.  But at the same time, I had experience a weird and unexpected form of closure regarding my own mom.  On Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


As I drove across the Florida panhandle today, I was assaulted by pouring rain and furious thunder.  And of course, the lightning that goes with it.  I had been warned by the weatherman to expect tornadoes in the area, just like the ones that had done so much damage in Mississippi just days before.  I could feel the wind pushing and shoving at the van I was driving, and it was much more than worrisome.  I was getting very scared, very fast.

I said a prayer without closing my eyes, and just then my cell phone rang.  It was my boss Riff, and his typical nasty mood was far from an answer to my prayers.  "What are you doing, loser?"

"Driving this van to Mississippi for you."

"Whoa now, you're not doing it for me.  Don't go acting like you're doing me some big favor.  No sir, you are moving that van for our client."

"OK, whatever you say."

"Hey now, cream puff!  I don't think I like the tone of your voice."

"Riff, I am in terrible weather, and I need to keep both hands on the wheel.  Talk to you later."  And then I hung up before he had a chance to say another word.  Moments later, the phone rang again, and I answered,  "Look Riff, you--"

"Nope, not Riff," the voice interrupted me.  It was the voice of Pastor Rex, my old friend and spiritual adviser.  "Just me, your old buddy Rex."

"Pastor and Pirate."

He chuckled.  "At your service.  Just had a gut feeling that I should call you."

"Your timing is great.  I am driving in some pretty nasty weather, and playing hopscotch with tornadoes."

"Are you in the panhandle?"

"Yes sir, and to be honest I'm feeling nervous."

"No need," he said to me.  "God is your co-pilot.  He is watching over you, shrouding you in the hedge of protection.  He will get you safely to your destination."

I smiled, feeling a sense of calm.  "Thanks.  You're right."

"I know I'm right.  By the way, I really liked your blog about going to see GOD'S NOT DEAD."

"I loved that movie."

"And I loved the experience you had with the man outside the theater after the movie." 

"God does work in mysterious ways."

"He does indeed."  We spoke for a few minutes, then I excused myself so I could keep both hands on the wheel. 

I was getting low on gas, and I needed to use the restroom.  I got off at the next exit with a truck stop, and pulled up to the pumps.  When I stepped out of the van, a gust of wind hit me that felt like it would knock me over.  I slid my credit card into the slot in the pump, then removed the handle. 

I heard a girl's voice as I pumped the gas.  "Excuse me, sir?"

I turned to her slowly, not knowing what to expect.  "How can I help you?" I asked, anticipating the worst.

She was an older woman dressed as a young girl.  Her blonde hair was in pigtails, and her little girl's dress was worn and tattered.  "Have you seen my dog?" she asked me.

"No, sorry."

"His name is Toto, and we need to get home to Kansas.  I've lost my way, I'm looking for the yellow brick road."

She was clearly one of what I call Bill's people.  The odd folks around the USA who always seem to find me and engage me with their zaniness.  "Sorry, I can't help you."

"Sure you can, if you only believe it.  If you have the brains, the heart, the courage, why then anything is possible."

I nodded.  "I guess you have a point."

"Of course I do, don't be ridiculous."  A strong gust of wind picked up trash and paper and spun them around in a small funnel.  The girl looked terrified and screamed.  Then she ran away yelling, "Uncle Henry, Auntie Em, it's a twister, it's a twister!"

You may call this extremely bizarre behavior.  But for me, another blog just wrote itself.

Monday, April 21, 2014


I have grown to love some cars very much.  The Cadillac, for example.  It is so comfortable and so state of the art that it nearly drives itself.  Not many people I drive for have them, but I'm always glad when they do.  Soft seats, great stereo, and you don't feel a single bump in the road.  My favorite customer who drives one is sweet old Mrs. Sherman.

Every December I drive her car from Maryland down to Florida.  And then in May I drive it back up to Maryland, just like clockwork.  This year, she called me the first week of April and said she needed it to go up early.  I told her to call my boss Riff to make the formal arrangements and payment.  The day before I was set to pick up at her lovely home in southwest Florida, she called me.  "Hello?  Hello?"

"Hi, Mrs. Sherman."

"Who is this calling?"

"It's me, Bill Thomas, your favorite driver."

"Oh Bill," she said, sounding relieved.  "I am so glad you called, I was just about to call you."

"How can I help you?"

"Well, I had an idea.  My son is driving me to the airport in Sarasota tomorrow to fly back to my Maryland home, and I wondered if you might meet us there.  Then you could take my car and get on the road, while we get on a plane and fly, fly away."

This would work out especially well for me.  I would not have to drive nearly as far south, and I could turn in my rental car at the Sarasota airport and just wait for them to arrive.  "Absolutely, no problem."

"Is it a problem?"

"No ma'am, I will be happy to accommodate you."

"That's what I love about you, Bill.  You always think of me."

"See you in the morning."

"OK, I will see you in the morning.  Can you be there by 11am?"

"I sure will."

"Yes, I know you will."

The next day, I got up extra early and I arrived in Sarasota at 9:30am.  As I pulled into the entrance to the airport, my cell phone rang.  "This is Bill."

"Bill?  Is this Bill?"

"Yes, hello Mrs. Sherman."

"Bill, I just had an idea.  What if you meet my son and I at the airport today and then you can take off from there.  Would that work out for you?"

I smiled.  "I am pulling into the Sarasota airport right now."

"Oh Bill, you are a mind reader.  You continue to surprise and fascinate me."

"I will be waiting for you here at 11am when you arrive."

"OK, but we won't be arriving there until 11am."

"That's not a problem, I'll wait."  I hung up.

About fifteen minutes before she was set to arrive, I grabbed a wheelchair and went out to the curb.  While she can get around fine with a cane, I knew that she used a wheelchair at the airport to get on and off the plane.  It's a long way from the ticket counter to the gate for an elderly lady.

Just a few minutes after 11am, I saw her Cadillac pull up to the curb.  I opened her door and she said,  "Oh Bill, you are wonderful.  How did you know that I'd need a wheelchair?"

"I picked you up here once before, and they rolled you out in a wheelchair."

"Yes, but that must have been five years ago.  How could you possibly know I would need one again this trip?"

I shrugged.  "Lucky guess."

Her son got out and introduced himself.  He got two small carry on bags out of the back seat, but Mrs. Sherman began to fret over wanting to take more luggage with her.  Her son reminded her that I was going to deliver it with the car, so they didn't have to worry with much themselves while traveling.  "But, but..." she sputtered.  "But when Bill takes off, I don't know when I'll ever see him or my car again."

"I'll be there in three days, first thing in the morning."

"Bill, I brought you something.  I know how you love my baking, so I made you a batch of cookies."  She pulled out a huge freezer bag stuffed with cookies.  "They are black licorice cookies, with gumdrops and jawbreakers baked right into them.  Yummy."

"Thanks so much."

"You are most welcome.  Now, when will you be delivering the car to me?"  Her son rolled his eyes, lovingly.

"Three days from now, first thing in the morning."

"Oh good, I will make my world famous black licorice waffles for you."

I got into the car and started driving north.  I noticed that the odometer only had 200 more miles on it since I had dropped it off in Florida back in December.  Don't ask me how I remember, I just do.  My cell phone rang, and it was Mrs. Sherman.

"Hello, Bill?"

"Yes ma'am."

"It's Mrs. Sherman.  I just wanted to let you know that I am at the airport now, and you can come and pick up my car whenever you're ready."

"Well, I am driving your car north on Interstate 75 right now."

"Oh my, aren't you clever.  Thank you, Bill."

She is quite a lady.  97 years old and still going strong.  She keeps on rolling and never stops, just like the Eveready bunny.  Or the Terminator.  She's the Shermanator, and I admire her a lot.  I snuggled back into the comfy seats, and turned on the Sirius radio.  Have I mentioned how much I enjoy driving a Cadillac?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Just last weekend, I was on my way to visit my good friend Lisa in North Carolina.  I call her Lisa the Lioness because she is so fiercely protective of me at all times.  I love her to death, and she treats me like a brother.  Or as a lioness, one of her cubs.

When I got to her house, she came out the front door and greeted me with a hug.  "Bill, you got here early."
"A little bit.  Is that a problem?"

She smiled and gave me a light punch on the shoulder.  "Of course not, I'm so happy to see you.  And I have a really big favor to ask you."


"My husband Ernie is out of town on a job, and I just wondered if you'd take me to a movie."

"Would I?  Absolutely!  You know how much I love movies, need you even ask?"

"Well, there's a catch. It's only playing in one theater that's 60 miles from here.  I can't drive, so..."

"Consider it done.  What's the movie?"


"Never heard of it."

"What?  You've never heard of it?  Mr. Movie, the man who sees everything, and you've never even heard of it."

"OK, guilty.  Sue me."

Lisa patted me on the back.  "I'm just teasing you.  The thing is, there's a show today in two hours I was hoping to go see.  I've been wanting to see this movie for a long time, ever since I read about it."

I nodded.  "Well, its a Sunday, and that sounds like a faith based movie. So most of the audience would just be getting out of church and won't go to the early matinee."

"We need to go now."

"Are you ready?" I asked.

"Just have to grab my purse."  She opened the front door and her small dog Bailey came zooming out and made a beeline for me.  He was jumping in the air, and when I bent down to pet him, he peed on my shoe. 

"Bailey, no!"  Lisa ran over and took a wet wipe out of her purse.  I grabbed it and wiped off my shoe, but still gave Bailey the attention he deserved.  "He gets excited sometimes."

"No worries, I love Bailey."

"I know you do."  She took Bailey inside and we got in the car to leave.  We had a nice drive to the theater, and caught up on what had been going in each other's lives.  Lisa also filled me in on the little bit she knew about the movie.  From what she said, I thought we were going to see a documentary.

When we arrived a the theater, I was very surprised by how crowded the parking lot was.  "It looks pretty busy.  I betcha that the majority of the crowd is here to see the new movie DIVERGENT."

We walked inside to find the box office, and as we entered a Cashier at the box office shouted, 'GOD'S NOT DEAD" is down to the front row only."

Lisa smiled and looked at me.  "First show won't be busy, huh?"

"Wow," I said.  "I really called that one wrong.  Well, you want to see something else instead?"

She looked confused.  "No, I want to see this movie.  I don't care where we sit."

"Well I'm not picky, but I sat in the front row once years ago, and my neck was very sore afterwards."

She shrugged.  "You can see something else if you want to."  I stepped up to the box office and bought us two tickets for GOD'S NOT DEAD.

Inside the auditorium, it was very full, but not quite as bad as we'd been led to believe.  We found two seats in the fourth row.  Definitely a lot closer than I like to sit, but a whole lot better than the front row.

The movie was surprisingly moving and not the least bit preachy.  Kevin Sorbo plays an atheist college Professor who forces all of his students on day one of school to sign a contract agreeing that God is Dead.  But one student believes in God and refuses to sign.  So he is goaded into making a cogent case for the existence of God.  The classroom scenes had a David and Goliath feeling to them, and the sold out audience was very much into the movie.  It had been a long time since I'd been in a movie that had such an emotional impact on the crowd.  Lisa cried several times.  I felt a lump in my throat.

After the movie, we both went to the restroom.  I could see that the line to the Ladies Room was much longer than the Men's Room.  When I was finished, I stepped outside and waited for Lisa.  A young man was sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against the building, and he seemed upset.

"Did you see that movie?" he asked me.  I've grown used to strangers starting conversations with me.

"GOD'S NOT DEAD.  Yes, and I really liked it."

He shook his head, agitated.  "It confused me.  I mean, come on..."

"What confused you about it?"

"My parents were both teachers, and they don't believe in God.  And they raised me that way, even though I always had questions."

"What kind of questions?"

"Is there a God?  Is there a Heaven?  Is there an afterlife?"

"I believe so, yes."

"Based on what, exactly?"

"Based on faith.  I believe, simple as that."

"No way.  It can't be that simple."

"But it is."

"You expect me to dig through the Holy Bible and try to find the answers?  To interpret what they write and figure it all out?"  His agitation level was clearly rising.

"Just check out John 3:16.  That's all you need to know."

"What, one verse?"

"It pretty much sums things up.  It's the foundation of my faith."

He came to his feet and got in my face, shouting.  "But I've done some really bad things in my life.  I've stolen, I've slept with whores, I drink, I smoke, I've done all kinds of drugs!"

"Doesn't matter."

His yelling got louder.  "What do you mean it doesn't matter?  You telling me I can do all of that and still be saved?"

"Yep.  That's what I believe."

He grabbed my arm.  "But you--"

Lisa walked up and interrupted brusquely.  "What's going on here?  Is there a problem?"  She walked between me and this young man, forcing him to let go of me.

I smiled.  "Everything is fine.  We were just chatting."  I took out my wallet and pulled out a business card.  "I may not be best qualified.  If you really do want answers, call this man.  He's my friend Pastor Rex, and he will be more than happy to explain everything in terms you can understand."

The young man took the card from me.  Tears filled his eyes.  "Why?  Why are you helping me?"

"Seems like the right thing to do.  Please call Pastor Rex, tell him Bill Thomas referred you.

The young man put his hand out, and I took it for a quick shake.  "Thank you.  Really, I appreciate this."

"No problem, my pleasure."

Lisa and I walked away.  She gave me a long, hard look.  "I walked up and thought you were being harassed by one of 'Bill's people' like I read about in your blogs."

"Nope, it was just a guy who was touched by the movie and wanted answers.  It's good when a movie can make you feel and think."

"I'm glad that was the case, for his sake.  Because no one messes with my Bill."  She put her arm around my waist and gave me a squeeze.  I love Lisa, and I loved seeing this movie with her.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


A friend asked me last week what was the best car I had ever driven in my eleven years at Drivers of America.  I pondered this question all day yesterday as I was driving in the Pacific Northwest, up the west coastline.  I mostly drive sedans, minivans, SUV and pickup trucks.  Probably more Ford and Chevy cars than anything else, even though I have driven a fair share of Mercedes, Jaguars, Volvos, and Beemers. 

I guess if it weren't for the car, I wouldn't be going anywhere.  I often tell stories of the places I go and the odd people I meet there.  But rarely do I give a shout out to the magical marvels of transport that get me there.  The automobile.  Each one has its own personality and its own story.

Although I always go for comfort, I never sat on the rich Corinthian leather that Ricardo Montalban used to go on about in his post-KHAN days.  Now there are leather seats, seat warmers, and adjustments that can put your seat into just about any position that you choose.  Oh, and did I mention the lumbar support feature?  Once in a while, I get a car with Sirius radio, and that's always a treat.

As I was thinking about the car and the drive, I thought about what I don't like when traveling.  Number one is traffic, and I go way out of my way to avoid any big city at rush hour.  Morning or evening.  I just like driving in a place where there's lots of space around me.  I always assume that everyone else on the road is about to swerve their car at me in the blink of an eye.  That way I am always prepared for anything.  But the more space around your car and distance from other drivers, the less likely that is to happen.

When I am out on a remote stretch of highway and there are no cars in sight, sometimes I wish for a little less space around me.  Times like that can make a man a little stir crazy.  If I'm tired enough, I've been known to see things.  And if I'm bored enough, I have imagined a Broadway musical being performed on the dashboard of the car.  Complete with leaps and high kicks and beautiful dancing girls.

I am going to start paying more attention to the cars I am driving.  And I might suggest that you do the same.  We often take cars for granted, but try to imagine your life without them.  It would take a lot longer to get around on foot, or horseback, or skateboard.

Cars are my livelihood, but what's more important, cars are my friends.  There's something about a car.  And as I was thinking about all of this, Jimmy Buffett came on the Sirius radio station singing "SOMETHIN' 'BOUT A BOAT."  That gives me an idea for a name for this blog!

Sunday, February 9, 2014


I had taken a car to Miami, and my old buddy John Hazzard asked if I could give him a ride to Orlando.  I picked up a new car to take up to Atlanta, so it was right on my path.  As I neared John's office building, my cell phone rang.  "This is Bill."

"Well hello, is this my little cumquat?"  It was my malicious boss Riff.

"What can I do for you, Riff?"

"Don't take that attitude with me, jelly belly.  I need you to pick up that car in Miami just as soon as you drop off the other one.  It has to be in Atlanta by tomorrow night."

"Already done."

"You're already in Atlanta?"

"No, I mean the Miami car has been dropped off and I'm driving the Atlanta car."

He grumbled.  "Then get your fat ass to Atlanta, because there is another car there going to Salt Lake City.  Do you think you can manage that, my little sunflower seed?"

"I'll call you from Atlanta, Riff."  I hung up, then turned the corner to see John standing in front of the building in downtown Miami.  He had a briefcase in one hand and pulled along a rolling suitcase, both of which he threw into the back seat.  As he sat in the front passenger seat, I could see that he was dressed impeccably as usual.

"Hello old friend," he said, extending his hand to shake.  I took his hand and shook, then pulled into traffic and started the journey.  "By the by, my secretary Miss Coral sends her best wishes to you.  She is quite a fan of your blog, you know."

"She's one sweet and pretty lady."

He wagged a finger at me.  "Now don't you go getting any ideas, she is not available for you to date."

I shrugged.  "I just think she's very nice."

"Speaking of your blogs, the last one was incredible.  This wiseguy tells you that he knew your Dad and that he may be still alive?  And you are going to be looking for him, with the possibility of the Russian mob following you?  Have I got all of that right?"


"But how do you know this guy--"

"Joey Salerno."

"Right, Joey, how do you know he isn't trying to pull some con on you?  The whole thing is rather outlandish."

"Dreams often are."

"Dreams?  My God Bill, are you telling me that whole story was nothing but a dream?"

"That's correct."

"For pity's sake, are your blogs turning into the TV series DALLAS?  Where an entire misbegotten season was just Pam's dream?  If you were going to write about a dream, you might have ended the blog stating that what had been written all happened while you slept.  It was all in your mind."

"OK, noted.   Now tell me about this case you are working on up in Orlando.  What you emailed to me was intriguing."

"Bill, just how smart do you think dogs are?"

"Pretty smart.  More than I think a lot of people often give them credit for."

"This is really a fascinating case.  I was retained by a family with an unusual mixed breed dog named Gus.  He was a rescue dog, and the family grew to love him very much.  They wanted me to help nail down the movie rights or story rights about Gus."

"Movie rights?"

"As I wrote to you, this is a very unique dog.  He began arranging children's toys and building blocks into patterns.  Sort of odd, sort of cute, very unusual.  Then one day, the dog spelled the word 'me'
with the blocks."

"He spelled 'me'?

"He did indeed.  This seemed too strange to simply be a coincidence.  So they contacted an animal behavior specialist who dismissed it as a hoax."

"How could the dog pull off a hoax like that?"

John shook his head.  "I don't believe he could.  The dog began to spell more and more words with the blocks, of course always when no one was looking.  They set up a video camera one day and actually caught the dog placing the blocks in his mouth and setting them up to spell the words.  That's when they called me."

"And you took the case."

"I had to, this was the most intriguing case to come down the pike in quite a while."

"So what happened?"

"Well, nothing."  He shrugged.  "A week after I was retained and saw the dog in action, he disappeared."

"What?  I don't understand, where did he go?"

"No idea, buddy.  It doesn't look like he was stolen.  All evidence to the contrary.  It appears he simply ran off.  But he did leave a message in toy blocks in the lawn that said, "He's coming."

I pondered this.  "Who's coming?  Who is He?"

John let out a long sigh.  "I just don't know Bill.  But the lawyer in me says it ain't good."

I smiled.  "And now you are going to see the family to get some answers?"

"I am going to tie up the movie rights for them.  This just became a more valuable movie project than before."  He turned to me slowly and squinted his eyes.  "Bill, do you suppose this conversation will become one of your blogs?"

"Can you blame me if it does?  It's one heck of a tale."  John reached over and pinched me hard.  I jumped in my seat.  "Hey!  What was that for?"  

"I just wanted you to be sure that this wasn't all a dream."

Thursday, January 30, 2014


I had just dropped off a car in Las Vegas, and my boss Riff called and really pissed me off with his rantings.  I hung up on him and decided to relax for a day and enjoy the sights.  Gambling, free drinks while you gamble, beautiful women, great shows.  Viva Las Vegas!

At 3pm I sat down at a Blackjack table at the MGM Grand.  I don't gamble much, but when I do I like Blackjack, and am usually pretty lucky when I play.  This day was no exception.  I sat down with $20 to bet, and within 30 minutes I was up $200.  I didn't win every hand, but I won enough, and doubled down at all the right moments.  I'm no expert, just a good friend of Lady Luck.

One hour later, I was up to $540.  I might have had more if I was at a table with larger minimum bets, but I am a very cautious gambler.  I could never get rich at the tables, I think I'm way too careful for that.  As I pondered how much longer I should ride this good streak, two large men stepped up behind me and made themselves known.  "Excuse me, Mr. Thomas."

I turned to look at them.  "Me?  You want Bill Thomas?"

"Yes, Mr. Bill Thomas.  Mr. Salerno would like to have a word with you."

I looked them both over. They were well dressed, but big and beefy.  They looked like bodyguards or muscle or some such.  "What's this about?  Have I done something wrong?"

"Absolutely not, sir.  Mr. Salerno sends greetings and good wishes to you, and he'd be most appreciative for a few minutes of your time."

I shrugged.  "I'm winning here, guys."

"We understand.  Can you follow us, please?"

So I wrapped it up at the table and tipped the lovely dealer, then got up and walked with these dignified goons.  One of them walked in front of me, one of them behind me.  I began to feel like I was in one of those noir detective films, where the Big Boss sends his boys to get the gumshoe and bring him in for a beating.

I was taken out the front door and led to a white super stretch limousine.  The guy in front of me opened the door and motioned me in.  I climbed in the back and saw a man who looked like he could be from the cast of GOODFELLAS.  "Hello Bill Thomas, I'm Joey Salerno.  Real pleasure to make your acquaintance."  He held his hand out to shake.  The car door closed behind me, and the car took off.  I stared at Joey's hand, then took it and shook.  He looked like he was really happy to see me.

"Who are you and why am I here, Joey?"

He grinned from ear to ear.  "Good question.  When I give you an answer, you are gonna have about a million more questions."

"Well, I'm kind of nervous Joey.  I was minding my own business when your boys came and grabbed me up--"

Joey interrupted, looking very upset.  "Grabbed you?  Did they touch you?"

"What?  No, I just meant they pulled me out of the casino, and I was doing pretty good at Blackjack."

"But they didn't hurt you?  Didn't touch you?"

I shook my head.  "No, I'm fine."

He seemed genuinely relieved.  "Good.  Good."  He rubbed his hands together anxiously.  "Bill, what do you know about your father?"

I shrugged.  "Just what my mother told me.  That he left us when I was very young, and that he died shortly after."

Joey winked at me.  "That's a lie."

"What do you mean?"

"Your mother threw him out, they always fought and couldn't get along.  He loved her very much, but she just..."

"Joey, how do you know all this?"

"Because your father Larry Thomas is my best friend in the world."

"Don't you mean 'was'?"

"Is.  Larry is still alive."

Time stood still for a moment.  My ears turned very hot and began to ring.  I felt all numb, then I felt like a ton of bricks fell on my head.  "Excuse me, did you say...?"

"Your father, Larry Thomas, is still very much alive.  At least as far as I know."

"How can... but how... why didn't... then he really...?"

"Here come those million questions I told you about."

"My dad is dead.  Everyone knows that."

"Everyone your mother told, that's who knows that.  They know her truth, not the real truth."

I gave my cheek a slap just to be certain I was wide awake.  It stung, but at least I knew I had not imagined this.  "How did you know him?"

"Larry and I met in the army.  We served together, and became fast friends.  In fact, we became so close you could say we were brothers."

"My mother never mentioned you."

"Did your mother ever mention anyone or anything about your father?"

"She just said he had no interest in me, and his family had asked that I never contact them."

Joey shook his head sadly.  "Bill, it's a long story, but suffice it to say that your father got in bed with some wrong people.  He didn't know it, he thought he was doing legit accounting work."

"He was an accountant?"

"Yes, Larry was amazing with numbers.  A real genius.  But anyway, let's just say he got sideways of the wrong guys.  He didn't know Russian mobsters were behind his employers.  And when he learned too much, he became a liability.  He needed to disappear."

"So that's why he left us?"

"No, he wanted to take his family with him.  But your mother made him crazy, and he knew they couldn't stay together.  So he left on his own.  You were born eight months later."

"He left before I was born?"

"He didn't even find out about you until a few years later.  And he kept up with you as you grew, but he couldn't step out of the shadows long enough to see you.  Plus, he would have had to contend with your mother."

My head was tingling.  "So he's alive.  He's out there somewhere.  But where?"

"Honestly, I haven't heard from him in years.  Last time he got in touch he was living in Oregon.  But you travel around the country, maybe you'll find him."

I nodded aggressively.  "I will."

Joey smiled.  "Yeah, I know you will."

"How did you find me?"

"I've been looking for you for a long time.  Then this morning, I see you at the MGM Grand, and you are the spitten image of your dad.  No kidding, you even sound like him.  So fate brought you to my door."

"What do you do for a living, Joey?"

"This and that.  Don't worry about it."  He paused. "I know you want to find Larry, but be careful."

"Careful?  Why?"

"I'm not convinced the Russian mob is done looking for him.  They have long memories, and your dad knows things that could do them harm.  A lot of harm."

I chuckled.  "So it's a race to see who finds him first?"

"Don't laugh.  Bill, if they find out you're looking for him, they may follow you."

I got a chill.  I didn't like the sound of being followed.  I'm a driving fool and a free spirit.

Joey and I drove around Vegas and talked for a few hours.  He told me a lot of really great stories about my father, who I knew very little about.  Then he took me out for a very nice dinner, and got me a suite at the Mirage hotel for the night.  He gave me his contact info and said to call him anytime for anything.  My life just took a dramatic but interesting turn.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I was walking up to the door of Mrs. Sherman's house in Maryland to pick up her car for the annual trip south.  It would be my first car delivery of 2014, and while I normally got her car each year just before Christmas, this year she had delayed until after the holidays.  My cell phone rang just as I got to the front porch.  "This is Bill."

"Oh Bill, good, I'm so glad I reached you," said sweet, elderly Mrs. Sherman.  She was a kind woman, but her age seemed to affect her mind.  "Aren't you coming today to pick up my car today to drive to Florida?"

"Yes I am.  And I just arrived."  I rang her doorbell.

"Bill, I'm going to have to put you on hold.  Someone is at my front door."  I could hear her setting the phone down, and a few minutes later she opened the front door.  "Oh, hello Bill.  I was just thinking of calling you and finding out where you were."

"I'm here."

"Yes, well I can see that.  Come on inside, it's awfully cold out there."

"Yes, it sure is."  And it was, the temperature hovering just above zero, and the wind chill way below zero.  There was snow on the ground, and I knew driving conditions would not be optimal.

She led me into her kitchen, and she paused to pick up the phone receiver that laid on the table.  She put the phone up to her ear and said, "Listen, I'm sorry, but I have company right now.  I will have to call you back later.  Bye bye."  She hung up the phone and turned to smile at me.  "I'm 96 years old now, but I still have friends and I'm still very popular."

"I'm not surprised."

"Well, you shouldn't be.  Now, you have a long trip ahead and the weather is horrible.  So I need to give you some trips on driving my car.  You need to watch out for the hail that may come down.  It looks like rain, only its small frozen balls, sometimes the size of a marble, sometimes the size of a golf ball.  We call it hail, but not hell like in the home of Satan the devil.  Hail like in all hail the king.  Understand?"

I nodded.  "Yes, ma'am."

"Good.  I also want you to watch out for the black and blue ice.  You'll find patches of ice on the road and you can't see them, but when you hit them you'll know it.  We call it black and blue ice because if you hit it, you can spin the car and crash, and then you'll be all black and blue.  If you survive."

"Thank you for the tip."

"No tips, Bill.  You know by now how I feel about gratuities, I don't want to insult your integrity by offering you one."

"No, I get it, that's fine."

"Can I bake you a batch of brownies?  Do you have time for a visit?"

"I appreciate it Mrs. Sherman, but I think I'd better get on the road if I want to meet you in Bonita Springs in two days."

"Yes, yes, well you're right of course."

We talked a bit more and then I got her to sign the paperwork and I left.  The drive was already tricky, with other cars on the road zigging and zagging erratically, as if they didn't notice the bad weather conditions.  My cell phone rang, and I saw it was Karen, the love of my life.  "This is Bill."

"And this is Karen.  Happy New year."

"Same to you but more of it.  How are you?"

"More to the point, how are you?  We sleep together then you just forget about me?"

"I haven't forgotten you at all.  I never could, don't be silly.  I've just been busy."

"Couldn't you have called?"

"I've called you three times and left messages.  And I dropped by your Cafe in Richmond, but you weren't there.  Didn't anyone tell you?"

"No.  I'm about to fire my staff, they are all sub par."

I could see that my boss Riff was trying to call through.  "Karen, I have to go."

"We need to talk.  Soon.  Face to face."

"We will  I promise.  Call you later."  I hung up and then picked up Riff's call.  "Yes, Riff?"

"Where in God's name are you?"

"Just picked up Mrs. Sherman's car, headed for Florida."

"OK, well when you get it delivered, I need you to go to Orlando and pick up a car that's headed
to Las Vegas.  Think you can handle such a complex assignment, Tinkerbell?"

"Yep, got it covered."  I had another call coming in.  "Riff, I have to go."  I hung up on him and picked up the new call.  "This is Bill."

"Hello Bill, this is Mrs. Sherman.  Now are you coming to pick up my car today to take to Florida?  I was expecting you to be here already."

Just then I hit a slick spot on the highway and began to slide one way then the other.  Black and blue ice alert!