The Oddball Papers (mid 2000)


This is another installment of The Oddball Papers (TOP), essentially the diary of Temy R. Beal. It’s been quite a while since the last installment – sometimes I seem to get so busy living life I have no time or energy left to write about it – es-pecially since most of my writing now goes into SOAR. Though this is my diary it is written with the intent of sharing with some other people. I discovered many years ago through apas (amateur publishing associations) that some people really enjoy reading the personal musings and rantings of others and sharing their own as well. Some of the people who will read this are participants in an apa called Point 5, created and run by a great guy named Sam helm who lives in New York. For those who know nothing of apas and Sam, his address is 495 West 186th St. #5-E, New York, NY 10033. Other readers of TOP are also readers of SOAR, my little monthly print magazine, for which some people actually pay good money to subscribe. I won’t include most of this stuff in there because I think of SOAR as just a tad more formal than a personal diary – it is a place for freethought news and discussion of issues – and I wouldn’t ask people to pay money to read personal drivel. If you haven’t seen SOAR and would like to, contact me via some method above and let me know and I’ll send you a free sample copy. Now that the commercial plug is done, here’s what’s been happening with me, mainly since about the middle of April, 2000. If you’ve read any issue of TOP before, you know money is a big topic with me. Specifically the fact that I don’t have any. Nothing has changed yet in that department. Philis wrecked our old ’88 Chevy on April 19th. She had taken a couple of our cats to the vet up in Brundidge, about 12 miles north of Ariton, to get neutered. At an intersection, she didn’t see the other car approaching, mostly due to some tall shrubbery obscuring the view, and pulled out in front of another car. She got only the proverbial hole in the head which she didn’t need, and it bled some but healed well. We managed to get the car repaired for about $130. (Then we spent another $100 just to get new plugs, plug wires and an air filter installed. I could have done that for about $30 myself if we could have gotten home, but it broke down in the middle of town [Dothan] 35 miles from home.) The assessed value of the whole car is only about $200. Philis’s Catholic sister gave her another car. It’s also an ’88, but is in better shape in some ways than the Chevy. It’s a burgundy Olds Cutlass Cierra. Has power windows, seats and locks and much less rust on it. The troubles with it include, the speedometer doesn’t work, you have to let the motor idle and warm up for about 20 minutes before the transmission will work, and it needs some work done in order to have decent brakes. I also have an old ’72 Dodge pickup with a huge hole rusted out in the bed. It runs okay except that it runs hot and I ha-ven’t figured out why yet, so I can’t trust it to go more than a few miles from home. On June first of this year, mandatory insurance took effect in Alabama. Did you ever notice that the government is al-ways very good at making all manner of things mandatory but they never come across with any money to pay for all these mandatory things? This is one reason why I hate capitalism, government, big business, etc., which appear to be deliber-ately designed to create as much poverty as possible. We managed to get the 2 cars insured with help from Philis’s mother. Didn’t bother with the old Dodge – just told them it wasn’t road worthy. It was $135 down and will be about $75 a month, with the first payment due the first week in July. We were notified that the other peoples’ insurance company, ALFA, wanted Philis to pay over 5 thousand dollars since she had no insurance. Failure to pay “could possibly result in the suspension of your tags and driver license” so payment is needed to “protect your driving privileges.” Note well that the government and insurance assure us that driving is a “privilege” given to those deemed worthy and may be rescinded at any time. And the government, in cahoots with big insurance will extort payoffs to keep that “privilege” there. I can’t remember the last time we had a vehicle that was worth anywhere close to 5,000 dollars. Most of you either know already that Philis and I both have mental problems (or, in my case, you may have deduced it from my previous writings). The threat of losing her tags and license set off panic attacks in Philis worse than any I’ve seen in many years. She would cry uncontrollably and beat herself in the head with her fists. She says it is an impulse she cannot control except with medication. And she had no medication for a while. We finally managed to get some but meanwhile I felt like a man who is watching his wife be tortured by bullies and is totally impotent to prevent it. There is no outlet for that other than what you’re reading, so the hatred continues to build within me. Back in May I went to the State Employment Service and registered there… again. For me, attempting to go through the whole idiotic process of acquiring “gainful employment” is such a problem that I have managed to avoid it for many years now. Some uninformed people have assumed this means I’m just a lazy bastard that likes to sit on his ass doing nothing while his wife supports him, and have been generous enough with their opinion to share it with me. I managed to get through the pain of that. Having been a trucker before, I thought I might possibly get another job as a trucker – it’s been long enough now that the accident will not show up on my record. It happened April 1, 1988. “Well, iddin that special!?” sayeth the Church Lady. I was southbound on I-85 above Atlanta. A woman with two children in the car bumped my truck, which caused her to lose control of her car and shoot across the median and into the path of a northbound van. It flipped her car and killed the children in her car. I was not even aware that an accident had happened until it was over. I saw an overturned car on the northbound side and, since I wasn’t in a big hurry, I stopped to check it out. Imagine my shock when I was informed that I had been involved in it! When I checked my truck, the only evidence was that there were bits of paint on the lug nuts of my right front wheel and a bit on the bumper. Apparently, the car had bumped my wheel, turned sideways in front of my truck and was bumped slightly in the side. I felt none of this nor saw any of it. It was raining, and truck wheels, especially on a cab-over through up a thick mist from the rain on the road. (A “cab-over” or COE means the driver’s compartment sits over the engine and the nose of the truck is flat. A “conventional” means the engine is out in front of the driver’s compartment with a hood over it – some people call these “long-nose” trucks.) So, anyway, that was the end of my trucking. I was ordered to drive my truck to an impound lot, whereupon I was fin-gerprinted, charged with 2 counts of vehicular homicide and thrown into a jail cell. This was the second time in my life that I found myself in a jail cell charged with something I did not do. For the next several months I went to court several times. Eventually the thing was settled out of court. Despite attempts to upgrade my charge from misdemeanor to felony, which would have meant I would go to prison if convicted, it re-mained a misdemeanor charge. The judge found me guilty and I had to pay a $2000 fine. The prosecuting attorney told my lawyer (I overheard the conversation) that the judge was up for reelection and wanted it on his record that he helped “get those killer truckers off the road.” With that on my record I was uninsurable and thus unemployable by any trucking company anywhere. So now, when things continue getting worse and worse with the money problems, I began to think about trucking again. June 15 – Thu: We got a copy of a letter from Philis’s lawyer today, that he wrote to the ALFA guy saying that the 5 grand would be added to our bankruptcy (bringing the grand total to upwards of $20,000) but that neither he nor Philis was ad-mitting any liability. Also got a letter from the hospital saying I now owe $313 for the x-rays. Wonderful. Still another day when I didn’t get my doc called. Will try again tomorrow. Had some rain finally but not much. Finally gave up on calling my doc and wrote him a letter instead, explaining June 29 – Thu: A couple of times I saw a commercial on TV about Franklin College. One has a guy and the other has a girl, saying they went to Franklin College for two weeks and now have a good job driving a truck. They both claim they will make $35,000 this year and $50,000 next year. Sure thing. It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on making that much. I noticed it had a Dothan phone number and decided to call it up just for the hell of it. Talked to a woman named Tammy. She said the price was “fifty-nine-ninety-five.” Damn!! Six thousand bucks!!? For only 2 weeks? She said that includes your motel and transportation and food I think. She said some companies, like Burlington, will agree to pay your tuition if you agree to drive for them for a year and a day after the class. Hmmm…. I asked what I had to do to sign up and she said she could take my application over the phone. She asked questions about whether I owned or rented, what the house payments were, if I had any car payments, asked for my driver’s license number and SSN. I gave her all that and she said I should call her back first thing Monday to see if I’m accepted. Yeah, right, like there’s a chance in hell someone is gonna give me – a guy who has no money, no job, no property, no co-signer – 6,000 bucks of credit. June 30 – Fri: Holy shit! Tammy from Franklin College called and said she had gotten me accepted! I was momentarily stunned into silence. I finally stammered, “That’s a surprise!” She asked why and I said because I was poor – had no money. She said, “That’s what we are trying to fix.” I said yeah, but most people don’t seem to understand that. Uh oh, now I’m suspicious – what’s the catch? She said I should call her back around noon so she could get me a bus ticket if I needed one. Bus ticket! [Twilight Zone music plays here and a flashback comes on.] I rode a bus all the way to Wichita, Kansas when I was 16 just to meet a girl I had been writing to – a girl named Tammy actually. I was really desperate at the time. Didn’t work out well at all. The desperation, combined with lack of sleep for about 30 hours, constipation, lack of any sophistication and probably other stuff showed. I think she was maybe wanting to date or something. I was wanting to get the show on the road already – get married and let’s get on with it. After the first couple of hours she clammed up and didn’t say much more. Her brother came over and I felt about as wanted as Michael Jackson at a KKK rally. After a fitful night of catnaps and leg cramps, she took me back to the bus station the next day and I was on the way back home. Never been so depressed, and yet so glad to be home in my life. I really didn’t like the idea of being that far from home without some wheels of my own – just in case something really weird went on. So I called up some places for estimates on getting the brakes fixed on the Olds. I spent the morning at Big 10 Tires in Dothan getting the brakes fixed. Turned out it needed the front brake lines replaced. I discovered it had one tire with the wire showing and I didn’t trust it on that long a tip so I got a used tire put on – the guy gave me a break and didn’t charge me at all for the tire, just for putting it on, balancing, etc. The whole bill was $144.68. Got back home and tried to reach her but she’s not in. A guy named Andy says food is NOT included in this deal, but he’s not sure what Tammy has found for me. He says I should take about $150 or so to eat on for 2 weeks. Says some guys take a cooler so they can make sandwiches and keep the cost down. Hmmm… He said the motel is paid for – double occupancy. I’ll have to live in a room for two weeks with some guy I don’t know!? Oh joy. Oh well, at least it’s not Big Brother. On the other hand I may be better off if it was. He says the classes are from about 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM all 14 days. And there is a van to take you from the motel to wherever the training place is. Sitting, waiting for the phone to ring, wondering what the hell I’m getting myself into besides six thousand bucks worth of debt. I need more info. Got Tammy again. She says I should be ready for classes at 7AM Wednesday morning. Called the Ramada Limited in Decatur and they say I can show up any time. July 4 – Tue: 2:00 AM. No way I could sleep so I set out for Decatur. 2:30 AM. Stop in Troy for gas and some crackers. 3:15 AM. Stop in Montgomery for a bag of ice. Car made a momentary cut-off noise right above Troy. Scared me. 6:00AM Check in at Ramada Limited. Pay $20 phone deposit. Car made 3 more of those noises, but I made it here. 6:30 AM. Got all my stuff lugged up to room 246 – dead tired and hungry. 7:00AM Found Burger King and got 2 sausage, egg and cheese biscuits. 8:00AM. Lock up car, take shower and sleep. 1:30PM. Damn!! Can’t get in car! Keys won’t unlock it! Now what!? Call Philis. Our neice, Christy, the previous driver, must have locked it at some point. How did she get in? Philis calls Christy. She never locked it. Shit! Options…? No way to get in through trunk. I know cops won’t help with this. Maybe break the small window in back and use mop handle or something to reach in and unlock opposite door (left rear door won’t open). Call front desk. They say all the mops are locked up! Damn! Can’t reach lock with arm through small back window. Will have to break a big one. Decide on right back window. Call front desk again and tell them I’m gonna break a glass to get in so don’t call cops on me. Get hammer from trunk and whack it. Loud racket but no break! Made me mad and I whacked it hard! Shattered glass everywhere but at least I can get in. I open that door, reach forward and open front passenger door. Then get in there and reach over and unlock driver door. Found gas station with vacuum. Got $14.40 on gas and tried to vacuum glass out but vacuum doesn’t work. Got my 50 cents back from attendant. Now I need a cover for the broken window. What might work? Go to Wal-mart, check out bub-ble wrap…maybe…nah… aha! Find big plastic dropcloth in paint department. Glad I brought along the roll of duct tape. (Old mechanics dictum – a good hammer and duct tape can fix most anything.) No sign of rain yet, so I need to get some groceries. Went to Food World and got OJ, chili, soup, crackers, tuna, lunch meat, seedless grapes. Brought some bread from home. 5:00Pm. Have a sandwich. 6:00PM Philis calls. I tell her of ordeal and reassure her I will get through this. 7:00PM Study CDL questions I printed out from computer at home. Still no roommate. Good. Around midnight. I had dozed off and phone woke me. Front desk says roommate is here. Whoopee. July 5 – Wed: 5AM. Went right back to sleep after desk called last night. Never knew when roommate came in but I see his head from the back in the other bed. Weird feeling. He wakes, rolls over and we salute. Turns out he is an older guy (43) from Daleville! If I knew he was coming he could have come with me. Name is Charles Shirley. Seems okay… maybe a tad slow…? We get dressed and run down to Burger King for biscuits – he buys. This can work. Charles and I join several other students and get on a yellow school bus the school has sent to pick us up. Now this is weird. Going to school on a bus! I thought the place was a couple of miles from the motel. More like 10 or 12. Make mental notes of street names and turns so I can drive my car tomorrow. 7:00AM Arrive at the school. We file into a portable classroom and sit at desks. The bus driver, J.J., is also the classroom teacher. He’s only 36. I guess you know you’re getting older when the teachers start being younger than you are. We have 13 students including a chunky black girl named Jackie and a petite older redhead named Judy. Charles and I are the old-est. 7:30 AM Nurses come in the back door of the room. Wham! Right off the bat we’re doing the DOT physical including drug testing. Teacher says don’t run off if you think you might test positive for drugs. Everyone has to pee in a cup, take blood pressure, run in place for 30 seconds and take it again, read eye chart. I can’t see eye chart worth a damn. Aha! I’m almost last in the order we’re going so I’ll memorize the eye chart line like everyone else after the first 2 did! 8:00AM Kid named Will Persons sits just across from me. J.J. yells at him to wake up! He’s already asleep and the class isn’t quite started yet.