Sunday, April 20, 2008

Clyde: The tow truck driver

It's been a little over a week since the untimely death of my car. I paid off my 2002 Alero five months ago. My plan, which is usually different than the universal plan, was to forgo car payments for a year. Ugh.

it was a beautiful sunny afternoon, I had just wrapped up an Executive Committee Board meeting in Harrisburg. I left the parking garage when my car simply stopped. After a few unsuccessful attempts to restart my car, two handsome angels kindly pushed me out of harm's way.

Within 30 minutes of my call to AAA, "Clyde" strolled into my life. After exchanging introductions, judging by his reaction, I was not what he expected. The combination of braids, briefcase and business suit threw him.

As he was loading the car, I e-mailed a couple of friends to give them a status, with clear instructions that if I am never heard from again, to tell my baby " I love her." As of late, my travels have been filled with adventures. I was just being a smartass. My attempt at humor.

He stood about 5'5", mid-forties, a baseball cap hid his balding hair, packing a pooch, sportin' Confederate Flags tattoos, anddusty clothes. His voice confirmed years of smoking unfiltered cigarettes.

After settling in the AC challenged cab, we worked through some ground rules for our two hour trip:

Radio? Anything but rap.
Smoking? Window must be down
One stop? Absolutely, over 40 bladder and I needed food. Lunch consisted of two oatmeal cookies.

Our negotiations were interrupted by a twangy voice over the CD radio. "Where are you, at?"

After some banter with one of his colleagues that quickly descended to a level that made me bristle, Clyde cut it short by informing him of the presence of a customer. "Thanks for the warning, asshole" scolded the voice over the radio followed by a click.

"Sorry ma'am" offered the red-faced Clyde. I smiled, shook my head and accepted the apology.

As we cruised East on the turnpike, I learned a lot about Clyde. He grew up in a tiny town in Adams County PA. Graduating HS was a big achievement. He assured me that he meant no harm with the Confederate flags. "it's your artwork," I replied.

He became a tow truck driver after stealing cash from the register. He worked the counter at a local truck stop. A job arranged for him by his father who less than thrilled at how his employment ended. He avoided a jail term by paying a 330 dollar fine.

He likes the freedom of being on the road. He is struggling with his sobriety. He has given up the drugs but beer remains a challenge. He learned to smoke and drink from his family. He has had a hard 36 years.

He became choked up when he discussed the loss of his stepmother. She died at age 48 from a heart attack, triggered by obesity, smoking and alcohol.

He has no relationship with his blood parents or his sister. Violence was how his family settled disputes. "Pretty fucked up, huh"....he said, not expecting an answer.

He only communicates with his brother from one of his fathers' relationship. They see each other occasionally. His two year marriage ended ugly because of her continued drug use and infidelity.

Clyde was surprised that I nice. Why on earth, wouldn't I be? I challenged somewhat perplexed. He was helping me. Clyde shared with me numerous stories of the treatment he has received from customers.

The funniest one involved the insurance agency and BMW owner. This gentleman began the scenario by screaming at the dispatcher. You can guess what happened to his call. Yep, bottom of the pile. By the time, Clyde showed up two hours after the first call, this guy was spittin' fire.

First he complained about the dispatcher, then he moved onto how fast Clyde was driving. After this continued for 45 minutes, Clyde told him if he didn't knock it off, he would put him out. The customer piped down for about five miles then started complaining again. So, Clyde pulled over and told him to get out. When the customer realized Clyde was serious, he was shocked. He told Clyde that no one ever stood their ground with him. He sheepishly apologized.

The customer filled up the truck, gave Clyde the 160 receipt plus a 50 dollar tip. What a great story.

He spoke of moving to Cleveland to start over. "Who or what's in Cleveland?" I queried." Just a new start. Problems seem to just show up where I live, he said with dismay.

Just as we arrived at the Bowmansville's rest stop, my blackberry rang. It was my friend checking on my whereabouts and ETA.
He joked about a Confederate flag.....I confirmed its presence. You OK? with a serious tone. Yeah, I'm fine, I replied.

We munched on turkey sandwiches as our journey resumed. Clyde offered to drop me home so my friend did not have shuffle his schedule. I thanked him, but my friend has always been my "2 o'clock in the morning call".

I sensed a undercurrent of sadness as his hurt, struggles, disrespect surfaced in our conversation. Each day is a struggle.

I wasn't sure what to expect. He expected a pain in the ass. We both entered our little adventure with misconceptions but departed with a different sensibility.

I truly wish Clyde peace and joy.

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