Buddy, can ya spare a dime?
As I sit here in mid-February gazing out my window at all the deep snow and the below zero temperatures, I wonder if green grass and warm weather will ever get here. As you read this, I hope it has. April HAS to have better weather than this crap. I haven’t been out of the house for days. Watching the weatherman tells us that crazy temps, record snowfall, major rain storms and the floods they cause, droughts etc. have been freaking us out since the beginning of recorded statistics. So when someone says, “It’s gotta be the ozone layer or some other ecological stuff” I don’t get too worried ‘cause everything’s happened before. But I AM ready for record GOOD weather! I’m about to go crazy!!!
Back in August of last year I broke my leg real good (or rather, real bad) and I haven’t ridden my bike for over seven months. And other than attending the ABATE Seminar three weeks ago (which went GREAT!) I haven’t done anything worth writing about. But I wrote plenty about a seminar last month, so I’ll give that topic a break.
Ya might say I have an advanced case of “cabin fever” goin’ on here. So for this month I’ll dig way back into what’s left of my rotted memory banks and see if I can come up with something.
Ya know, I’m often asked if the things I write about for this magazine are true, or if I’m making most of it all up. Well usually most of them are, unless I actually say that it’s just a story, and sometimes for the true ones I do apply artistic license and exaggerate a bit, but not often. Ya see we ALL have crazy things happen to us....some of them good, and some not. But the thing is......would YOU want to tell some of the more colorful tales from your life to people from across the state and further? There are some things that even I don’t care to share.
Stop and think about it....don’t you ALL have a few wild and crazy, sordid, or somehow intriguing times in your pasts (or in your presents)? I just happen to have more of a past than most people do I guess, and for the most part I don’t mind telling about it. I’m a storyteller. It’s what I do. I’ve often thought that I should be careful that I don’t end up in jail or a nut house because of some of the things I tell about. But I think that because I’ve settled down a bit and most of my stuff is told in the “past-tense”, I’ve gotten away with it so far. In fact just the other day I was telling a friend about an incident that happened about twenty years ago. And for the most part, none of it was the result of anything I did other than to say, “Ok.” And by the way, not a single word of this is even exaggerated........................
I used to know a hot lookin’ woman named Bonnie (her name is changed to protect my reputation). She was a real head-turner! Bonnie stayed with me for a few months, and during that time, since we were becoming a little bit more than “friends with benefits”, I occasionally let her borrow an extra car that I had left over from a recent marriage. It was a little, pink, GEO Tracker that I had bought for a wife, and I got stuck with it when we divorced and the ex couldn’t afford the payment. Anyway, Bonnie asked to borrow the car for the day and evening because she claimed she had to go do something important with her twelve year old daughter. The kid lived with Bonnie’s sister, and she was a really nice girl who deserved a better life. Though Bonnie was starting to show me that she wasn’t the most honest or responsible person in the world, I agreed for the kid’s sake.
It was a weekend, and I occasionally took naps in the afternoon because I was working a late night-shift and my sleep schedule was sorta screwed up. Bonnie took off with the car, and I laid myself down to snooze for a bit.
A few hours later, about 6:00 PM, the phone rings and I wake up to:
“Bummer? Call the Warren cops! Your car was stolen! can’t talk because I have to find a ride! Bye!”
I groggily sat up thinking, ‘What the hell just happened?’ and as I tried to put my brain cells back where they were supposed to be, I waited for a follow-up phone call from Bonnie to explain. I looked at my caller ID and tried to phone her back, but apparently it was a pay-phone (remember them?) and all I got was some passing drunk. After an hour or so I realize, ‘She just ain’t calling me back!’ so I call the Warren cops (a city about a half-hour from my house) to ask the woman desk Sgt. if she knew anything about it, but she said no. I described the phone call, the car, told her the license number and the circumstances to the best of my knowledge, but she just said she’d call me back if she heard anything.
An hour goes by, and I keep thinking about the fact that although I didn’t even like the car, the damned thing was only a few years old and I didn’t have full coverage on it, hence no theft protection! Another hour goes by (by this time it’s about 9:00PM) and I get a call from the police...........
“Mr. Baldwin? That woman you told us about, Bonnie #%$^&, was just here and I have to tell you, she was, well....she seemed to be totally out of control. She was with a man and they both seemed pretty incoherent so we asked her to leave.”
I spoke to the desk Sgt. for a few more minutes, but she couldn’t offer any help about my car and made it seem like she was doing ME a personal favor for not busting Bonnie.
Now, in all my crazy days I have never even heard of ANYBODY getting thrown OUT of a police station because they were trashed! I hung up the phone and sat back thinking, ‘NOW what?’
For the next hour or so I’m walking around screaming at the ceiling and then the phone rings again...........
“Mr. Baldwin? We found your car. Let me tell you what I think happened: Usually in a case like this a person drives to a drug house. After a while, someone there offers to go someplace to get more drugs, but he has no money and no car. So somebody (like your friend) offers to let them use her car, they pool some money, and off he goes with the money AND the car.”
“SHE’S NOT MY FRIEND! Not after this anyway! All I care about is my car!”
“Well, since we threw her out of the station, there was no report filed so we can’t collect your car for you. But we did put out a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) and found it in a very shady part of town.”
“How can I get it? It’s almost midnight, I’m here alone, and I don’t have keys for my pick-up! Even if I did, I can’t go get the Tracker without someone driving me there!”
“Well, there’s nothing we can do. Maybe next time you’ll be more careful who you lend your car to.”
At this point I saw the direct four-cornered connection between “wise”, “wiseass”, and “dumb” , “dumbass” but I kept my mouth shut other than thanking the woman for her sage advice and hung up to think.
I then attempted something I didn’t even know was possible: I called a prominent towing service in Warren to see if they could help. After assuring the person who answered the phone of what happened, and that everything could be confirmed by the police (and he switched lines to do so), I managed to have them (using a credit card over the phone) go get my car and tow it to their secure yard.
The next morning, I got a ride to the towing service, paid the balance of the bill, and walked across the street where there just happened to be a GM dealer who made a key for me from scratch using the car’s VIN number. Bonnie had left my house with my “main” key ring including the keys to my other car, my house keys, my bike key, and my work keys. And all of them were now just plain GONE forever!
I guess it could have been much worse. I could have lost the Tracker, which was worth about (at that time) $13,000. Thank goodness that I had an extra bike key. But all in all, this bullshit DID cost me $150 for towing, $45 for the Tracker key, $20 for a new ignition switch from a junkyard for my truck, $20 to replace two locker keys at work, $10 that I gave a buddy for gas to take me there, and the concern that I might have to change the door locks on my house. With the knowledge that somewhere out there was a crack-head thief walking around with a key to my scoot, my house keys, and the door/ignition key to a pink Tracker that sticks out like a sore thumb, I felt sorta vulnerable!!
Bonnie called me a few days later to “feel me out”. After I calmly told her what happened she asked if she could come back. I replied, “Sure....to get your stuff.....it’ll be in the front yard.” and I haven’t heard from her since. Needless to say, for a few months I wasn’t myself. To be safe, I ended up installing $40 worth of extra dead-bolt locks on my house.
I bump into a family member of Bonnie’s every now and then, and I’ve been told she isn’t doing too good these days (wonder why that is!) I guess now she’s not so hot, and she’s often getting into all KINDS of trouble. In fact the damned FBI phoned me about her a few months after the “Tracker incident” asking about a gun or something. And remember her twelve year old daughter? She’s now a very beautiful woman in her 30’s with a satisfying career as an officer in the military. Not long after all this happened, I of course found out that Bonnie really had no plans with her daughter that day, and they’ve barely spoken since the girl (now woman) was ten.
If there’s a point to any of this, it’s that I think the worst thing that results when things like this happen isn’t the loss, or possible loss, of “things”, or even the hassle that’s caused by the dishonesty.....it’s the fact that it makes trusting people lose trust in their fellow humans. And THAT is a very personal tragedy for each of us. I think we need to trust.
When I was younger I was amazed at how people in a big city might walk right past needy people without offering to help ‘em. Then, as I got older, I realized that maybe that sort of thing happens not due to apathy or not caring, but because although the downtrodden might SAY they need something (money for food, a car for work etc.), it might not be used for what they say it will...and we become skeptical, not apathetic. And it has to be up to each of us to decide if those people are telling the truth before we even decide whether or not we’re willing to help them out. It gets mighty confusing and ugly. And that’s a damned shame because so many people out there really ARE righteously needy.
And I righteously need some dry sunshine! If I can get myself outta this damned snowed-in house by next month I’ll try to find something “sunny” to talk about.