Some Real Characters

            Those few of you not so yet enfeebled of mind as to have forgotten the golden poetry I flung your way back in “Land O’ Lakeland” may recall that I ended that delightful tale with a threat to acquaint you better with some of the characters therein. Well sir, I’m afraid that day has come around at last, so settle in for yet another unnecessarily long yarn spun to showcase the qualities of some ne’er-do-wells you would assuredly be better off remaining unaware of. With honeyed tongue and nimble fingers I shall take you through snapshots of some unimportant galoots, leading to the magnum opus of a character had he not existed, it would have been necessary to invent him.

            There is no doubt, my lazy forgetful friend, that you would wish me to reacquaint you with what Lakeland is and my connection to it, but I’m afraid I must extend a polite ‘screw you’. I have no time for fools who obviously should have memorized my past works like Koranic verse and misused them expeditiously likewise. Before you get sucked into this too deeply, for you a few brief sentences prior to being rendered catatonic with orgasmic delight at my penmanship, I demand you go back to the original tale and commit my austere passages to rote lest the phantasmagoric Nun of Literacy’s ruler find your worthless hide. In the mean time, I will work on talking like less of a douche.

            Welcome back! I applaud your acceding to my demands though I regret to say I have changed not at all; it was simply a carrot now discarded to the wolves. Obviously vegetarian wolves. Let’s get started then. One of the first characters I encountered at old Lakeland was Fat Paulie. The more clever of you might suspect that the name was a sarcastic moniker for some skin and bones twig, but please bear in mind where we are talking about and understand that aside from your favorite author, none who worked there were capable of that level of sophisticated humor. Fat Paulie was known as such because his ample frame tipped the scales at almost 500 lbs.

            Paulie was one of the drivers who worked for Billy and I’m sure one of those classified as “assholes and thieves” as Willie described the general work force. Paulie wasn’t much of an asshole so much as I can tell, and if he was thieving I was never able to figure out what. At one point we did a general inventory and actually found every single thing that was registered to belonging to the place, so obviously there was a broad conspiracy comprised of the workers, accountants, management, and even the computer system. Absolutely diabolical in every respect.

            Despite the obvious weight issue, Paulie painted a tragic figure as on top of things he was not the brightest star in Orion’s belt, hanging precipitously over the cosmic god’s nads, but still a good egg. His main problem, and one I was going to understand much better later on, was that he was in the classic substitute boyfriend situation, though a whole lot deeper than most of us get. The woman in question was his roommate, and someone he was very obviously infatuated with as he spoke of her incessantly. It was apparent to the rest of us that she was well aware of the situation and used it to her best advantage.

            The woman, who I only had the pleasure of meeting once, was a much less pretty version of Joy Hickey, though somewhat more trailer-trashy. Chain smoking Newport’s and sporting a baseball cap advertising the same, she ordered and derided and he obeyed like a well beaten puppy. Adding to the mix was the fact that she had an infant child who also occupied the small apartment with them, and according to Paulie, was quite colicky, meaning he, yes he, was up many nights trying to calm the little rascal while unemployed mama got her beauty sleep. Where baby daddy I’m sure your eager mind was is beginning to wonder? Attica! And for the crime of maiming some poor schmuck who he felt had designs on his old lady. Paulie drove her down there every weekend to get her conjugal visit in, he keeping his old Dodge Dart warm while she got her freak on.

            I don’t know whatever became of Paulie, he just sort of faded away, getting fewer and fewer shifts and finally disappearing from the schedule all together. My hope is that Attica Al didn’t get out of the joint and do him in for his obsession with her nibs, and thankfully I never heard reports of this. I was certain, however, that I spotted him in a video by the band 311 for a song called ‘Down’. The video features a very large man meditating and that large man is the spitting image of Paulie. Look it up. Seriously, go look it up you lazy piece of shit, before you go on to the next entry. God!

            Shaky Joe was a character I disliked from the get go. The origin of his moniker again was fairly straightforward; the dude shook like a leaf most of the time and while he offered numerous explanations of dubious medical causes, most of us suspected it was excessive drug and alcohol use. I first encountered this idiot at the MAWDI warehouse where I and drivers from other local outfits would be routed from time to time to pick up parts that we didn’t have on hand. A chair opened up and I took it to ease my tired dogs. Apparently the chair “belonged” to Shaky McGee there as he came striding over and stood before me. “Uh uh Lakeland, you got no seniority here, that is my chair.” Was this fool with his bad moustache and mullet actually trying to claim some right of seniority regarding a damn chair at a place that neither of us worked? We stared each other down for a few moments and then he was called that he part was ready. He sneered and walked away.

            I came to find out that this yutz actually worked at our other branch in Depew. That was just great. The next time I ran into him it was to deliver a whole truck full of quart boxes of oil to our sister store. He was assigned to help me unload and did so by picking up each box and hurling it, full force, out the back of the truck to me on the loading dock. I refused to acknowledge the intent or the discomfort growing in my hands and caught every one of them, stacking them before the next was whipped at my head. For some reason this seemed to impress this shaved ape and he was cordial ever after; a good thing because he eventually transferred to our branch.

            Getting to know him better, I found he was cut from the same cloth as Klausen to an alarming degree such that had they not looked completely different, I would have speculated that they were twins separated at birth. Often on Monday he would come in with a blackened eye or lumpy face and a tale of some dust up he had gotten into at a bar where the other fellow got the better of him. Greg enjoyed deriding him about this considerably. “Don’t you have any buddies? Or do they just enjoy watching you get the shit kicked out of you every weekend?” I had money on the latter. Joe eventually went the way of the careless driver. First, one Friday evening on a MAWDI run he managed to plow right into an oncoming buck and total the Ranger. The event was looked on with at least a little humor (not so much from Billy) and for a night he was known as ‘Crash’. Two days later he managed to total a second truck after running a stop sign. He resigned on the spot and we never heard from him again.

            Billy really liked to employ old retired guys as drivers as they were willing to work for the low wages he offered as they were basically in it for something to do. Nice old coots most of them, but the one worth mentioning was Voicebox Teddy. Teddy, who had been a chain smoker most of his life, contacted cancer of the larynx and had to have it removed leaving a large hole in his throat that he covered with a piece of mesh to keep the flies out. When agitated he would pull the mesh down and make you look at the opening like a festering evil eye that he would wheeze at you through. Like others in his condition, he was issued one of those electronic voice box things. Teddy apparently got the shittiest model they ever made because we could never tell what he was trying to say. Bud for some reason insisted on sending Teddy to the warehouse and have him call back. Having been present for both ends of these conversations, I recall them going something like this

 

B: Lakeland, Bud speaking.

T: Grrrrk….bzzz…akeszzz….zzt

B: Is that you Ted?

T: Zxzzt…tkkk..uk…zink….is?

B: Goddammit Teddy, speak the fuck up!

T: ..Zz…fu..grzzt…ant…me…kkkkt….go?

B: I can’t understand a goddamn word you are saying you old fuck!

T: Zzzzt….go….zz…go!

B: Go to hell you fucking prick! But stop at Precision Tune with those brakes on the way.

T: Xxxzzzt….uck….zzz…ou!

B: What?

           

            Despite the fact that this played out the same way every time, Bud still sent him there about 3 times a day, even though multiple phones were broken over violent hang ups and MAWDI Mary would call complaining that Teddy was flashing his hole at her every time she lit up. Teddy liked to serve as a living ghastly warning over the ill effects of tobacco and became quite enthusiastic in sticking things in the hole, drawing pictures (Teddy was only semi-literate and usually fucked up deliveries as a result), and performing incomprehensible skits. Except for Bud. For Bud he kept a lighter on hand and presented a lit flame every time Bud opened his pack. Bud, the devil himself and having no fear of hell, always accepted.

            Teddy was most interesting on Friday nights when Greg and I would man the place until close. Usually about an hour before, Teddy would come staggering in with a tall boy of Pabst Blue Ribbon and want to shoot the shit with us. He was generally quite schnockered by this point and as far as we could tell, he was portraying, quite poorly, with movement interspersed with electronic crackling, the various ways in which he intended on killing and disposing of Bud. Eventually, like many former hires, he gave everyone the finger and strode out the door never to be heard from again.

            I mentioned U.T. in my earlier post (I swear you better have gone back and read it or it’s your ass!) and feel the need to bring up another of Billy’s political hires, this one by the name of Chris; not to be confused by the other Chris who worked there who was actually pretty good and thereby not worth mentioning. If either Chris stumbles upon this entry, rest comfortably knowing you are probably the bad one. Bad Chris, the son of some tool who bought a lot of parts from us, started as a driver and within a week managed to fuck it all up royally and piss off a number of good customers.

            Those of you who are familiar with basic economics, which is probably not any of you, forcing me to explain, knows, or is about to know, that most businesses operate on the principle of acquiring labor and material for a certain cost and marking it up considerably to cover both the costs of doing business and securing some amount of profit. Believe it or not, this is something I have had to explain ad nauseum to both employees and street level inquisitors who buttonhook me randomly for answers. These dolts often cry “unfair” until I drill through adamantium skulls that doing otherwise is poor practice. In any case, B.C. strode right into the busy customer area of our largest customer with an armload of parts and exclaimed at full volume, “Wow, I never saw rotors for as cheap as $7 before!” The customer base, comprised largely of the great unwashed, were of the ilk unable to understand these basic economic principles and a small riot ensued when they understood the establishment intended to charge them more than the $7 it was paying. We, as well as they, lost considerable business that day due to that loose lipped schmuck. After several other similar incidents, a verbal altercation with another customer, B.C. finally plowed his truck into the back of a car in front of the mall and Billy gleefully cut him loose.

            Now that I think about it, Good Chris also had an incredibly bone headed adventure as well. He was yet another driver that Billy hired without asking if he could drive stick, so like Adrianna, we gave him a crash course and let him loose. His first time out he pulled in to Precision Tune Sheridan and in his eagerness to make good time, he left the vehicle running, which as you are aware in standard vehicles necessitates shifting to neutral. What Chris forgot was that it was necessary to engage the parking brake, which was unfortunate given that the parking lot had quite the pitch to it. While the grease monkey was signing for his parts, he casually let slip to Chris that the source of the commotion behind him was Ranger which had rolled back into traffic where it sat cutting off two full lanes. We liked Chris, so we let it go, though he was saddled with the tired old ‘Crash’ moniker for a few weeks after.

            The auto supply industry does not merely employ idiots and assholes, but delivers to them almost exclusively. My least favorite was a fellow up on Young St in Tonawanda who ran a garage and was affectionately known as ‘Assface’ by myself and the rest of the crew. Please be advised that he is not to be confused with popular ‘Preacher’ character ‘Arseface’, as he precedes him by years and was far less pleasant. We called him Assface for a number of reasons. For one, he always wore a sour, puckered expression like he just ate a Lemonhead, which for all I know, he did. In addition, he was a considerable prick to deal with. Every time I pulled into his tiny parking lot with the big white box, he would become almost hysterically angry and demand I move it before signing for his shit. Annoyed with his initial overreaction, I made it a point to forget each and every time and feigned sheepishness in moving the vehicle after each and every conniption. I was pleased to see him go out of business before my stint there was over.

            Other customers were full of stories, though I came to find that some liked to tell the same damn ones over and over, like Anal Bead Gary. Gary was one of the nicest customers we had and he’d often come in to shoot the breeze on Friday nights; a pleasant offset to Teddy’s mute rantings. One of the stories he liked to tell, and hence the name, was about the time he was in Vietnam and got a prostitute who like to shove thing up his ass. Making sure we understood he wasn’t gay, he would wax poetic on the pleasantries of having said items yanked out. By this point we would generally be concentrating more on Teddy’s exaggerated stabbing motions or stick figure drawings reminiscent of Knaus’s ‘Animal Divorce Court’.

            I know Munchkins that I promised to get to devoting more attention to a man already introduced but not yet given full substance, the honorable Mr Bud. Bud, whose full name will assuredly not be disclosed as I have no doubt that he would not hesitate for a moment to shoot me in the face, a threat he made even when I wasn’t pissing him off. I will begin; you worthless bastards who I know didn’t go back and read the old entries, by reminding you that Bud was the general manager of the place under Billy and had been a counter fixture there since before time began. Abusive, explosively temperamental, and usually the first impression customers gained of our little establishment. He was, by the by, the spitting image of Alex Trebek and even sounded like him when he wasn’t shouting.

            Like many angry men, Bud had a bit of a cop wannabe fetish going on. He was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, which he exercised at all times, and enjoyed flashing it around from time to time just so that the fact would come to mind when he was exploding on some matter or another. On top of that, he insisted on carrying handcuffs as well. Not the furry kind that probably would have been more explainable, but the standard cop issue chrome ones. He refused to explain why and insisted that they came in handy from time to time without elaborating. He would use this tidbit to flirt on the phone with MAWDI Mary and on more than one occasion I heard him remark, “Hey Mary, I’m fingering my handcuffs while I’m talking to you.” Having been at MAWDI when she was talking to Bud, I could see her blushing and giggling like a schoolgirl, a sickening sight.

            Customers and employees were not the only one’s Bud like to explode on, but his employers as well. Billy usually backed down when Bud went on one of his little tirades, but he and Will would get into some terrific rows. It says something about a place when you can threaten to shoot your bosses father in the face and still keep your job. Often times this would end with Bud quitting and storming out the door leaving his company supplied vehicle behind. On one occasion he called me five minutes later and I had to go pick him up from a phone booth down the Boulevard and drive him home. I asked if he really quit that time and he affirmed this. He then asked me to pick him up in the morning as he would need a ride. His returns were generally full of enormous amounts of tension around the place for many days on end.

            Although he didn’t often get physically violent, it happened from time to time. One cold Feb we received an entire semi full of cheap Chinese brake rotors Billy got some killer deal on. We were dismayed, however, to find that the load had shifted cracking open every crate and eliminating the possibility of unloading the truck with the fork lift. This of course meant unloading many thousands of heavy rotors by hand. To make matters worse, the driver, whom Bud accused of deliberately letting the load shift, refused to help us unload. It was a long day in the cold, and even Bud was out there with us in his shirt and tie pulling things out. His temper grew by the minute and when there was enough room to maneuver around; he picked up a large crow bar and went apeshit on the inside of the semi denting the hell out it to the point where the driver would undoubtedly have some serious explaining to do. The driver was actually nearby when Bud started, standing lackadaisically near the front of the truck smoking and was visibly startled when the clanging began. He initially came forward in angry alarm, but once he could hear the terrific cursing of the most threatening kind amidst the banging, he backed off fearfully and paced around very agitated for the rest of the day.

            In the end it was decided that managing the store and the drivers was simply too much stress and likely the prime contributor to the outbursts, never mind that this seemed to be his natural disposition. The only reason Bud continued to breath, we figured other than his armaments, was that he was actually very personable and charming the majority of the time. It was just that the other 10% was so memorable as to make us forget that. Billy acquired a little Geo Metro, probably a former B.O. Geo as they were still doing that back in those days, and had Bud ride around in it from customer to customer bullshitting with them and trying to sell parts. I ended up taking Bud’s old stand at the counter and it was universally agreed that it was a kinder, gentler auto parts store.

            I stopped back in to Lakeland a few years ago to have some keys made and Billy went ahead and comped me. Almost all of the old crew was long gone. Greg got his CDL and hit the open road and most of the drivers finally retired for good. As for Bud, well, Billy didn’t go into too much detail but apparently there was a row to end all rows and Bud departed there for good. Sleep easy though and know that he is out there, somewhere, just waiting to make good on his threat to shoot you in the face.

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2 Responses

  1. My god man, I nearly gave up after the first two paragraphs. Your “golden pen” is running low on ink as it drones on and on. Get to the fucking point.

    Poor Fat Paulie. His roommate reminds me of Paula.

    Fat Paulie. Shaky Joe. Is this a fucking Simpsons episode?

    Resigned on the spot eh? Did he just get out of the totaled truck, and leave a cordial resignation letter on the hood and walk into the sunset?

    Voicebox Teddy? Christ. Did you guys call each other these ludicrous names in person? I expect this crew did.

    After working here it is no wonder you joined the Air Force for some stern order by comparison.

    Did Billy ever ask to see a damn driver’s license for any of these guys? It seems his employees averaged a crash a week.

    This is the second time I have heard someone tell of anal beads, neither of which is enticing in the least. This is also the second time some weirdo (Dan be the other) that was extremely animated while acting out some story involving the anal region. The first was Dan’s “rush of excess fluid” story.

    Fucking winners.

  2. That you made it to the end proves that you are even more boring than I.

    Fat Paulie’s roomate was like Paula, just skankier and the type who would blend in well at the Fair or the Eden Corn Festival.

    He called a tow truck and then called to resign. We never saw him again, the shaky bitch.

    These ludicrous names came from too long an association with Dan. By this point I was brainwashed to think that everyone required creative monikers.

    Billy’s background checks were limted to: ‘So, you ever crash your car?’ ‘Uh…. no?’ ‘Tremendous! Here are some keys!’

    The rush of excess fluids story tops Anal Bead Gary by several orders of magnipoop.

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