Dereliction of duty? No, just looking for some change


I have come to the conclusion that it might be time for me to change my….my….well, myself. This is not something new, you know. It’s been comin’ for a long time. I’ve just have been tryin’ to ignore it.

Now, I know you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about, so true to my nature, I’ll explain it in a long, drawn out fashion.

Several years ago, I was in Orlando, Fla., for a trade show. Now, when you think of Florida, you think of sunny weather, right? Well, it was winter and it was pretty chilly.

The other reps for the company I work for and I had arrived a couple of days early for meetin’s and such. The first night we were there, one of us, I can’t remember who, had forgotten to pack somethin’ or the other, and so we decided to walk a half a mile or so from the hotel to a drug store.

Now, like I said, it was pretty nippy, so we all had our coats on, mine bein’ an old leather jacket which is one of my favorites.

We milled around in the store for a while and I’m not one for shoppin’, so I walked back outside, to wait for everybody. Well, the temperature seemed like it had dropped a few more degrees. They say that 80 percent of your heat escapes from your head, but that’s for people who have hair. About 99 percent escapes from us follicley challenged. In other words, bald people lose heat faster.

Anywho, my head was actin’ like a chimney and I was gettin’ cold, so I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out an old sock hat that I keep in there for times like this. A sock hat is what some people call a toboggan, or watch cap.

Well, I put the thing on and pulled it down over my ears, crammed my hands into my jacket pockets, and stood, with my back to the drug store door, and waited for my buddies. I waited and waited and waited. I was just fixin’ to go back in to find out what was keepin’ them, when they finally emerged.

I turned toward them, and they were all lookin’ at the ground and movin’ away from me at a steady clip.

“Hey!” I said. “What took y’all so long?” One of them, Bob Rich, looked up at me in surprise.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said and started laughin’.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Well,” he snickered. “We had checked out and were about to leave the store, and we saw you with your back to the door, but with that old jacket, and that hat, and that beard of yours, I said, ‘Great. Look there. There’s some old derelict out there that’s probably going to hit us up for some money.’ So we were waiting, hoping you would leave.

Now, this probably would have hurt my feelin’s, but it was just too blamed funny.

Well, a year later I was at another trade show, and I was roomin’ with Bob Rich at a nice hotel in downtown Dallas. We had just finished eatin’ at a nice restaurant not far from where we were stayin’, and were headin’ back to the hotel to watch the Cowboy game. It was cold. I don’t mean just regular cold, I mean, cold, cold. It was 19 degrees and the wind was blowin’. You could tell where your drawers came to; it was that cold.

Anywho, when we got back to the room, I remembered I’d left my aspirin and Tums in my truck. I was pretty sure, from how much I ate, that I was goin’ to need the Tums and I had a little bit of a headache.

I left Bob and headed back down to retrieve the fore mentioned items. While I was in the room, I grabbed my gloves and my sock cap and put them on while ridin’ down the elevator. When I reached the lobby I walked up to the register’s desk. She had her back to me.

“Ma’am,” I said. She turned and when she looked at me her eyes registered fear.

“Yes,” she said cautiously.

“Where do y’all park the cars?”

“Why do you ask?” she said movin’ slowly back toward the door to the office.

“Well,” I said. “I need to get to my truck to get some drugs.”


“Yes, Ma’am, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need’em later.”

“Let me call someone,” she said, and reached for the phone. She covered the mouthpiece with her hand and said somethin’ into it, then slowly replaced it, and smiled a sheepish smile.

About that time, I noticed someone behind me. I turned and was starin’ into the chest of a rather tall man. The badge on the part of the chest I was starin’ at said, “Security.” I turned back to the lady, and she was gone.

“Are you the one looking for drugs?” the man asked.

I turned back and looked up at him. “That would be me.” I said. “Actually, I’m tryin’ to find out where y’all park the cars, so I can get in my truck and get’em.”

“Sir,” he said. “What kind of drugs?”

“Tums and aspirin,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, and sighed. “Do you have your claim ticket and may I see your driver’s license?”

“Sure,” I said and I produced them. He looked them over, and asked what room I was in, and I told him. He looked it up, handed me back my stuff and pointed the way where the cars were parked. He asked if I wanted my key to the truck, but I told him I had a spare.

The parkin’ garage was down about a block and across the street. When I walked outside, it felt like the temperature had dropped and the wind had really kicked it up a notch. I pulled my collar up, shoved my gloved hands into my pockets, and headed to the garage.

I noticed that people comin’ toward me on the sidewalk would either look down and away from me or cross the street to avoid me. I looked down to make sure I had zipped up my britches.

I found my truck and retrieved my stuff and headed back. I decided to cut across the street at an angle to save time. There was no traffic, so I wasn’t too worried about gettin’ run over. Just as I approached the other sidewalk, I noticed a young man and young lady emergin’ from a restaurant. They stepped out just as I stepped up on the curb. The young man, more or less, shoved the lady behind his back and looked at me.

“We have no money,” he stated. It kind of took me by surprise.

“You need some?” I asked. Then he looked surprised.

“Uh….no….uh….uh….excuse us,” and he headed off. I looked back at him, shook my head, and walked the last 50 yards or so to the hotel. I opened the door, and there was a man standin’ there.

“Are you the shuttle driver?” he asked.

“Uh, no,” I said. Then he looked me up and down, and started lookin’ back out the door.

There were several people in the lobby and all were cautiously lookin’ at me. I made my way to the elevator, pushed the button, and when the door opened, I stepped inside.

There, on the back wall of the elevator, was a mirror. When I saw myself, I almost fell backward out the door. Heck, I scared myself. Bob was right. I did look like a derelict.

Two weekends ago I was sittin’ on a bench on the Strand down in Galveston while the rest of the family was in some jip-joint. I had an empty coffee cup in my hand because I was too lazy to get up and walk the 10 feet to the trash can. I was starin’ off in the distance daydreamin’ when someone walked by and dropped a handful of change in my cup.

A minute later the family walked out and Janet says to me, “Are you ready to go?”

“Naw,” I replied as I shook my cup at her. “I’m doin’ pretty good right here.”

She looked in the cup and gave me her tilted head half-eyelid look and sighed, “We are just going to have to buy you some new clothes.”

So, I’ve decided to change myself. Yep, from now on, especially when it’s cold, and I’m walkin’ downtown in some city, I’m gonna just see how many people I can make feel uncomfortable. Heck, I didn’t even know I had this power.


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