Lost in America

Dreamland II

By the time I met him he was in his 80s. He had driven his first wife to death by alcohol. His second was running his business into the ground. His employees in the shop were robbing him blind. He was never happy with anything. Consequently he had plenty to scream about, and would yell and stamp his feet and be verbally abusive to almost everyone who worked for him, mostly because they were in his store and apparently not doing anything, and because, according to him, they knew nothing. He fired employees on a regular basis. Most of them didn’t last six months, and in fact if you walked in to the store after that time you were faced with a whole new pack that he constantly abused anew.

He had no friends. How could he? He was a walking example of how not to treat people, one that could explode at any second at the most trivial slight and begin a tirade of verbal abuse that knew no bounds. He took special delight in calling people cowards, and because many of his employees were kids just out of high school, they were in no position to dispute his assessment of their character.

Like all bullies before him, he was the real coward. If anyone stood up to him — and I witnessed a few who did — he would put his tail between his legs and run like the gutless little weasel that all cowards are. After each of these encounters he ran straight to his son, who would give him comfort and sooth his fractured ego, all the while wondering how anyone could have the effrontery to show the old boy up as one of the most pitiful excuses for a man that could ever exist.

To get him out of the shop, they would send him on errands to other businesses in the much larger city to the west. It was my privilege to drive him on those occasions that happened more and more as the old boy got increasingly miserable with each passing day. Since I didn’t know where any of the locations were that required our presence, I relied on the old man’s geographical knowledge of place, which wasn’t outstanding. Considering that he had spent the bulk of his lifetime in the city, it wasn’t a pretty site to see us driving around aimlessly because he was too stupid to look at a map, ask a question or otherwise demonstrate some measure of intelligence to find out where we were.

Call me vengeful if you want, but there was no way in hell that I was going to do it!

After one such occasion when we were yet again lost, arriving at our destination demonstrated the futility of it all, which was summed up by my overhearing his comment, “That dumb son of a bitch doesn’t know where he’s going.” Which was entirely too true — I had never been there before. Neither had he, apparently.

After that, whenever I ended up driving him around I began getting lost on a regular basis, and even if I did know where we were going I intentionally chose wrong lanes and made turns at the wrong intersection. Petty it was, but I enjoyed having the last laugh. Hell, once I even drove past the freeway exit to come home. When I told that story the entire shop was convulsed with laughter, for the old boy had been telling his version of the same story: “That dumb son of a bitch never knows where he’s going.”

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