(Part II, you can read part one here)
Dedication for this goes to my sister-in-law Ms. Rebecca Durham
The solution was simple enough in my mind: there would be no more of this flying business for who knew how long. I would grab a car and motor my way back to Vegas! But… and this is a huge but… our Chief of Staff for the company I worked for somehow knew far better what was best for me than I ever could fathom.
This is how the exchange between us both went down, passed in duplex fashion through my boss and brother (Delta) James Nelson “Conan” Sudderth (que en gloria esté):
The late James Nelson “Conan” Sudderth, 1st SFOD-D
“geo won’t be permitted to drive by himself; it’s too dangerous.”
“Well, geo low and behold found him a fellow stranded passenger who is also trying to get back to Vegas and willing to travel with and split the driving.”
“Oh, and just what is the name of this… fellow stranded passenger?”
“He says it’s John Smith… son… den… jen; Yeah, Smithsondenjen, John, one each.”
“Well, its too dangerous to drive with a stranger; the company won’t allow it.”
“Dangerous, yeah it’s totally phuqing dangerous… for John Smithsondenjen!”
Poor James Nelson “Conan” Sudderth was being gently laid on top of his shield, just a thin sliver of Kwai Chang Cain rice paper between his job and the back door. He was taking far too great of a fall for me and I had to stop it:
“Well, Jesus-freaking-Paste!! We’re sitting here saying that one year ago we could drop geo a thousand miles behind enemy lines with nothing but what’s in his pockets, and not give a phuq HOW or IF he made it back… but now he can’t drive a car from one US state to another… is THAT what the phuq we are saying now??”
I spoke at length to Conan on how it wasn’t worth it to fight this jackass any longer. I would get back on my own and there was nothing the company could do about it. The company’s solution was to send another company employee in a car to come to pick me up—how. much. more. asinine. could. that. possibly. be?!?!
“It’s company policy,” offered Craig, the Chief of Staff.
“Oh, phuq you, Craig…” I bellowed over the phone: “You really expect me to believe our shit-house company has a policy in place for when terrorists slam a B-52 into the Empire State Building? Don’t blow smoke, jackass!”
And the other soldiers laid me gently on top of my shield.
And I was off burning goma on the Interstate in my purple rental two-door Geo Metro blazing a path toward Las Vegas Nevada, the Hun nipping at my heels.
“How do you like me now, Craig…. yeah, HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW!” I screamed into my phone as I one-handed the wheel weaving in and out of the traffic that wasn’t even there. The amount of traffic on the highways was eerily thin such that it gifted me a lump in my throat.
Craig heard about my “escape” and was simmering. He imposed a maximum daily driving distance on me of 300 miles. The brother even calculated the town where I must stop for the night once I had reached my 300-mile limit.
As I watched that very town shrink in the distance in my rearview mirror that same day, I thanked the almighty creator for the opportunity to boldly rear up in the face of incompetent authority. I made the Sign of the Cross… and slammed the hammer down as hard as I could.
My purple Geo Metro two-door rental hummed a victory hum at just over 100 MPH hovering mere angstroms above kinetic contact with the pavement.
By morning though “The Man” had descended heavily upon me. I was not to drive any farther at the risk of Conan’s and my own job. “Cease and desist” was the edict of the day. And it came when in no other city, ironically, than Albuquerque, NM! I was to wait there in a hotel until my company could send one of its ineffective widgets to come to pick me up. How gay was that?
My X became involved and formed a plan. It was in the day back when she used to love me, and she was, with all in tents and porpoises, quite a powerhouse of planning in the day. She dispatched her father from Farmington NM to meet me in ABQ, where we could both drive together to Vegas:
“Craig, geo… yeah, screw you too! Got me a family member driver and a beat up truck that can’t go more than 300 miles per day. What are your stupid questions now, Craig; what are they now??”
I had soundly throttled and mopped the floor with Craig, the Chump Of Staff. I had cheated a retired USAF officer of the thrill of sitting at the Thanksgiving table for years to come and woofing: “Did I ever tell yooz ‘bout the time I got me a Delta puke fired?” “Yeah, yeah, Craig… every stinking year it’s the same ol’ story at Thanksgiving… sigh!”
My father-in-law, Don, arrived at an absurdly late hour in the day to the tapping of my royally pissed-off foot. Hand’s on my hips, there was never any love lost between we two:
“Jesus Christ, Don… what the phuq are you doing so phuqin late, you phuq?!”
“Weeellll… we were drinking beer all day yesterday as a refreshment, and come round about 1130 pm well… we was all pretty well… refreshed!”
I put myself in the passenger side of his truck and tried to slam the door as hard as I could, but the door caught and popped, groaned and ground, and softly clicked its way shut. “Just drive, damnit!” For some inexplicably heinous reason, we parried the freeway and pulled into a Sears Automotive Center at the mall.
“Don… what in the name of Jesus, Mary, and phuqin Joseph are we doing here??”
“Weeellll… my tires is bald and I need to get some new ones before we get to driving any distance.”
I didn’t say two words to my father-in-law the three-plus hours we sat in the waiting room. Don started to spout off with a story about his days working the oil fields in Farmington, but the glance I jetted his way told him to shut his snack trap or I’d crush his pelvis and let him bleed out through his asshole. Don obliged.
Sometimes I am quite certain that I’ll compress to critical mass if I hear another story about Hobbs and Farmington, NM, back in the days of the oil field work. It was oil fields this, oil fields that… just… oil fields.
“Sir, your car is ready; if you’ll just step up and pay your bill,” came the message from the clerk.
Don just sat there looking at me.
“You heard him, Don?? He’s talking to you!” Don hesitated then began a jerky motion up from his chair.
“Oh… you thought IIIII was going to pay for your tires? Really, Don?? You reeeaaallly thought that??”
“Weeellll… I reckoned the whole drive was for your sake, so…”
“You reckoned that, did you? You reckoned I was going to buy you a set of new tires… go pay your bill, Don!”
Yes, sometimes I do feel as though I live in a world all by myself; one orchestrated by Don!
I just stuck this here because I don’t have any good photos for this essay…
I took first shift driving. We stopped almost immediately to secure some hydration for the road. I vowed I would pay for all of Don’s junk for the balance of the journey. That junk included two bottles of Yoohoo, garlic and onion potato chips, and a can of BBQ Vienna Sausages. I almost blew chunks just looking at that stuff sitting on the checkout counter.
Entering the freeway I glance down for a Fred Flintstone hole in the floorboard where my legs could extend and assist the truck up to cruising speed. There was no such. Nellie would have to oat-out this acceleration on her own. Don poised in the PAX seat with his Vienna Sausage can clasped in his left hand and his right index finger through the pull tab.
He slowly began to exert pull-force to the lid, but… but this… this couldn’t be right. He had his arms stiff and locked out to his front and pulling straight up. Who the phuq even tries to open a V-can like that? My words deepened and prolonged as I tried to stop the lunatic:
“Noooooooo Doooooooon…. doooooooon’t doooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!”
The lid popped straight off with a… “pop”. BBQ sauce streaked across the inside of the windshield, hither and yon, and I felt several small droplets smack the right side of my face.
My affect was incredulous, speechless it was; I just looked at him in bewilderment:
Don… Don… Don are you insane? What the phuq did you just do?? What in the name of phuq is wrong with you, man???”
“Weeeellll…” but I cut him off, “Just don’t say anything, Don… don’t say a phuqin THING!”
I’m a patient man; a man of considerable patience. Of that, I do strongly fancy myself. I continued to fund Don’s gut bombs for the remainder of the trip as I had vowed, and Don continued to wipe up BBQ sauce from the truck’s interior one napkin at a time:
“Why are you resting Don? There still a bunch on the dash. Look at the freaking radio, I can’t even read the stations. Wipe that shit off, dude!”
And so it went.
When I walked into work the next day my peers looked at me like I was a ghost:
“We… we thought you were stuck in Albuquerque…”
“I was; now I’m here.”
Michelle Thomas just went out to the parking lot to drive to Albuquerque to… to pick you up!”
“Michelle? … we can’t stand each other. That would have been a miserable trip for us both.”
“Well, she just went out there; you can still catch her and save her the wasted trip.”
“Naaaa… I’m thinking we could all use a couple of days break from her and her bullshit,”
I’m put squarely in mind of the scene I experienced miles outside of my arrival in Albuquerque. It was gray and overcast. The road to my front and back was completely devoid of other cars for the moment. It was just plain eerie as I pondered the days ahead of the attack of 9-11. While in thought the most amazing thing happened:
A mighty B-1 Lancer bomber at low altitude, some 800 feet above ground level, came roaring across the freeway to my front at easy speed. There it was; that was it… there was some hell to pay, and in receipt of that remittance would be the United States of America.
By Almighty God and with honor,