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Monday, January 15, 2018

Differentials

The delivery to The Montclair Group was going to be later than expected due to the delay caused by the multiple car accident on the freeway. Once I reached Laguna Beach I turned off at the nearest supermarket to do some major evacuation.

I’d been driving for four hours straight without using a restroom and my body was cramping badly. I needed to find a good restroom, and there are a few that are best for a driver to use. Department stores are too fussy and finding their restrooms can be a little too labyrinth-like to reach. Supermarkets are pretty good because they don’t place demands that you buy something in order to use their facilities.

The best are probably shopping malls because the bathrooms are large and plentiful, and always situated by the food court. The only minus are their gigantic parking structures, which sometimes demand you pay a small fee to park.

Some restrooms have keypads you need to punch a code in, but this time I got lucky. This was a multi-use walk-in restroom, so I walked right in and got to business. There were three stalls in the bathroom and the only open one was in the center.

The stall to the right of me was a little boy being instructed by his father how to use the toilet. They spoke very loudly.
“I don’t have to go anymore”.
“Are you sure? You said you really had to go”.
“I just had to peepee a little bit, but now I don’t need to”.
“Are you absolutely sure? We have to get back in the car pretty soon and then you’ll have to wait for awhile. Well, okay, pull up your pants”.
“Wait a minute! Now I have to go”.

In the stall on my left was a guy playing music videos on his cell phone and probably having a wank watching them. It didn’t sound like he was taking care of business in there.

I washed my hands, staring down at them as I lathered them up, refusing to look up in the mirror. I washed them very thoroughly and then, keeping my head down turned to grab a few paper towels. I wiped them very slowly and then finally gave in, looking up in the mirror at my face.

I looked younger than my years would admit, an almost childlike face in spite of the fact that I’d been through quite a lot in the past few decades. My hair was still in full growth, no baldness there and my eyes still looked bizarrely innocent, bizarre because they’d seen too much, but still full and colorful like it hadn’t seen enough springs and summers yet. There was a defiant, pouty little boy mouth, with the disturbing appearance of one who still expected a better tomorrow even though their world was falling apart in front of them. My body was still fit and trim because lunch breaks consisted of bottled water and tiny supermarket baguettes.

I finished up and walked over to the sink and saw a bum at the next sink giving himself an impromptu bath. He had his shirt off and took heaps of hand soap, lathering his arm pits with the stuff and washing it off with the endlessly running sink. He had a sunburnt face and neck while the rest of his body was lily white. Thankfully he kept his baggy pants on.

“Sup?” he asked while giving me a conspiratorial nod. I just smiled. He was definitely humming.

Once I was done freshening up I bought a bottle of water and a pack of chewing gum and proceeded to my delivery.

Two hours later I was back in Beverly Hills. My next pickup was at Roku Bank on Wilshire Boulevard. I picked up a packet of money, about $10,000 in cash, and assigned to deliver it to a Mr. Walter Webster in Malibu.

Of course, I had to show ID and sign a few papers before I was off and on my way to Pacific Coast Highway. Mister Webster was so far down Pacific Coast Highway that he went beyond Zuma Beach and was on the border to Ventura County.

Pacific Coast Highway was the main road running through Santa Monica Beach and Malibu. It ran even further than that, but for our purposes we were just going to go as far as the outer reaches of Malibu.

You coast down a busy road that opens up to the beach on one side and a sea wall on the other. Going south I had the beach with its pounding waves to my left and the high-cliffed sea wall to my right.

Although PCH was always busy with traffic everybody always left enough room so you never felt like anybody crowded you. You felt free even in busy traffic. It was funny like that.

After half an hour the GPS advised me to turn off a tiny rustic road that planed higher and higher up the hill to Mr. Webster’s home.
“You have arrived at your destination”, she chirped. “Your route guidance is now finished”.

I got out of the car with my sign-off sheet and the packet of cash. I opened a polished steel gate and walked through a faux Spanish villa front yard. I rang the bell and waited for my delivery.

A big, sandy-haired man in his fifties opened the door with a sandwich in his left hand, chomping away. He wore a stained polo shirt and tan Bermuda shorts with fat white sneakers that looked like baby shoes.
“Um, yeah?”
“Hi, Style Runners”, I smiled. “Your funds are here”.
“Oh, yeah”, he grunted, munching away on his ham and wheat.
“Please sign here”.
“Oh, um, huh!” he puffed away, signing with something that didn’t even look like a legitimate signature. He just wanted his dough and for me to fuck off.

I got my signature and left as he slammed his door, back to his sandwich and money. He certainly didn’t look like a rich man, bit he had the house and it was none of my business.

“Okay, 757, come back to the Westside”, my dispatcher said after I reported the delivery made. I drove by more vistas of crystal blue skies, crashing waves against perfectly sculpted rocks and pretty girls peeling out of west suits in their bikinis. People were having fun but I had money to make.

“757, head over to Barney’s New York on Wilshire”, the dispatcher called.
“10-4”.
I headed east on Santa Monica Boulevard until the two right lanes were blocked off for construction.
“ROAD WORK AHEAD”, a sign flashed.

Traffic slowed down and people tried cutting each other off to get ahead of each other. Horns blared angrily and road construction workers nonchalantly walked in front of oncoming traffic just to shorten everyone’s temper even more.

I decided to cut down Olympic Boulevard to avoid the jam but it was even worse down there. There was road work also on Olympic Boulevard (repaved road), finally reaching a full-stop where everyone had to detour further south to Pico Boulevard. I was now miles off-course because of my poor decision making.

I sat in traffic with the rest of everyone else, my mind drifting towards things in general. I began thinking about Karol and the changes in our relationship before things went bad. She started taking herself seriously, too seriously.

I once went shopping with her one afternoon in the Wilshire District. Karol took great pride in everyone in the store calling her on a first name basis; it was a frighteningly big deal to her. Bored with her making a big show of how popular she was in the store, I walked out to the sidewalk to check on my car.
A car loaded with black teenagers drove slowly by me.
'YO, OZZY OSWALD!" "SUP, OZZY OSWALD?" They yelled at me from the car, laughing. I laughed right back.
Now there's a great hip-hop name, Ozzy Oswald. Make me a cross between Ozzy Osbourne, revered metal singer of Black Sabbath with Lee Harvey Oswald, notorious killer of the great President John F. Kennedy. Those kids had spunk. Those kids had genius.

I stood around five minutes more and then a car of white teenage girls pulled up asking me all kinds of questions. Talking to teenage girls is a lot like being abducted by aliens: once it's over you have no recollection of what just happened. I think they were asking me about my 7-star tattoo sleeve, but then again I might have imagined that as the topic.

Karol came out of the store and asked me where I went.
"Oh, a couple of cars full of kids pulled up to talk to me".
"TALK TO YOU? WHY WOULD ANYBODY WANT TO TALK TO YOU? YOU'RE NOT FAMOUS!"
"I used to be famous".
'NO, I'M FAMOUS!!! I HAVE OVER 700 FOLLOWERS ON FACEBOOK!"
I smiled and said, "But this isn't Facebook, this is real life".

Well, it didn’t seem like much but it was fairly symptomatic of her rampant egomania getting out of control, with my head on the chopping block because she had to be the alpha queen of it all. Shucks. I just couldn’t comply with her megalomania.

I continued to meditate on that in a daze, until the spell was broken by an angry car horn growling behind me. I jumped a little bit and pumped the accelerator. I moved up in line and after snaking through many detours and cut-off lanes finally snaked behind Wilshire Boulevard to Barney’s.

I grabbed the Dolce & Gabbana and avoided all the detours to make the delivery to Century City. Century City earned its name from being a former backlot of 20th Century Fox, who had to sell off some of their land to developers to keep their studio from going under.

Since all this deal making was done in the late Sixties during the height of the Space Race many streets were named after celestial bodies, like Galaxy Way, Constellation Boulevard and the like. Bored from the constant task of driving all day, I started singing a song in praise of all the streets of Century City.

There was no intelligible melody in all this, but I began crooning, “Century Park East… Avenue of the Stars…Solar Way…Constellation Boulevard…Galaxy Way…Century Park West…Avenue of The Stah-hah-hars….”

I just went on and on, singing these silly street names to myself over and over again until they actually sounded like something musical.

“Solar Way…Con-stell-ay-shun Boo-leh-vard…”, I crooned like a fool. Was the loneliness overtaking me? I wondered.

GLEEPGLEEP!
“757, what is your ETA?”
“Twenty minutes”, I responded. I always said twenty minutes no matter how far I was from my destination. It was the safest answer.
“10-4”.

The roads looked grayer and my vision felt blurrier but I kept my mind occupied with my stupid song.

“Century Park East… Avenue of the Stars…Solar Way…Constellation Boulevard…Galaxy Way…Century Park West…Avenue of The Stah-hah-hars….”

I drove slower and let everyone pass me, the transit buses, endless growling motorcycles, the taxicabs, the tourist buses, aggressively macho convertibles, even the bicyclists. It was their road and I didn’t feel like fighting over it. I didn’t care. With a song in my heart, I sang…
“Century Park East… Avenue of the Stars…Solar Way…Constellation Boulevard…Galaxy Way…Century Park West…Avenue of The Stah-hah-hars….”

I pulled up to the townhouse, which had its own private yard. I walked through the wooden gate, and in the yard was a gray pot-bellied pig, rooting around the lawn. I was taken aback because I was used to dogs, cats and birds, but not a large pig hobbling around the front lawn. It grunted at me a few times.

The lawn was surprisingly clean and I didn’t smell any scat, so this was a well-kept city pig. It just kept grunting over and over like a sick ARP synthesizer.

I walked around the pig and knocked on the delivery’s door. A pretty young girl answered.

“Hi, Style Runners. Your Dolce’s here. Please sign here”, I handed her my pen and clipboard. She noticed my unease.
“Don’t let my pig bother you”, the woman smiled. “She attaches herself to everybody”.
“Oh, I get that sometimes. She doesn’t bite, does she?”

“Oh, no”, the woman laughed as I handed her the garment bag. “You won’t have anything to worry about. Thank you!”
She closed the door and I turned to leave, but….

The pig positioned herself right in front of me and refused to budge. I tried to walk around her and she moved towards me. Her head half lowered to the ground and half looking at me from below, She was a strange one.
“Come on, kid. I got to go”.

The pig wouldn’t move over, so I started charging at her. Instead of attacking back she started squealing and squealing to beat the band.
“Shut up, you dumb bitch. I’ve got to go”. I shoved her gray ass over with my foot with her still squealing her head off.

I got back in my car and forgot the words to my stupid song. That fucking pig ruined my space age mantra.