Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

Love and the Deadbeat Boss, Part I: Of Love and Floods

Special 20th Anniversary Repost

Iowa Faces Next Round Of FloodingThe thing most midwesterners would remember about the summer of 1993 is The Great Flood.  The Mississippi and Missouri rivers had lay waste their basins to extremes unseen for generations. St. Louis area tributaries such as the Meramec River, Kayser Creek and the River des Peres, had been only momentarily contained by gargantuan, precariously stacked walls of sandbags, threatening at any moment to spew calamity into the homes of thousands.

            It had been raining for months. There was water everywhere with no relief in sight!

            Displaced families in temporary roadside campgrounds,  huddled around haphazardly strewn, hastily salvaged belongings, were on public display as traffic passed. The impersonality of day-to-day life had been forcibly delayed by detours, curbside flotsam and jetsam, and pitiable scenes of human suffering.

            Despite the far-reaching regional impact caused by the great deluge, the Flood of ’93 merely serves as the backdrop to fonder personal memories.

 Flood Pigs           Immersed in struggles of my own, I was broke and trying to make a living working for a small, rather unstable delivery service, which caused me to encounter this historic drama in progress on a daily basis. Despite my irritation with the delays and my best attempts to tune out the calamity around me, it was impossible not to be personally affected by the suffering along the routes I traveled.

            Fortunately, comic relief in the form of my employer’s erratic behavior served as a welcomed distraction.

            Rumor had it that Darwin had a chemical imbalance in his brain. The terms bipolar disorder, persecution complex, and obsessive-compulsive disorder come to mind. He could be patient, nurturing and generous one day – distributing impromptu cash bonuses, buying lunch, or going out of his way to encourage a struggling employee – yet turn on people the very next, reacting in violent tantrums and exhibiting paranoid delusions of betrayal. Sadly, Darwin’s sister, Edna, who was also the secretary, was the undeserving target of much of this abuse.

            People start businesses for many reasons. It is likely that Darwin did so because he could not hold a regular job.

            Despite obvious concerns with my boss’s mental health, as well as his frequent difficulties making payroll, I felt some degree of loyalty to him. Darwin had hired me during a difficult time in my life and took me under his wing to teach me the courier business. As a result of his tutelage, I was beginning to make decent money. In all honesty, I was greatly entertained by the drama surrounding this shoddy, dysfunctional operation. Yet, I did my best not to become personally involved in it.

            One day Darwin informed me that he was hiring some girl to help with the dispatch duties so he could focus on sales.

            “Does she have experience as a dispatcher?” I asked.

            “No,” he replied.

            “Is she a driver ready for advancement?”

            Negative.

            “Does she know the area?”

            “No. She’s from Chicago. I met her at Denny’s. She seems like she’s a hard worker and she would pick up on things quickly.”

            This made  no sense whatsoever. Upon further investigation, I learned that our delusional, wheeler-dealer-wanna’-be proprietor, had offered a dispatch job to an attractive waitress one night when he took a few drivers out for dinner.

            Understandably, Edna was pissed to find out that after working long hours and doing anything and everything to help her brother’s business get off the ground, he was paying some Barbie-doll waitress more than her. News of the resulting fallout spread quickly. Edna quit and went to work for a competitor.

            It was apparent, listening to Felicia on the radio trying to dispatch, that she had no idea what she was doing. Darwin was obviously sitting next to her, like Cyrano in the bushes, telling her what to say.  Customers were beginning to complain to me about the new girl screwing up orders. They drew the same conclusion I had; Felicia must be a babe!

            I was the last of the drivers to meet the new girl. For about a week, Felicia and I kept missing each other. She would be out to lunch or gone for the day whenever I needed to swing by the office. The curiosity was killing me! Then one slow day, Darwin told me to come in to base and hang out for a while.

            I arrived and knocked on the office door. I was greeted by an attractive blonde. “Hi! I’m Driver 37,” I said, making purposeful eye contact.

            “I’m Felicia.”

            “It’s nice to finally meet you!”

            I studied her as we made our way to the dispatch table to join Darwin. Felicia was fair complected with long, straight, blonde hair extending most of the way down  her back. The straightness of her hair was contrasted by a huge flip, standing erect on her brow, originating from a part on one side of her head, suspended by hair spray, and landing gently upon the other as it returned from its airborne trajectory. She had deep-set green eyes and wore very little makeup.

            Attractive curves were evident despite attempts to hide in an oversized sweater. She wore black tights, clinging snuggly to her curvaceous buttocks, of which I studied every wiggle and flexion as it propelled her across the office a few steps ahead of me.

            My heart pumped rigorously in my chest. I was in love!

            My initial impression of Felicia was that she was more of a down-to-earth, snuggle-up-by-a-fire type rather than a raucous partier, which was fine by me. I had grown tired of that type of girls.

            Unfortunately, we scarcely had time to talk before I was sent to pick up a delivery. But I had accomplished all I needed to at the time. I had her attention, and she had mine.

            The next day, I pulled up to the office to find Felicia leaving. “Where are you going?” I asked.

            “Next door to get cigarettes,” she replied.

            “Get in. I’ll ride you over.

            “It’s just next door.”

            “That’s okay.” I insisted. “Get in.”

            So I drove her to the gas station, which was literally a stones throw away. She went inside, bought a pack of cigarettes, then got back into my Mazda GLC.

            I was then dispatched to a delivery via the radio. But rather than drop Felicia off, I headed straight to the pick up, tires squealing as I tore out of the gas station.

            “Where are you going?” Felicia shrieked.

            Despite her protestations, I was off to do my Priority Service delivery, laughing all the way. “I’ve got to go straight there!”

            “I’m going to get in trouble!”

             “No you won’t.” I snickered. “I’m kidnapping you. Tell Darwin there was nothing you could do to stop me.” I was hoping to impress her with my reckless, devil-may-care attitude, and it seemed to be working.

            She called Darwin on the radio, informing him of her abduction. He was acting pissed, but he was at most only mildly irritated. As soon as I finished the delivery, which was really a short hop, he made me return her to the office. We had a good laugh in the meantime.

            A few days later, I was stuck in rush hour traffic on the highway when I heard a conversation on the radio. At first, I had thought somebody was sitting on a microphone. Then I realized that the mic had been deliberately keyed up. It was Darwin.

             “So you’re saying you have a crush on 37?”

             Felicia replied, “I’m so sure!” Evidently, he was driving her home.

            “You like 37, don’t you?”

            “Yes!” She shrieked, blushing apparent despite lack of a visual. Then she realized that he had been broadcasting the conversation. “Darwin!” The transmission immediately crashed. And my heart pounded. And I suppressed the urge to gun my engine in glee, being that I was in gridlock traffic crawling at 10 mph.

            A few days later, Darwin arranged for Felicia to ride along with me one day to “meet the clients.” This surprised me, knowing that he had designs on her. It looked like a trap, but I was happy to oblige, nonetheless.  Anything to spend time with my newfound love!

            So, early one morning I picked up Felicia at her sister’s house. She was waiting on the steps to her porch in a yellow and blue driver’s uniform with a packed lunch beside her. An orange cat looked on from the front window.

            Felecia and I immediately hit it off. I was blown away to learn that she was from a huge family of 13 kids. Her teen years had been interrupted by her mother having a stroke and Felicia needing to grow up quickly to take care of her. Unfortunatley, Felicia’s mother had passed on a few years earlier, which had crushed her spirits significantly.

            One thing we had in common was that we were both starting over, of sorts. I had just dropped out of college and was living with my mother until I got back on my feet financially. She had left Chicago to escape an abusive relationship and was now living with her eldest sister.

            Throughout the day, we had made several trips through the flood plains, observing the roadside shanties, canoes, sandbagging, National Guardsman and the human drama that had become all-but routine. The sky was clear for a change, which was encouraging to all.

             It was a hot day, frequently broken up by periods of inactivity. Normally, standing by not making money was dull and irritating. This day I did not mind. Felecia and I played Frisbee for a while, and I set up my lawn chair for her. I explained that when things got really slow, I’d get out the chair, peel of my shirt and tan until dispatched. This explained why I was bronzed. Whenever she complained about the heat, I joked about tossing her into one of the residential pools we passed. She dared me, and I was tempted. It would be quite exhilarating to see her in a soaking wet t-shirt!

            As the day progressed, the sky began to cloud up once again. By the time I dropped off Felicia, we had been hit by a torrential downpour. I got her phone number before she sprinted into her sister’s place with her little lunch cooler held above her like an umbrella. The orange cat in the window seemed totally indifferent to the meteorological tragedy unfolding outside.

            Something was up. Sirens could be heard coming from all directions. The routes leading out of the city appeared to be at a dead stop. Repeatedly, police cruisers bypassed standstill traffic by jetting by in the oncoming lanes. I eventially learned that the giant sandbagged levee that contained the River des Peres had ruptured, flooding several neighborhoods. But I was unconcerned. I was, after all,  in love.

to be continued

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