Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bob or Robert

You know when Bob, depending on his mood it could be Robert, comes into the room. When he swings the door open he bellows out a big "HO HUM", his version of "Honey, I'm home." He offices in the next cubical to mine and is always late, sometimes two to three hours late, but it never bothers him. "I put in my eight, it doesn't matter when I get here. If I want to sleep late I will", and there isn't a manager that will tell him otherwise.

Bob has had polio, or some other disease, that causes him great effort to walk. But he doesn't want your sympathy. He says that he can't wait until he can't make the walk to the office from his pickup so he can ride his four wheeler to work. An ordinary scooter wouldn't do, it would have to be a four wheeler or he'd just stay at home.

The way he dresses is different from most of us. His jeans and slacks have to be "stretchy" and they can't be a designer label, he couldn't let any of us think that he might have some style. His shirts are usually solid brown or beige button up dress/casual with the collar unbuttoned. To button his collar would make him look like a "pervert". He does sneak in a t-shirt every now and then but they have to be solid also, "I ain't buying no shirt that has some name on it, I ain't advertising for no one". Black roper boots and a black belt, "I don't need karate to get a black belt", rounds out his wardrobe.

When Bob becomes agitated, he morphs into Robert. Many a computer mouse has died when Robert's computer has crashed. Noisy co-workers also bring the Robert out in him, if someone is close by in an office and their laughing is loud he will yell, "It must be crazy laugh day today." When a maintenance man comes up to rearrange an office or do some routine work that makes some unusual noise, Robert yells, "What's all the noise?" The best Robert phrase is when you do something that startles him, "That scared me, and I'm not scared of nuthin' but women and police", which he stole from some movie.

Bob isn't married and probably never dated, but he feels that is "one of my strong points". His latest scam was trying to get one of us to pay him a hundred thousand dollars to become his beneficiary. He figured that by the time he retired he would have "close to a million" in his retirement account and that a hundred grand now will help him more than a million "when I'm in the grave".

Bob is Bob and there isn't anyone else like him, that's good or bad depending on your impression of Bob. To the outsider he seems brash and rude, but to his close friends and co-workers, life would be boring without him. That's right Bob, just keep being yourself, it gives me plenty to write about.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Old Hospital

We couldn't help it, we were boys, and boys are supposed to do things that most grown ups would think is stupid. David and I never failed to disappoint our parents with the stunts that we would think up. This one was my idea, not a good idea, but it was mine.

It was the summer of 1967, a lazy summer before I was old enough to start a steady job. I made enough money for soft serve ice cream at the Diary Queen and to get into the swimming pool by mowing a few lawns. On this particular day, David and I had walked to the Dairy Queen which was no small task for us. I lived in the last house, or the first house depending on which direction you were going, on Highway 75 in Southeast Kansas. My house was a mile South of the city limits and a quarter of a mile from the Oklahoma State Line. If I followed State Line Road a mile and then north another mile I would wind up at David's. I'd ride my bike or cut across pastures to get to David's, we would then either drive his mother mad or head into town and see what we could get into. This particular day we decided on some soft serve ice cream and see what else developed.

As we sat sucking the ice cream out of a dip cone, which had the ice cream dipped in hot chocolate causing a hard chocolate shell on the outside, we were discussing what do. David suggested, "Let's go to the park and see how fast we can get the merry-go-round to spin. Maybe that kid is there and we can make him puke again, that was so funny."

I reminded him, "Yeah, that was funny until his mother chased after us. She scared me, I thought she was going to catch us. I never saw a mother run that fast before."

Then an idea came upon me, "Let's go check out the old hospital. I hear that there is a door on the side where we can get in." The old hospital had always intrigued me ever since I could remember. It sat there empty, daring me to come visit. Being three stories tall, it loomed over the surrounding houses, a testament to one doctor's dream. It served my community well until it became outdated and a new hospital was built to replace it.

The old hospital sat on the corner of 4th and Fawn Street, a busy intersection as all the teenagers would "shoot the U" there. It was the popular turnaround spot on the west end of town when you were cruzin'. When David and I started driving we'd call it "Killing the Sheep" (shooting the ewe). The Dairy Queen was about five blocks from the hospital, to get there David and I walked down the main drag , which is 4th Avenue, where all the stores were. We passed Jack's Filling Station where you got full service with your purchase. There was the hardware store, the Board of Education which we ran by, Estes grocery, Lingles Five and Dime, and the pride of downtown, Blackledge furniture store. The last block before the hospital had Wheeler's Chevrolet and then the houses started.

As we approached the hospital we noticed a green car at General George Wark's house. He was a General in World War I and his two story gray house was the first house just south of the hospital, which was the side of the hospital that had the door we were going to use to get inside. The car worried us, it had a U.S. Army logo on the door, and we didn't want the Calvary to come riding up as we were exploring the nether regions of the hospital.

We walked to the North side of the hospital and circled around the back side, ducking behind the old trash cans and junk that was left there. We easily got to the door and slipped inside. We waited just inside the door and watched to see if anyone at the Wark house was aware of our intrusion into the bowels of the old building. We saw nothing outside so we turned our attention to the building. The door we slipped in opened into the old kitchen, at least it looked like a kitchen with all the counter tops as there weren't a stove or refrigerator. The shadows of the morning sun shining in the dirty windows cast a eerie feeling over us. A shell of a room that didn't hold a twelve year olds attention very long.

We continued out into the hall which led to the front door. The front door was a solid wood door and looked imposing. Behind the door was a closet which had a new padlock on the closet door. We tried to open it but gave up, vowing to come back with some tools so we could see what they were hiding. The rest of the first floor just held vacant rooms that were exam rooms for when the doctors had their offices there.

We walked up the marble stairs which we though was strange as we had never seen marble stairs before. On the second floor we found the operating room with the table and overhead lights left just like they were after the last operation. As we scrounged around we found some bandage scissors and some of what I now know were surgical clamps. As we looked up we saw a balcony where the surgeries were viewed. This room was the highlight of our exploration.

We then proceeded to the third floor with the intent of looking down on the surgical room. As we neared the top step we heard something in one of the rooms at the end of the hall. We figured it was a owl or rat or some other creature that had made its home there. We found the balcony and was looking down on the surgery room when we noticed a shadow appearing through the open door to the hallway. We spun around and there stood Steve, one of our friends. After our hearts left our throats and our breathing returned to normal, we found out that Steve's dad bought the old building and was going to tear it down to sell the bricks. Steve was there exploring like we were except he had a key to the front door.

It was a sad day when they bulldozed the old building. I made some money from it though as I sat on that corner with Steve and David cleaning grout off the good bricks and stacking them to be used once again. At a penny a brick, we were rich. Even today as I visit the old hometown, I'll shoot the "U" and look on that vacant lot and remember the old hospital. It went the way of so many of our old buildings, a loss to our community and a loss to a twelve year olds dreams of exploration.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Obit

When times comes for me to be worm food, this is what my obit should say:

It comes as not much of a shock
Here lies the remains of Walk
Born a pipeliner's son
He never owned a golden gun
Instead he turned to the pen
And wrote of mice and men
Words was his prey
Until he fell into the bay
He sank like a rock
Our good friend Walk.