Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How did I get stuck with this?

When I was 19 years old I was living in a radical commune in Detroit. There were 14 of us living in this decaying mansion. Most of us worked in the car factories. Every week we put twenty dollars in a coffee can. That covered our rent and groceries for the week. Every once in a while it was your turn to make a grocery run. I was unemployed and in no great hurry to find work.

One day one of the women from the house walked in the kitchen and said, "Put on a clean shirt. We're going down to city hall. I'm going to apply for a job as a garbage man If they won't take my application I'll sue the city. You need to get off your ass and find a job".

A couple of month later I was 20 years old driving a city bus in Detroit.

I was a new hire so I worked the worst shifts. Midnights on the weekend, that sort of thing. My bosses were old school maniacs. They told us to take manly action when there was trouble on the bus. "Don't be afraid to use your fists".

I was a 20 year old white boy but I wasn't completely stupid. I've always been a worker and I guess it started back then. I tried to figure out what I'd have to do to keep the job. I couldn't fight everyone who got on the bus but I'd be fired if I didn't follow most of the rules.

One night a girl got on my bus. It was around 2AM and she was wearing a party dress and carrying a little purse. It was too cold out to be without a jacket and I dimly understood that she'd been on a date, fallen out with her date and been kicked out of his car.

She tried to give me an old transfer that she'd found on the ground. I told her it was no good. She looked around to see if any of the men on the bus would help her. There were quite a few of them and none of them stepped up. She turned around and walked off the bus.

A mile down the road, I realized, I'd been a COMPLETE SHIT. I'd left a young woman stranded on a dark cold street alone in the middle of the night. I was a fucking rat and it was too late to do anything about it.

I never wanted to do something like that again. I only worked for the Detroit DOT for a year but I kept driving off and on for the next 40 years. I taught myself how to pay attention to people's problems. I stopped worrying what my bosses would do to me. Fuck them. If they didn't want me out there making decisions they shouldn't have put me out there by myself.

I got to where I was really good at dealing with hopelessly fucked up people and putting babies to sleep and helping people figure out that I didn't give a shit about their money. It was fated that I end up getting rid of respectable commuters and honest workaday folks and devote myself to driving fucked up people full time. Who else could do it better than me?

I'd found an art form and a spiritual calling.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Well.... Shit

I just got fired. I'm not driving drunks and drug addicts around anymore.

The job was getting weird. The center is a for profit operation and it hasn't been making a profit lately. I don't really believe the owner is sober.  For many years he's had the good sense to hire smart people and stay the fuck out of the place. Lately he's been around checking out every time card and receipt. All I ever heard from my bosses was nickel and dime bullshit. They used to be generous and considerate and they encouraged me to do my thing. Now they're looking for "team players" which in my experience usually means people who are willing to sell their souls for a nickel or two.

I suck at team playing, which is why I drive for a living, or at least I used to.

On my end, I was getting really burnt out. I have money problems. I have tax problems. I have car problems. I just had heart surgery. My father just died. This all piled up in a few months. I'll admit that I'm not as cheerful and energetic with the clients as I used to be. I'm tired and somewhat depressed. I need to be taking care of myself. It takes a lot. I mean a huge amount of heart to keep coming back for drunks and drug addicts. If you're not able to take care of yourself you can't very well take care of them.

Here's the cynical part. They were taking in all sorts of last gaspers and creepy assholes, not because their prospects were good but because they had insurance or money to pay. They were taking people back for their fourth or fifth pass through. Most of them didn't give a shit about sobriety. They were grown men with moms who kept taking care of them long after they should have been in the street. Or they were old drunks who wanted to be relieved of the consequences of their drinking so they could continue to drink in peace.

There weren't that many of them but the trouble was they were the ones I noticed. It got to where the people who might want sobriety, always a minority, were invisible. I just went to work and drove creepy assholes around.

I suppose the last straw was a guy who was blacked out when I got him. He had spent the day drinking and I had already driven a good three hundred miles on other jobs when I got to his house. He'd already been in there once and now his wife wanted him to come back in. When I got there he refused to get off the couch. He was abusing his wife. Shouting at her in Punjabi. The house was a mess. Everyone in the family was obviously worn down to nothing by his alcoholism. It took something like 45 minutes to coax him out to the car.

Shortly after we left his house he started babbling in Punjabi. Then he started screaming. Then he said he needed a cigarette. He wanted to stop and rest. He wanted the radio shut off. He said I wasn't allowed to listen to music and he proceeded to scream so I would not be able to listen to music. Then he started grabbing at me and making demands. I told him repeatedly to be quiet and to keep his hands off of me.

I pulled off the road once and called my boss because I didn't know what to do with him. My boss got on the phone and yelled at him. He quieted down for a few minutes then he started jabbing me in the ribs with something. I looked and saw that he had been digging through my bag. He had pulled things out of my bag and thrown them around the back of the car.

I pulled off the freeway and called my boss again. He told me to turn around and take him home. I looked at the freeway. The freeway heading towards the center was moving. The freeway back to his house was stopped. I figured it would take me two hours to get to the center or four hours to take him home and get back to the center. By then I had been driving around eight solid hours. I was too fucking tired.

I got him out of the car and stood him up. I told him to stop what he was doing in, uh, clear terms. He started telling me how much he respected me and how he loved me. He started bowing to me. I told him to keep that shit to himself until he sobered up. We got back in the car and he pretty much continued to scream and grab at me and make demands and light cigarettes and scream some more for the next two hours. I stopped a couple of times. He did things like start screaming that he needed to piss while we were stuck in slowly moving traffic on a freeway section with no shoulder and the next exit five miles away.  I finally got off the freeway, pulled down a country road and stopped by some bushes on the edge of a field. He told me couldn't piss because he needed a proper bathroom. I told him to look around. There was nothing out there but fields and vineyards and trees. He screamed some more and I got him back in the car.

I finally got him in there, but that was the beginning of the end. I had already fallen on the wrong side in a couple of personality conflicts with a couple of other workers. I could handle their eccentricities. We're all ex drunks and drug addicts after all. They couldn't handle mine. They're the kind of people who make up little rules and expect everyone else to follow them. My boss started telling me I shouldn't talk to anyone else on the staff. His boss and the owner started questioning my time cards. I kept an electronic log, even though I'm not required to. I said I'd be happy to show it to them but they weren't interested. They both like to drive long distances on their vacations so they knew all they needed to know about my job.

Then I found myself scheduled to drive a fourteen hour day. That's fourteen hours of driving. Probably around 16 hours at work. I pointed out to my boss that that was way more driving in one day than we had agreed to. I pointed out that if I was driving a commercial vehicle I would be in violation of a whole bunch of laws that I actually know quite a bit about. I told him that I was perfectly willing to drive part of job the night before, spent a night in a motel and finish it up the next day, only having to drive for ten hours.

His first reaction was to blow up at me. He actually yelled, "Just do what I tell you to do". Then he actually threatened to fire me or have the other driver take my hours. I finally got him calmed down but I almost quit right there. I ended up driving four hours that evening and ten hours the next day. I picked up a kid who lived way the fuck out in the middle of nowhere. He looked like he was about nine years old but he was supposedly eighteen. He told me he took twelve Xanax when he saw me pull in the driveway. He was unconscious for the whole ten hour drive. I kept checking to see if he was breathing. Just before he passed out he told me he'd been using heroin since he was 12. He really did live in a little city over a mountain range and out on the edge of the desert. There's nothing there but that town and the biggest prison in the state. It's hundreds of miles from anything at all.

Two days later he called his dad and his family came and brought him home. He didn't like it there. They came and got him. He gave me the fucking creeps.

I'm supposed to be taking care of myself, following a strict diet and regular exercise program. I was struggling with it but then my father died. Our relationship was never good but that's a story for another time. He was still my father and I just plain needed to time to sort out the complicated feelings I was experiencing. I couldn't keep driving a thousand mies a week at a part time job. I told some staff people that I was getting burnt out but I wanted to hang on for another year. I've got a pension now. It's not much but in another year I can get social security and finally retire for real. I'm ready.

In the meantime I was blowing off exercise and craving comfort food. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. This was not going to work in the long run.

I took the drunk Punjabi home four days ago. He had successfully completed treatment and told me he was a new man. Two days later his family was begging us to come get him. He was drunk and behaving badly. Yesterday morning I left to take two people home and then go get the Punjabi. I was so nervous I was on the verge of a panic attack. His wife had assured the staff that he had errands to run and that he would be sober when I got there. I knew that was bullshit.

I got to his house early in the afternoon. He was a little drunk. His daughters were there. They clearly hated him. I told him no more bad behavior or I'd just dump him in a parking lot. He started apologizing way too much. I told him the more he apologized the less I believed him. He finally settled down. We stopped twice along the way. Once for him to piss. Once for me to piss. After each stop he was noticeably drunker, so I figured he'd hidden a bottle somewhere. By the time I got to the center he was passed out, which I appreciated. I woke him up when we arrived. He got out of the car and began dancing around and running back and forth. I was trying to get his luggage out of the car and the most anxious, hysterical staff person was alone in the office. She practically  shrieked but she got him rounded up. When I put his luggage away she told me to go talk to my boss.

At that point I kind of figured I was fired. My boss had stayed late, waiting for me. He never stays late. He told me I was unhappy and they were unhappy and I should just give him back the keys and leave. I kind of put a little fight but he's a good guy and I was burnt out and that's all there was to it. I'm gonna be hurting for money but it's going to be all right.

There are a lot of stories from that job that have gone unwritten. I'm not giving up on this blog just yet. In fact I'll probably write a bit more now that I have some slack. Eventually I'll run out of stories and shut this thing down.

I drove for a living for forty years, off and on. I'm tired of driving. I'm pretty fucking depressed today. I'd like it if I never drove again. That's how I feel now.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tired

I am getting old I guess. I go drive 500 miles and I want to go to bed and sleep ten hours. Used to be, I would be excited and need to drink beer and smoke cigarettes and talk shit for hours.

What I'm getting is that life is kind of hard and aging is very hard and people die from grieving their youth.

I picked up this 52 year old woman from the hospital, far away. Her grown kids were there. Her daughter told me, "Watch her. She's really fuckin' sneaky".

The woman was in the hospital because she had been trying to drink without a stomach. She had an ulcer and it tore open and ripped her stomach in two. Blood was pouring out her ass and she was drinking vodka. She couldn't get drunk because the vodka was just pouring into her abdominal cavity but she was trying.

That's how her daughter found her. She went to the hospital and they sewed her back together and when she was well enough I got called to come bring her so we could fix her up. Yeah right.

I liked her. She was an old lesbian with lots of piercings and tattoos. She rode a big motorcycle. She must have been the terror of the town.

She complained for weeks because she didn't like the clothes her daughter packed for her. I asked her what her daughter did with her bed and her carpets, now that they were blood soaked bio hazards. She said her daughter got rid of them somehow. Then I told her she looked swell.

A year ago I drove in a drunk, retired business guy. He'd been a big shot. Hadn't had drink in 20 years   Then he retired and sat on the couch. After a while he figured the couch by itself wasn't much consolation. He started drinking for something to do.

He was a mess and I brought him in and they sobered him up and I drove him home and it was all smiles. A year later, there I was again. This time he smelled really bad and his wife had dropped the brave and dutiful face.

He was kind of incoherent and after a while I asked him when he'd last eaten something. He didn't remember. I stopped in a rest area and ran and got cookies and orange juice.  When I got back he was lying in the parking lot. I'm a big guy and he is 5 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than me. I got him to his feet and carried him to the car. He drank the juice and ate some cookies. After a while he perked up a little so I didn't call an ambulance. He ended up leaning on two of us but we got him into the office.

A couple of days later he said he didn't feel good and he wanted to go home. They talked him out of that but it looks like he plans to die, alone and drunk. Sometime soon.

Speaking of dying. I drove up the coast to my favorite town. When I was 10 miles away, I stopped to get coffee. I called the client and said I'd be there soon. She said she had a quart of rum in front of her and she'd had a few beers. I told her to hold on and I'd be there in ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, I walked into her apartment. The bottle of rum was almost empty. She hadn't packed. At first she was walking and talking just fine. I tried to help her pack but pretty quickly she got to where she couldn't stand up. Then she couldn't sit up. Then she almost fell through a glass topped table so I let her stay on the floor and called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived it turned out the cops and EMT's all knew her. One cop told me he'd had 4 or 5 calls on her in the past month. I found her keys, poured out all the liquor locked up her apartment and gave the keys to one of the EMT's.

I drove home alone. We never heard back from her. I kind of figure she's dead.

I picked up another returnee at a hospital way up in the mountains. I picked him up and took him home before. The hospital had him so tranked up he didn't recognize his own name. Later he told me that the last time I dropped him off he was drinking as I pulled out of his driveway. This time he told me it was going to be all different. Christ, I hope so.

There've been others. Lonely people in their 50's and 60's who just couldn't bring themselves to commit old fashioned suicide.

You know, I'm 60. I'm tired. Sitting alone on that couch seems like a good idea. I don't want to drink but sometimes it's hard, letting go of my youth. I spend a lot of time grieving my youth. I don't want it back but it's sad to see it go. The future used to go on forever and the possibilities were limitless.

I'm writing on a bad day. Tomorrow will probably be different. Sometimes this job is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Other days I wish I could quit. I figure I'll give it another year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More drama

I drove a long way to pick up this kid. He was a heroin addict. He was the worst heroin addict in the world His detox was going to be the worst and most protracted detox in the history of heroin. We were all going to be shocked by the extreme sickness he would experience during his detox. He didn't care. He could detox on his own. He probably didn't need detox meds because he was tough. He was a thief. He was a completely heartless thief. He stole ten thousand dollars from his grandma. He had millions in cash buried out in his yard. He was coming into treatment on his mom's grocery clerk benefits. He was the greatest mechanic I'd ever met. He'd built the most extreme off road vehicles with the most powerful engines ever built. He'd made more money flipping cars than he'd made stealing and selling drugs. He never paid full price for drugs. He knew the right people. When you know the right people you never have to pay the kind of money that suckers pay for drugs.

His extreme, shocking detox lasted two days. He was up walking around boasting to people by day two. They made him attend classes and group sessions. He didn't like that. He wasn't the center of attention in classes and sessions. Classes really pissed him off. He stood up in the back of the room and gave the finger to whoever was teaching through the whole class.

The staff had a talk with him about this shit. He called his mom. She came and got him on his third or fourth day.

Been a while.

Somehow, the job is becoming a job. I have a wealth of experience. It tells me that drunks and drug addicts are pretty damn dependable. We'll say and do almost anything to keep living in our heads.

The other day I spent five hours with a 23 year old kid. He was a tough guy, a bit of a redneck and a raging drama queen. He claimed to drink 3 fifths of hard liquor a day. Then again sometimes he'd bump the number up to three half gallons a day. He said that he'd had chest pains and sharp pains in his left arm. He'd been to jail a few times. He gets in fights a lot. Everybody attacks him and he has to defend himself. He's sent guys to prison testifying against them after they tried to kidnap him. His girlfriend gets in fights a lot too. They constantly have to defend themselves.

I told him, "All that drama, that's alcoholism. Alcoholics love drama". He didn't really go for that. He just wants to be like his girlfriend. She's from "Europe". In "Europe" they appreciate fine wine. He wants to spend more time enjoying fine wine with his girlfriend. He knows how to talk to rich people. He can operate at their level because he cleans a lot of rich people's swimming pools. He owns a piece of the pool service. I'll give him this much. He's a hard worker.

I'll tell you the truth. I didn't really like him much and he's decided he likes me. I try to take a few minutes and talk to him when I see him. I know he's trying.

Did I mention the guy I went to high school with? Not really. He graduated from my high school seven or eight years after me. He was the last thing I did on a fourteen hour day, most of it spent in barely moving traffic. I picked him up at a psych ward. He'd been forcibly hospitalized after they found him wandering, drunk on a busy train track one morning.

He had a terrible girlfriend. She emptied out all of his bank accounts after he went in the hospital. He didn't think his drinking had much effect on his life. He keeps bobbing up and down in life. Owning fancy houses and living in motels with money borrowed from relatives. He wants to find the right woman. She has to be a lot younger than him. She can't object to his drinking. He meets women. He gives them control of his bank accounts. He has a few drinks and they steal from him. He doesn't understand it. He left to go to a big casino, have a few drinks and see if he couldn't meet a nice woman.

Last week was an anniversary. I haven't had a drink in 21 years. I've been single and living in this damn trailer for ten years. All things considered, it's alright.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Drug seeking behavior.

I spent quite a few hours in a squalid Emergency Room waiting area. It wasn't dramatic or anything, just sick poor people with no place to go but the ER. Lots of babies, sick, poor babies.

Two of the clients got sick at the same time. Everyone thought they had food poisoning but it turns out one of them had appendicitis. He had the all new appendectomy procedure, three tiny incisions and twelve minutes total on the operating table. He admitted he was hoping to catch a buzz off the anesthesia but he went straight to sleep. I brought him back the next day and he was fine.

By the way, the other guy had an upset stomach.

There's another client. A girl, very young, 19. She's been using meth and heroin. She's very pretty in a terribly vulnerable big eyed sort of way. She attracted a suitor, which is not a good thing. He's an older fellow, a real gangster, albeit a small town gangster. He's started putting his arms around her when he thinks he can get away with it. She lets him do it, for all I know she encourages him. The trouble is that 19 year old pretty girls don't almost kill themselves with meth and heroin because they like to party. She's in some kind of psychic pain from God only knows where, although it isn't hard to guess.

She has a habit of punching things and breaking bones in her hand. She'd sprained her wrist once from punching a wall. She got to go to the ER but all they did was wrap it and tell her to keep it iced.

When the guy got back from the ER, she started complaining that her hand was hurting her terribly. It was somewhat swollen but not red or discolored. She kept wandering off and coming back with her hand more swollen. Late in the afternoon, I was coming back from some errand or other when her paramour opened the door to her room and said, "What's going on? It sounds like you're punching the wall".

The staff yelled at him for going into her room and she came out and said that the noise must be coming from some other room. By then her hand was really swelling up and she said she wanted to go to the ER.

On the drive there she was gasping with pain every time the car went over a bump. I pulled up to the ER door and she went in while I went to park. When I got back, I asked about her. The guy at the door asked me who I was and I explained that I was the driver from the treatment center. He said, "That's pretty interesting because she fainted in the waiting room and she just denied that she was in a treatment center. You better come talk to the triage nurse".

I was led to the triage room. The client was in a wheel chair and the nurse was asking questions while she took the client's vital signs. After I was introduced the nurse asked again, "Are you in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction?"

The client said, "Yes".

The nurse asked, "What drugs are you addicted to?"

The client looked a little frantic for a second. There was a long pause. Count the seconds... one... two... three... four.... "Meth".

She was wheeled back to the waiting room. We sat there for a while. She had me get her candy from the vending machine. She stood up and staggered a little. I don't know if she was putting on a show or not. I put her back in the chair.

Finally, they came and took her back into the ER. It was my day off and I was not supposed to be there at all. We made arrangements for a cab to take her back later and I left.

When I got back, I heard a staff person talking to the doctor, "So, it was just a bruise? She was not given any narcotics? Good. Could the injury have been self inflicted? I see."

I don't know if she really came back or not. I hope so. She seemed like she was doing OK till that guy fell in "love" with her. I think that scared her.

There's another client who is addicted to diazepam. She's detoxing and she can't sleep. She's having panic attacks. She hasn't slept in 72 hours. She wanted me to go pick up some medication that might help her sleep. It probably won't. I've had the stuff and it didn't make me drowsy. I didn't have time to get her medication before the pharmacy closed. She's really mad at me. She thinks I did it on purpose. Like I said, it was my day off, I was not supposed to be working. She wasn't supposed to get her prescription till tomorrow anyway. I had other things to do. She hung around the office and glared at me. She kept telling me her symptoms, insomnia, panic attacks, shaking. I said, "That's because you're detoxing from a dangerous drug. You feel like that when the drug goes away". When I finally left for the day, she glared at the car.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

No shows

I'm really tired but I think I'll try and write this before bed.

Two days in a row I drove a long way to pick up people who panicked at the last minute. It could be discouraging. I think it's a miracle that anyone, anywhere ever gets clean and sober. I'm impressed that anyone would even try.

Of course I'm talking about alcoholics and addicts here. Lots of people use drugs and alcohol without a problem. I always have to clear that up because I don't want anybody to think I'm for any kind of prohibition. Around here we make wine and we grow weed and if you can't handle them, I come scrape you up and drag you into treatment.

Anyhow, yesterday, I drove into the big city to pick up a lady who claimed that she didn't have a drinking problem but she seemed to be drinking a lot since her divorce. I called her on the way to her house but she wasn't answering and her mailbox was not taking messages. That's a bad sign right there.

When I got to her house I drove past. The front door was standing open. There were Christmas decorations in the window. Another bad sign. Most people, even if they're drunk, manage to put away the ornaments by May.

I parked the car and walked up to her house. She stuck her head out the window, saw me and ran and slammed the front door shut. I tried her doorbell a few times then stood around on the sidewalk for a while. After a while, I called the center. They told me to come home.

So there went something like 5 hours of driving in heavy traffic for nothing. I was kind of annoyed.

First thing this morning I woke up early and drove 3 or 4 hours in heavy traffic to pick up a young amphetamine addict. He'd been cut off by his family. He was homeless and living in his car. I called him a few times but he wasn't answering. His voice mail message was him bellowing incoherently. Bad signs.

He sent me a text message asking me when I would be there. I gave him a time and asked him to call me. I didn't hear back from him. I was supposed to meet him at a gas station near the freeway. I got there about the time I told him I would. He wasn't answering his phone. He wasn't answering text messages.

I hung out at the gas station for a while. Then I went and got lunch. Then I hung out some more. I sent him text messages every once in a while. After two or three hours I sent him a message that I was leaving.

I drove about a hundred miles when he sent me a text message asking if I could come back and pick him up. I pulled off the freeway, explained that I was 2 hours from home and it was late. I asked him to call me. He never did. I waited around for 15 minutes or so and then sent him a message that I was going home.

He called me a couple of hours later but I never got the call. I was almost home by then and there was no way I was going back down there.

When I got back to the center there was a group of clients standing around smoking cigarettes. I rounded up all of my stuff. Threw away the trash in the car. Locked it up and walked over to them. I told them I was proud of them for even trying to get sober.

I know most of them want to clean up because they are in trouble at work or they're facing jail time or their wives are mad at them. Not many of them have really looked inside themselves and seen the abyss. Most of them are going to die fucked up. That's OK I guess. They took some time off and tried out the program at the center. Lots of people are so scared they can't even take a break for a few weeks. They will die fucked up. I hope they don't suffer too much.

I'm sure this is full of typos. I kept nodding off as I wrote. This is not a bad life.