Friday, February 27, 2015

What NOT to wear to school for Halloween...

Den of the Beastly Bear

Hi Folks!

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, back in the early 80's I had taken a job at my old High School as security/hall monitor.

Most of my adventures revolved around keeping the kids from smoking at the ends of the buildings, catching those skipping classes or smoking in the bathrooms. Pretty mundane stuff.

There were some more interesting events, told here and here. But aside from a few drug buys interrupted, fights stopped and girlfriends rescued from overly jealous hormonal boyfriends, my days were pretty dull.

Back then, Waterford Kettering was a pretty WASPish place. I think our ethnic diversity amounted to 3-4 African American kids, 1-2 Hispanic, and one Asian kid in a school of about 700. 

Drugs were just starting to infiltrate our suburban location, mostly pot...and booze.

The first thing I did every morning was to stand outside as the buses disgorged the kids. I made sure they all made it into the building and none wandered off.

At the beginning of the year, this was a nice way to start the day as the mornings were cool before the heat of the day. But as the year wore on it got downright cold.

A bright spot as it got colder was Halloween. In a time when schools still encouraged kids to be creative and dress up, it was entertaining to see what all the kids came up with.

Clowns were abundant, as were Hobos. Pirates were as popular as zombies... A couple more enterprising kids even dressed up as their favorite member of the band "Kiss".

As I said, it was a simpler time...
So as I stood and watched the nearest bus empty, a couple in love dressed as Raggedy Anne and Andy, a Princess Leia, Indiana Jones...
And a Member of the Klu Klux Klan....wait, A WHAT?!?!

Yes, it was true my eyes were not deceiving me... A bona fide Klansman dressed in full regalia, hood and all and carrying an aluminum baseball bat. 

When he saw me he tried to get into the school before I could intercept him. But students admiring each others costumes got in his way and I met him at the door.

I held up a hand to stop him.

"Off with the hood!" I told him.

"Why?" he asked defiantly.

"Because I told you to, and give me the bat while you're at it!"

"It's part of the costume," He grumbled as he handed it grip first to me and pulled the hood off.

I recognized him immediately, Hiram.
This kid had already made a name for himself that year, smoking, walking out of classes, fighting...
One of those kids who were under the impression that if he wanted to do it, we should just leave him alone and let him do it, no matter what "it" was. We had already locked horns a couple times, and the year was young. Because of suspensions, Hiram had almost missed as much of the school year as he'd attended.

"Hiram, what in the world is wrong with you? You can't wear this," I indicated his outfit, "as a costume in school. You've got to know that."

"It's NOT a's a uniform, and I wear it to meetings!" Hiram replied.

"You're kidding me, right? You're a member of the KKK?"

"Yeah," he answered defiantly "my whole family is!!! So what?!?"

"Well, you can't wear it in school, you're gonna have to change..."

"I can't," he said smugly. "I'm not wearing anything underneath it!"

"In that case we're going to have to go up to the office and have you call home, they can bring you up a change of clothes."

*Heavy sigh* "Whatever..."

So I walked him around to the front of the school and into the offices. Instead of walking him through the halls and giving him more of the attention he was after. As we entered the building, Hiram pulled his hood back on.

The secretaries gave a collective gasp as we walked through the doors... Which turned to nervous giggles, I walked him into the Assistant Principal's office and told him to sit down, indicating a chair. I plucked the hood from his head and tossed it into his lap as he sat and I explained the situation to Mr. Bennetts.

Mr. Howard Bennetts, our Assistant Principal was a kindly, bespectacled and Grandfatherly man. With a soft voice and an understanding nature. But even he "Tut-Tutted" when I explained why I had brought Hiram to the office.

For a moment, he studied Hiram through his thick lenses...heaved a long-suffering sigh before he spoke.

"And a weapon Hiram?" Mr. Bennetts asked shaking his head.

"It's part of the costume..." Hiram grumbled.

"I thought you said it was a uniform," I added.

"Why the Hell is he even still here?!?" Hiram pointed at me, voice raised a couple decibels in his annoyance.

"Enough of that now Hiram," Hiram collapsed back into himself in dejected fury "now give me your phone number so I don't have to look it up...I assume someone is home." the slight rise at the end of Mr. Bennetts sentence making the last a question. 

Hiram nodded in silence.

We waited and when it appeared he had no more to say, Mr. Bennetts cleared his throat and asked:

"The number?"

"Fine!" Hiram said and he ripped off the number in a quick staccato.
"You know my Dad works nights, and he's gonna be pissed. You waking him up for something so stupid."

"You let us worry about that Hiram." Bennetts calmly replied as he dialed the phone.

Hiram was right...his Father was NOT pleased. Mr. Bennetts explained that Hiram had worn an inappropriate Halloween costume and would be needing a change of clothes.
He did not mention what that costume happened to be.

20 minutes later a plus sized version of Hiram showed up with a paper bag of clothes and a lip full of tobacco. His face thunderclouds as he stomped into the office.

"Just what the Hell is the problem here?!?" He said addressing Mr. Bennetts.

"Well," Bennetts calmly started "He can't wear THAT in school." 
Indicating Hiram's attire.

Hiram's Dad turned and regarded his son a moment.

"Why the Hell not? It IS Halloween ain't it???"

"And he was carrying that." Bennetts pointed to the bat I still held, and lifted to show him.

"School policy clearly dictates that clothing or dress designed to disparage, intimidate or demean others will not be permitted."

"Unh-Huh," His Dad looked at Hiram "You plan to disparage, intimidate or uh...what was that other one?"

"demean" Bennetts offered.

"demean anybody?" His Dad asked.

"NO!" Hiram sullenly replied.

"Well, there ya have can send him on to class then, he ain't hurtin' nobody!" Hiram's Dad said.

"Whether he intended it or not, he can not wear that in school. I hope you can see it from our perspective. We have students and their parents that would find this quite offensive and inflammatory!" 

"What he is wearing is part of his heritage! This is still America ain't it? Freedom of expression and all??? I don't have a problem with what he's wearing!!!" Hiram's Dad had swelled up with indignation and was working himself into quite a lather.

"I'll put this simply," Mr. Bennetts said calmly, hands flat on his desk "Either Hiram changes or you take him home, unexcused.
And the way his attendance has been he really can't afford that. The choice is yours."

Hiram's Dad glared at Mr. Bennetts for a minute then tossed the bag of clothes in Hiram's lap. Without even looking at him he rumbled:
"Go Change..."

As Hiram changed in the office restroom his Dad continued to fume but remained silent. When Hiram was done and had handed the bag back to his Dad, his Father turned to go.

"Could you take this home with you?" I asked extending the baseball bat grip first. He glared at me, then at Hiram and made no move to take the bat.

"You brought it with you, you can bring it home!" And with that, he stomped out.

I looked at Hiram, much deflated now in jeans and t-shirt, I told him:

"I'll hold onto this until the end of the day, you can get it from me before you board the bus."

Hiram nodded and Mr. Bennetts released him to class.

"Well, the apple certainly didn't fall far from THAT tree, did it? Thank you for staying, I had previously only dealt with the mother..." Mr. Bennetts said to me when Hiram was out of the offices.

"No problem, I admit to having been a little curious..." I confided.
"Now I know."

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, aside from the obligatory school rumors. Which depending on the one you believed either had me stopping Hiram from attacking a black student with a baseball bat to Hiram's Dad being the Grand Dragon of the local Klan and they'd be marching on the school in protest! Or variations thereof.

I went to Hiram's bus as the kids boarded for home. I saw them come and I saw them go...but Hiram didn't appear. I later learned that he had ditched after lunch... So I put his baseball bat into the break room I shared with the other security folks and custodians.
It sat there all year...

And when school let out for the summer, I took it home. It now rests in my garage, some 30 years later...I've never had the heart to throw it out.

It reminds me of a troubled young man, that I hope found some peace and understanding in his life.

I hope you all have peace in your lives.

Be Well Folks, 

Beastly Bear

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sometimes I wonder about People...

Den of the Beastly Bear

Hi Folks!

Sometimes I wonder about people...Ok, so MOST of the time I wonder about people.

When I was driving for Perry Drugs we had routes that were "bid" on by seniority that were guaranteed overtime, the rest of the week we rotated through "local" deliveries (those that didn't require an overnight stay).

There was this store manager down in Dearborn, everyone called her "The Nazi"! (Long before Seinfeld's Soup Nazi!)

5'1", Blonde hair pulled back in a severe bun with not a strand out of place and blue eyed. She was pretty, but ruined it with the "I'm short and a woman so I've got to be a colossal bitch so everyone will take me seriously!" attitude. 

The stories I had heard of her being "difficult" were legion, but I had never really had a problem with her.

I arrived one day to deliver her store, the third of four for me that day and when I arrived they were not ready for me just yet. I had run straight through, skipping my breaks and lunch in an effort to beat the heat of the day as much as possible. It was August, which in Michigan is often worse than July. Because they were not quite ready I walked out to the floor and bought a Coke and a $.25 bag of chips to tide me over.

I was in the back room waiting for the stock guys to get everything the way they wanted it, eating my chips and sipping my Coke when in she blew like a hurricane.

She started in on the stock guys for not being ready, then she whirled on me. Clapping her hands like she was rounding up hogs.

"Come on Driver, COME ON. You can eat chips on your own time, get your ASS IN GEAR, we've got a truck to unload!!!"

I finished my chips and tossed my bag in the trash, summoned up all the charming I could muster and asked her:

"Hey, are you married?"

All of a sudden she went from power-mad ubër Nazi to coquettish young girl, she kind of patted her bun and blushing said:

"Why yes, yes I am. Why do you ask?"

"Because I didn't marry you. And I don't live with you. And I don't have to sleep with you. So...I don't have to put up with your shit! You will treat me with respect and not clap at me like your little french poodle, or I will pull that truck down the street to the nearest restaurant and take BOTH my breaks and my lunch and you won't see me for an hour...we understand each other?"

She spat and sputtered a second with an "I never...You can't talk to me like that...I should call your boss..."

"Go ahead," I told her walking for the door "remember that you used profanity in speaking to me first, in front of these witnesses you've been treating so well...see ya in an hour!"

"Wait, WAIT!" she called after me. "I apologize, I shouldn't have started out that was rude."

I stopped and told her "I'm sorry too...but I really hate being clapped at...I'll get the truck set up, OK?"


And that was that, the one, and only time I had a problem with her.

I don't know why it was so common for Store managers to be disrespectful of their drivers, why they thought they were in charge.

I had to tell more than one that "We operate on the Navy principal here..."

"What's that?" They'd ask.

"See that door there?" I'd say pointing to their back door.
"Everything the other side of that door is your ship, and this..."
I'd say indicating my truck "this is my ship. Now the Captain of that ship doesn't tell the captain of THIS ship what to do..."

Sometimes their arrogance came back to bite them in the ass.

We had an AutoWorks store in Saginaw, the last stop of the route.

The auto parts stores got some pretty heavy stuff. We had these green plastic totes they shipped less than whole cases of things in.
These tubs were 28"X18"X18", filled with shock absorbers they easily topped 60 lbs. If they happened to have motorcycle batteries they could be even heavier. Now our trailers were 48 feet long and we had 45' of rollers. So by the time we got to the last store, the rollers were waist high at about a 30° angle and a 45 foot run to build up speed.

As a conscientious driver, I liked to warn the folks in the store if a box or tote was heavy. They couldn't tell just by watching me, as I did this all day every day and I was built for this.

So one day I arrived at the Saginaw store, set up my rollers and started sending their load down. The Store manager was a fella that made Davey Jones look muscular...5'4" and a buck twenty soaking wet, if that! So as I started getting to the heavier things (Light on top, heavy on the bottom) I called out my usual "Heavy!"

The Manager waited until the box made it down to him, then called up the rollers to me...

"Hey, we're not a bunch of women down here that you gotta tell us what's heavy and what's not...just send that shit down the roller and let us worry about what's heavy and what's not!!!"

Now I was just trying to be nice, but hey...if that's what he wanted.
I aim to please.

So I continued to send down cases without speaking another word.
As I got to the bottom row, I picked up a green tote full of shock absorbers. I looked down the rollers to be sure the Manager was paying attention...he wasn't. He was talking to someone out of my limited field of vision and just had his hand up in a casual "Stop" position. I waited for him to finish his conversation, instead he waved for me to send it...
So I did.

I gave it no shove to help it along, none was needed...I merely let go. As the tote accelerated down the rollers, you could hear it gathering momentum in the pitch of the rollers whine. By the time it reached the bottom of the roller, I'd guess it was going 10 MPH.

The tote hit his hand.
His hand hit his shoulder.
He and the tote hit the ground and skidded to a stop 10 feet further in the store than where he started. 

He leapt to his feet, fighting mad!
"You Mother Fucker, you did that on purpose!!! You trying to kill me?!?"

I looked confused:
"Well, you're not a bunch of women down don't need me to tell you what's heavy and what's not...I just send the shit down the rollers and let you worry about what's heavy and what's not. Maybe you should pay attention instead of talking to your buddy."

With a great deal of grumbling he resumed his position at the end of the rollers...

Moral of the story: When someone's being nice...
Don't be a dick!

Sometimes I just wonder about people...

Don't let people wonder about you...Lol!

Be Well Folks!

Beastly Bear

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I'm only going 22....

Den of the Beastly Bear

Hi Folks!

I think one of the most stressful things a parent goes through, has got to be teaching your child to drive...

In your head you know they're growing up, in your heart you don't want them to venture out into that cold, cruel world without you.

When Princess Bear's time came to start driver's training, I was still in possession of my 2004 Pontiac GTO. So I thought I'd try to teach her how to drive a manual transmission. 

Off to a large deserted parking lot we went. We swapped seats, and with some trepidation, she pushed in the clutch and slipped it into first.

"Now, you've watched me do this a thousand times...start easing off the clutch until the car starts to move, then give it a little gas before letting the clutch out the rest of the way..."

She gave me a nervous smile and nod and said "OK."

And did it perfectly!!! First try!!! Holy Cow, I got another Danica Patrick here!

"Alright, speed up a little more...take your foot off the gas, push in the clutch and drop it in second, let the clutch out and give it gas again."

She did, again just perfectly... "this is going to be a breeze!" I thought. 

As we came to the end of the parking lot and she slowed down to make the turn I was so impressed with my obvious ability to train a complete novice in driving a stick, I forgot to tell her to clutch and downshift... The car shuddered a few times and stalled.

She looked at me in horror like she'd screwed up.

"It's OK Bug, my fault... I should have told you to at least push in the clutch when you make a slow speed turn. You didn't do anything wrong, and you didn't hurt the car. Just restart it and we'll start over."

Now she was rattled, four or five times she started it and stalled it trying to take off. I could see she was becoming more and more frustrated as she went.

"Try giving it a little gas and let the clutch out a little slower, then once you start moving give it more gas."

She gave a determined nod "OK".

She started the car again, eased off the clutch...and as the car started to roll, she punched it!!!!


The car shot forward as all 350 horses came online and screamed their displeasure! Panicking she mashed the pedal harder and the RPM's shot to redline as the end of the parking lot raced towards us.

"Brake Katie, BRAKE!!!" I said, panicking myself at this point.

So what does my darling daughter do? Looks down to see which pedal it is!!! Not enough time...we'll never stop in time!!! I reach over, grabbed the wheel and turned hard to the left...power sliding as the ass end of the car started to come around, and she finally figured out which pedal stopped the car.

We sat in silence for a minute, hearts racing and breathing fast.

"I think we're done for today if it's OK with you," I said. (And while I still had rear tires)

She simply nodded. 

She never asked for more lessons in the GTO.

When gas prices skyrocketed, I turned in the lease on my GTO and bought a Chevy Aveo 5 door hatchback...I know, no one was as disappointed as me! 

Katie quickly named it Daisy!

An automatic, Katie LOVED to drive Daisy....and no matter how many times I told her to stop calling her fathers' car Daisy, she persisted.

We put many miles in, in that little car. She much preferred driving it over Momma Bears' Acadia SUV. Part of the reason for THAT was Momma Bear herself...

A little too high strung when riding shotgun with a new driver...voices were raised, tempers flared, and nobody learned anything. I was always a lot more laid back, rarely even raised my voice but more often would ask "What are you doing?". Let her evaluate what she thought I was talking about and have her tell ME what she thought she was doing wrong.

When we got snow on the ground, I once took her out to see how the snow affects how the car handles. While still driving in our neighborhood there is a 90° turn near a small cul de sac, as she was in the middle of the turn I reached down and grabbed the emergency brake!
The car immediately went into a skid. She did EXACTLY what she was supposed to do, turned into the skid...almost saved it. We just put the nose into a little snow bank. And she burst into tears!!!

"Why are you crying?" I asked, "You handled that perfectly..."

"I almost wrecked your car..." she said.

"No, you didn't, you wouldn't have even skidded at all if I hadn't pulled on the E-brake to see how you'd handle it."

"You what?!?" The tears were gone just that fast. "On PURPOSE???" Uh-oh

"Well, um... yeah. I just wanted to see if you knew what to do..."

"That's MEAN!!!" and those were the last words she said to me that drive.

As she became a better, more confident driver...and her sixteenth birthday approached she started talking about getting a car. Of course, as any good parent does, I told her I didn't have the cash to get her a car. So it was her plan that I should let her drive my 1982 Corvette Collectors Edition. Yeah, right! 

I saved letting her drive that because I knew that was what she'd always want to drive once the genie was out of the bottle.

So a month or two before her 16th. Birthday she was going over to a friends' for a while.

We fired up Daisy and let her drive over there, windows down in the warm July morning. Several of her friends were all meeting over at this friends' home. As I drove back, I decided I'd get the Vette out and give it a bath and a wax job, clean the wheels/tires and take it when I went to get her...and let her drive it home. Show off a little for her friends.

When I pulled up into the driveway at the appointed time, all the girls and a couple of guys were all hanging out on the porch. As Katie walked out from the group, I got out of the car and met her half way. Tossed her the keys and said, "Drive me home..."

The smile on her face made it all worthwhile...

We got in; she adjusted the mirrors and the seat, and when everything was as she wanted it, we slowly backed out of the driveway. She beeped the horn, gave her friends a wave, and we were off. 

Through the neighborhood, she was really going slow. When I asked her why she said, she was scared...

"Scared?" I ask, "Of what? It's just a car Katie, just like any other..."

"But what if I break it?" 

"That's what insurance is for..." I explained. 

She started to loosen up and get comfortable by the time we made it to the main road.

No one was coming and after a complete stop, she smoothly pulled out on the road. I had the T-tops off, and I was enjoying the scenery when the seat of my pants notified me we were going a little faster than the 35 MPH speed limit on this road.

I glanced over at the speedometer and saw it was at 45 and climbing.
Nonplussed I asked her "Do you know what the speed limit is on this road?"

"Yeah, 35MPH...why?" She asked.

The speedo had now topped 65 with no sign of slowing down...luckily it was a long straight road with not a soul on it but us.

"You don't think you might be going a little fast?"

"Dad, I'm only going like 22..." She said in "annoyed teenager" voice.

"You might want to check the large gauge NEXT to the tachometer (which was at 2200 RPMs), cause if you're waiting for IT to reach 35, we'll be doing about 110 MPH down this road!"  I answered in "long suffering Dad" voice.

"Oh My God!" She said, slowing down. "I thought it felt really fast, but I thought it was just because we were in the Corvette," She told me in "not so cocky now" teenager.

"This is why, whenever you get into a vehicle you've never driven before...familiarize yourself with the gauges, where they are and what they show, OK?"

"OK," She said, and the smile was back.

We didn't go right home, but took a little drive...letting her enjoy herself.

When the big 16th. Birthday came...we gifted her with a '95 Black Chevy Monte Carlo. I put butterfly decals on mini windows to make it more of a "girls" car, and a vanity plate with her initials. I think the smile says it all!

Though I made sure she knew which one the speedometer was!!! Lol

Drive Safe and Be Well Folks!

Beastly Bear