I got a call from Nashville this morning. It was my brother Tim doing his once a month family check-in. He’s been in and out of hospitals and rehab since he was struck by a car back in March. He’s had several operations and several infections.
It doesn’t do us much good to try to call him. His phone whatchamacallit is always full or there’s some other problem. He’s as tech-phone savvy as I am. Which is to say — nada.
He’s always been an odd-job man, traveling from state to state, city to city, job to job, living on the edge and off the grid. Kinda like Jack Reacher only Jack was sober. And Tim has been — sober — ever since the accident. Only now, when he’s not in the hospital or rehab he’s in a half-way house. Now he does laundry for cigarettes.
But he deals with it all with his signature off-the-wall and acerbic humor, the kind that can see the comedy in any situation, even if it’s only the black kind. And it comes so naturally, and with such a Southern droll delivery, he leaves a trail of side-splitters everywhere he goes.
And now he’s job hunting. Not the kind where you walk up to a construction site or a carnival barker with your tool belt and a lifetime of experience packed in your battered body, but the kind of job where you have to fill out applications and have proper identification, and all papers have to be original, not Xeroxed. You have to “comply”.
Oh, the aggrieved tone I heard on the phone as he stressed the word “comply”, rolling droll one-liners or whole scenarios off the top of his head. I think he was calling me during a smoking break outside the location of his latest skirmish with compliance. If he’s ever had a driver’s license it was only briefly, and he’s never had much luck at keeping up with his stuff. So he has to go through all this periodically — getting all his ducks in a row.
The latest windmill on his jousting circuit is Goodwill. Putting in his application. ComPLYing, if you will. Oh, that word. Here’s Tim’s take on it all:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>> TIM >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
“They have to have the original Social Security card, not a copy,” he griped. “My copy has been good for years. What’s wrong with these people? You can get a job with the FBI with just a copy, but not Goodwill. They say they have to comply with Homeland Security. They’re all over Goodwill, but not the FBI. Somebody’s falling down on the job, though, because this lady’s gone on break and her fill-in is wearing a turban with ISIS stamped on his forehead. And his camel is double-parked.
“And I can tell them how to get rid of the ISIS problem. Pass the word to a bunch of good-ole-boys from Alabama and Georgia and Texas that it was a terrorist plot that killed Dale Earnhardt. Then send the boys to the Middle East. There won’t be a terrorist left standing.
“I had to go to the hospital the other day and a security guard stopped me when the buzzer went off. He said ‘try it again, you’ve got metal on you somewhere’. I told him my leg was full of titanium. It’d be a miracle if I didn’t set it off. ‘Okay,’ he says, ‘give me the name of your doctor’. Well, sis, I’ve only been to two hospitals and passed from doctor to doctor. Even if I knew which doctor, I probably couldn’t pronounce the name.
“I’m getting all my hardware taken out on the 28th and I’ve promised myself to go back and beat the *&%$ out of him with it. I bet that titanium stuff don’t bend either. What I need to do is go back to Chicago where if anybody #@%%^% you off you can just beat the #%$$ out of ’em and stuff ’em in a bridge. [Remember, this is letting off steam with humor, it’s not a threat].
“You remember, sis, back when I was with Emmy, that girl from England? She’d bought an extended warranty on something she’d bought, so I took it in to be fixed. The guy told me the warranty had run out. I told him she’d bought the extended version. He said to show him the warranty. I said why couldn’t he look it up on the computer. He said they didn’t have time to enter all that in the computer. I said, then why don’t I just stand on top of this console and yell out what a piece of crap place this is you have here. — Then he said, ‘What did you say that number was again?’.
“Yeah, sis. Since 9/11 nothing’s ever been the same again. I feel like they won.”
By this time, I wasn’t laughing anymore. And “comply” used to be such a good word, like being cooperative for the good of the whole.