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Friday, April 30, 2010

KARMA

“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord”, at least that’s what my mother has always told me. I always said, “That’s fine, but I want it to be quick and I want to see it.” For the most part mother was right. I read something the other day by a popular minister regarding the very same thing and he said that if you go about getting your own revenge the Lord says, “Well if you want to handle it yourself, then just go ahead.” But if you wait, He’ll take care of the people who wronged you. It will be in His own way and His own time, but it will happen.

When I was fired at the Cadillac dealership in Midland on March 10th, 1981 I was absolutely devastated. I’ve never had a job to this day that I loved as much as that one.
I remember when I moved to Midland in 1976 it was by invitation from a guy I had a crush on named Rusty. I drove from my parent’s house in Lampasas to Midland with my clothes, portable TV, and stereo, all in the back of my restored green 1952 Buick Super coupe with three months growth on my head from my Air Force basic training buzz cut. I didn’t realize until I got there that Rusty didn’t even have his own home as he’s led me to believe he was renting a room from a gay couple and there would be four of us in the house. That didn’t last long. I woke up one morning to find Rusty leaning out the window above the bed kissing his ex boyfriend Mark. Soon after that Rusty told me that the two guys who owned the house didn’t like me and wanted me to move out. I didn’t know what to do. Many years later I asked them about it and they said they never said anything of the sort, they thought I was good for Rusty. I didn’t want to move back to my parent’s. Lampasas meant nothing to me but cheap wages and poverty, so I called a guy in Austin who’d told me I could move in with him, but in the two weeks since he told me I could he’d changed his mind. Gay men they never change they’re always as fickle as hell and always will be.

I got a copy of the Midland paper and began looking for some place cheap to rent. I was almost out of money and I was scared as hell. I saw a room for rent ad and I called the lady. She has one bedroom for twenty dollars a week and another with its own bathroom for thirty dollars a week. I drove over to look at them. The house was neat and clean rather little old lady looking, but the lady worked nights, so I would have the house all to myself. I chose the twenty dollar a week room because funds were tight and she’d let me pay by the week. I drove back, packed my car and started moving into Kate’s house. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a friendship that would last until Kate’s death in April of 2003. I lived with her for about three years then and then moved back in for another couple of years from 1982, to 1983. There were many nights I cried myself to sleep in that house because I was so worried about finances. I broke my glasses and couldn’t afford new ones, so I had to find a kind jeweler in Odessa, who soldered them back together for me. I was flat broke, but little did I know what great things were about to happen.

A year or so before that before my short tenure with the Air Force I’d decided I wanted to be a car salesman and not just any car salesman I wanted to sell Cadillac’s. I’d been in love with them since I was a little boy and was taken in by those huge fins. I read about them, studied them and even knew the names of some of the colors. Back then Cadillac’s were like no other car in the world. I felt like the metal they were made from was blessed by the Pope. I had to find a job quickly and I soon found two. I worked for Pizza Hut during the day and I was a relief manager for all the Midland theaters at night. I was back to working almost eighteen hours a day again, but I’d done it before, so I figured I could do it again.

By the time May rolled around it was hot as hell and the Buick didn’t have air conditioning. I could feel the heat from the straight eight engine coming right through the floor boards. I happened to pass the Cadillac dealership one day and I noticed a maroon 1968 Sedan De Ville on the used car lot. It had a white vinyl top and maroon brocade interior, it was beautiful. A salesman came out and greeted me and told me they were asking eighteen hundred and ninety five dollars for it. He let me drive it, the air conditioning felt like heaven and it drove like a dream. I asked him to look at my Buick and tell me what he could give me for it. He had to make some calls, but with all the money I’d spent on restoring it including the real wide whitewall tires he just couldn’t get anyone to make him a decent offer on it. We parted as friends and I went on driving the Buick.

I decided I would try and get a job selling cars any kind of cars just so I could get some experience. I tried the Ford dealership and they wanted to put me on in the make ready department. The Lincoln dealership had me come back a second time, but decided they wanted someone with experience. I never even thought of going to the Cadillac dealership thinking they would just laugh in my face. I was just a twenty one year old kid after all. Then one day I was sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch and reading the want ads and there was this tiny ad for a used car salesman at the Cadillac dealership. I thought of the salesman named Terry who I’d talked to down there and I found his card and called him. It turned out he was the used car manager and the owner’s son-in-law, I couldn’t believe it. He had me come down and talk with him. I ran home between jobs and put on the only suit I owned, a polyester plaid in shades of red and white to go for my interview. I told him I didn’t have any experience, but I knew a lot about Cadillac’s. I kept thinking, “Man, if I can get a job selling used cars and I work real hard maybe they’ll let me sell new cars after a year or so.” On my third trip to meet with him he said, “Sam, I have some bad news.” My heart sank. “The position in used cars has been filled, but would you consider selling new cars?” “Would I?” I thought I was going to die right there. He took me to meet the new car manager and after we talked for fifteen minutes he hired me on the spot. It was Friday and he wanted me to start on Monday, so I went home on a cloud and quit my other two jobs. That Saturday night I took Rusty out to celebrate and spent my last one hundred dollars on a lobster dinner, dumb, I know. That Monday I got a brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass demo to drive and started learning everything I could about Cadillac’s and Oldsmobile’s. It was the happiest day of my life. Within two years I was the top new car salesman at the dealership.

Sometime in 1979 they hired this guy named Jon. He seemed nice enough at first, but I soon found out he was petty and jealous of my success. He started doing the most unbelievable things to me, like calling me “Fag” and “Queer” and telling me to “Suck his dick.” If I left paperwork out anywhere he would hide it, he scratched the paint on a new Cadillac I was to deliver the next day. He poured paint remover all over two new Eldorado’s in the make ready area one of which I had sold. This kind of shit went on for two years and I couldn’t get the new car manager Bennie to do anything about him. Jon once told me, “I know something about Bennie and I can assure you he’ll never fire me.” It must have been true because he would follow me home and just sit outside my apartment in his car. I did find out later that Bennie was a convicted felon. He’d embezzling almost ten thousand dollars from a dealership he’d worked for back in 1965.

Once Jon took a new Eldorado off the showroom floor and delivered it to a man I’d sold it to earlier that morning, when I’d already made an appointment to deliver it that afternoon. He somehow got a key to my desk and would lock it when I was outside with a customer, so that when I returned I couldn’t even open it to get my paperwork out. Then if I left the showroom it would mysteriously unlock itself. A friend of mine and I spent thirteen hours detailing a 1976 Black Eldorado convertible I owned and left it in the shop at 1:00 AM on Monday morning, and when I got to the dealership at 7:00 AM to move out of the mechanics way the car had been keyed down to the metal on both sides. All the while Bennie kept telling me there was nothing he could do about it because I couldn’t prove it and what Jon did after hours was out of his control. I once left right after work on Saturday to drive to Odessa and I was headed down Highway 80 in my black Eldorado convertible. I approached a guy on a motor cycle and started to pass him when I noticed it was Jon. I swear to God it was all I could do not to jerk the wheel back to the right and run his ass over. I wondered where I’d hide the car and where I’d take it to get it fixed without being caught. That’s how crazy that bastard had made me, now days he would never be able to get away with any of that shit.
One day one of the older salesmen told me he’d heard a rumor that Jon and another salesman Stan were going to go to Bennie and tell him that if he didn’t fire me they were going to quit. I asked him, “What should I do?” and he said, “I’d just go to Bennie and ask him.” so I did. Bennie got the books out and said, “Sam, last year you sold two hundred and forty four cars. Jon and Stan combined only sold two hundred eleven. Now who do you think I’d fire if they came to me and threatened something like that?” I went home feeling a lot better, but a week later as I was the last salesman leaving the dealership Bennie called me into his office and told me he was going to have to let me go. You could tell he was just sick about it and he even said, “Don’t blame yourself for this. You’ve set sales records at this dealership that will probably never be broken.” He gave me two extra weeks pay and even offered to let me drive my demo for a couple of weeks if I needed it. It was March 10th, 1981 and I’d been there almost five years. I was twenty six years old and I’d just lost a job I loved through no fault of my own. That was on a Tuesday and the next Monday Jon gave them his two week notice. He’d already gotten another job with an oil company and he was just trying one last ditched effort to get me fired and it worked.

I had just bought the book “Getting Even”, and I thought I’d give Jon a dose of his own medicine. Terry had told me to start fighting back, so I called while I was still selling Cadillac’s to put a “Moving Sale” ad in the paper. I listed all kinds of things like oil paintings, antiques, and oriental rugs, and gave them his address and phone number for the next weekend. They said all moving sale ads had to be paid for in advance. I didn’t want to go down there in person and have them see me, so I called back the next day and placed an ad to sell his personal car for a really cheap price. I’d found a job three days later at the Buick dealership two blocks down the street and Bennie even had the gall to call me and ask me if I’d placed the car ad. I lied and said no, but what difference did it make anyway? It was outside of work wasn’t it? I think his phone rang off the hook with calls about that car. Well, little did I know someone at the paper went ahead and printed the “Moving Sale” ad the next weekend and there were people ringing his door bell at 6:00 AM that Saturday. I was shocked, but I thought it was funny as hell. They said people swarmed his house all weekend.

While I was going through my customer files as I was writing letters to all my customers to let them know I was now selling Buicks. Every time I came across a card with Jon’s name on it where we’d split the commission on a deal I would scratch through his name and think, “I wish you were dead you bastard!” The next weekend I guess Jon decided to take a fishing trip because a bunch of the guys at the dealership had taken one about three weeks before and hadn’t invited him because they couldn’t stand his loud mouth and smart ass ways. I didn’t know anything about it until Monday morning when the used car manager at the Buick dealership walked across the street and told us that two salesmen from the Cadillac dealership had been shot and killed over the weekend. He said one of them was named Jon, but he didn’t pronounce his last name right. The owner had warned me that the other salesmen would “jack” with me any chance they got, so I thought it was some kind of joke. I snuck to an empty office and called one of the ladies at the Cadillac dealership to ask her and she told me Jon had been killed, but she didn’t know who the other guy was. I was hoping it had been Stan, but it was one of his friends who worked for the phone company. I couldn’t help myself I just laughed right in her ear. After the two years of pure hell Jon had put me through I couldn’t believe it. When I called my mother she said, “See I told you, God couldn’t wait to get that evil bastard and he just got his quicker than most. On my way home that night in my new Buick Regal demo I bought a couple of those “Club” canned cocktails, and I drove past Jon’s house and gave him a toast, then went home and cranked up the stereo and discoed all around the apartment kicking my legs high in the air, drinking and laughing.

In the days and weeks to follow I found out that they’d gone fishing on a river somewhere near San Angelo. Apparently in Texas if there is a river running through someone’s property you can go fishing wherever you want to as long as you don’t set foot on the shore it’s not trespassing. They were fishing on this seventy five year old man’s river and all the locals knew he was crazy and would shoot at anyone on the river to scare them off, but when he shot at Jon and his buddy Jon shot back. His friend was found in three feet of water with five bullets in him and Jon was found in the boat with eight bullets in him. I know they dredged the water looking for Jon’s gun, but they never found it. I think the old man spent some time in the Big Spring mental facility, but I don’t know what ever happened to him. There was an article in the Midland paper that the motor cycle gang Jon belonged to was going to come in from Missouri to “avenge” his death, real classy, huh?

My second experience with Karma wasn’t quite as exciting, but it did come. I went back to work at the Cadillac dealership in October 1984 and enjoyed it almost as much as I did the first time. It was the second happiest day of my life. The office I got was the new one they’d built in 1980 right on the corner of the showroom for Jon. As I sat down in the chair and began putting my things in the desk I thought, “I won you son of a bitch, I made it back and I won!”

My sales started getting better and I felt as if I’d never left. I actually quit for three weeks in April 1985 to take a job at a Cadillac dealership in Arlington, but I hated it and they hired me right back. In fact Bennie said, “Get your ass back up here before Terry hires one of his softball buddies.” Most of my customers didn’t even know I’d gone and I even got my same office back. Sometime in 1986 Terry did hire one of his softball buddies, but Shane seemed likeable and he and I got along fine. He once told me, “You know the rest of the guys here aren’t worth a shit. You’re the only competition I have at this dealership.” I thought it was a compliment at the time. I didn’t realize his mind was working on something. I knew he’d worked there one summer while he was still in college and on his last day the guy he worked with told them he’d been getting new car gas tickets and putting it in his own car. Someone called Shane at home and he drove back down to the dealership and beat the shit out of the guy. The guy had been injured getting his hand caught in a fan a week earlier and he had one of his arms in a sling that was really a fair fight. Someone from the Midas Muffler shop saw it and called the switchboard and told them to get someone over there before he killed the guy.

After having my three open heart surgeries I was back at work within a week each time. Then on March 22nd, 1988 Shane got pissed off at me over a car deal and told me he was going to rip my wig off and beat the hell out of me. I wore an expensive hair piece at the time. The next morning on the 23rd he punched me through my open car window as I was parking my car and did just that. Here I was less than ninety days after three open heart surgeries, five foot eight inches tall, weighing one hundred and sixty pounds and a guy who was five foot eleven two hundred twenty pounds broke my nose, tried to pull my hair piece off and as I bent over to pick my pen up he shoved me in the middle of my back and made me fall flat on my face. I tried to fight back, but I wasn’t much of a match. I had blood in my eye that didn’t go away for almost three weeks and I spent four hours in the emergency room. When I got back to the dealership they fired me for fighting, nothing was done to Shane. They were just pissed because I called the police and filed assault charges against him. I heard later that some of the other employees were furious because they knew I’d never start a fight and they knew Shane’s reputation from before. I decided they weren’t going to get away with it this time and I found a lawyer that would take my case on a contingency bases. He told me if I’d been black, Hispanic, or a female, I could own the dealership I could own the dealership, but being a gay white male there wasn’t shit I could do, but he hated bullies. I think a year and a half later I finally netted eight hundred dollars from the lawsuit, but I just wanted to let them know I wasn’t going to slink off in a corner this time.

They seemed to go right on with their jobs and their careers while I had to move in with friends in Dallas to try and find a job. I loved Midland and wanted to live there the rest of my life. I had a few drinks and called Shane one night while I was visiting Todd and Shane told me they’d all gotten what they deserved. Terry had decided to divorce the owner’s daughter, so the owner fired him and brought his other son-in-law in to run the place. No one liked his style, so Bennie quit after twenty five years and Shane had quit and was moving to east Texas. So three years after firing me none of them were there anymore.

My third experience was the most dramatic of all, but it did take a while. When I first went to work in Dallas there was this manager at an Oldsmobile dealership that I developed a strong love, hate, relationship with and it went on for fourteen years. He was a heavy drinker, but so were most of us and we could have a ton of fun sometimes. Rob loved playing practical jokes and sometimes they got a little out of hand. One day I left on an errand and when I got back they’d wrapped my entire desk in duct tape. The desk cost about eight thousand dollars and the owner would have killed them if he’d seen it. It took me forever to get the residue off my phone and other items. I was really pissed, but you learned not to let it show, or next time it would be worse. We always said Rob was the only person we knew who got a DWI on the showroom floor. What happened was there was this little dive of a bar a couple of blocks from the dealership and Rob had gone there one night with some of the guys. When he came back to the dealership to get his brief case the off duty Dallas police officer wouldn’t let him drive. He made Rob call a cab and Rob lived in Fort Worth. We laughed about that for years. He would wait until someone was in the bathroom and slide a whole row of lit “Black Cat” fire crackers under the door while the poor salesman was sitting on the toilet. A bunch of us decided we’d get him one day and the guys went through this elaborate plan of drilling holes through the wall of the sales manager’s office into his office, and hiding the wires under the chair pad. One of them bought some kind of detonator that worked by touching two wires to a battery. When Rob came in sober he was mean as a snake. He would stand in the middle of the showroom and look at each salesman. God help you if you made eye contact with him because he would belittle you and rip you up one side and down the other. You could tell by the look on his face when he got out of his car. Whoever spotted him first would warn the others by saying “Rob’s tweaked.” When he came in with a hangover all he wanted to do was to be left alone. That day he showed up looking like death warmed over and went in his office and shut the door. Glass surrounded all the offices and I was working the finance office next to his, so I had a clear view right in his office. When he sat down and slid his chair under his desk I gave a nod and they touched the wires to the battery. Two entire rows of “Black Cats” exploded under his desk and his office filled with thick, acrid smoke. All he could do was sit there and grin because he knew he had it coming to him.

Rob suspected I was gay and was having an affair with the finance manager. What they didn’t know was that we’d already moved in together. Bill and I had been very careful, I had a separate phone line into the house and I had a P.O. Box, but my checks had our shared address on them and Rob was so nosey he looked at a check I was writing one day. He didn’t say anything, but I know he recognized the address. Then he and the sales manager would call me when Bill was home sometimes in bed right beside me and ask where Bill was. I would say, “I have no idea where he is.” I guess they thought it was funny as hell.

I worked for Rob twice there and then twice ten years later in Fort Worth. I quit each time because it seemed every time he treated me worse and worse. He would get me to quit another job to come back to work for him by telling me he loved me, or missed me, or “Come on back here where people love you.” And each time I’d fall for it and come back to work for him. The last time in 1999 was the final straw. His hateful mean ways were worse than ever, but once when he had me so upset I was in tears he followed me on my way to the restroom in the service department and put his arms around me in a full body hug and told me he loved me.

He treated his wife in much the same manor, so I don’t know what kind of demons he was wrestling with. Once his business partner told me he’d met Rob when he’d “picked him up” in the airport in Lubbock. I knew his partner was gay, so I asked, “You mean picked him up, like you gave him a ride, or picked him up, like you had sex?” He just smiled, and wouldn’t answer me. Rob had a brother who was gay and an uncle too, so I think there were some issues there.
Back in 1988 and again in 1999 Rob would do this thing while I was sitting at my desk writing up a car deal as he was giving me the numbers. He would put his crotch on my elbow. Back in 1988 I just moved my arm like I was writing another line and I’ll be damned he would step forward and place his crotch there again right in the middle of the showroom. In 1999 when he did it to me I moved my elbow up and down against his package and he jumped back. I looked up and asked, “Was it good for you?” He just laughed.

One night soon after I started working for him again we attended a party for his new business partner Joe who I liked a lot. He had worked for Rob since 1988 and they were in the process of opening up more dealerships of their own. I didn’t know anyone there, so I was uncomfortable and had too much to drink, so Rob offered to take me home, so I wouldn’t have to drive. We were gone a long time and I found out the next day he told everyone I was so drunk I couldn’t find my own apartment and we had to drive around and around. I guess that’s as good as “We ran out of gas”, or “Had a flat tire”, but a whole lot more than that happened when we got to my apartment. After that I was a marked man with Rob. I think he was so ashamed by what we did he couldn’t stand to have me around, so he just got meaner and meaner. Once he wanted me to type up a deal in some strange way, so I asked Paul to explain it to me and he couldn’t understand it either, so Paul called Rob at home as he was getting ready for a trip out of town. Rob told Paul to have me pick up the phone, and he began screaming at the top of his lungs, “THIS IS NOT FIRST GRADE! THIS IS NOT FIRST GRADE!” He proceeded to scream at me so loud and so long Paul could hear it through the phone. When he was through with his rant I just lost it. I had to get up and close the door because I began sobbing uncontrollably and couldn’t stop. One of the guys felt so bad for me he went out and brought me some lunch and told me I needed to eat something. Everyone kept wondering why Rob kept on treating me so badly. I think he felt he could get away with it because I’d filed bankruptcy and Rob talked me into selling my car because he’d given me a demo. He knew I couldn’t buy another car and he felt he had me right under his thumb where he wanted me. Once, I walked outside where he and Joe were talking to a friend of theirs and the guy had this little dog. Rob said, “You’d better watch out that dog bites queers.” I said, “Oh, has he been nipping at your heels?” Joe busted out laughing, but I could tell Rob was pissed.

It was about that time I began plotting his murder. I bought a set of serrated knives because I read that they caused more damage when you stabbed someone. I have a painting in my bathroom that I painted with those knives I bought, I call it “Angry Tears”. I even took his gun out of his desk one night when I knew his wife was out of town because I was thinking of shooting him and making it look like a suicide. He was left handed, so I had to remember to shoot him on the left side of his head.
When I told my mother my plan she and my father drove up in two cars the next day and she gave me my grandmother’s 1988 Cadillac, a credit card with a seven thousand five hundred dollar limit on it, and said, “Now you get away from that son of a bitch”. Rob didn’t like it one bit that I suddenly had a way to get out from under him.

Every time I’d go into work and he wasn’t there I’d ask Paul where he was and he’d say in Mexico, or Ruidoso, and I’d grin and cross my fingers and ask, “Did he fly?” If he said yes, I’d look up, and hold my hands in prayer and say “Oh Lord, please, please, please?” Paul would say, “Sam, if anything happened to him you’d feel terrible.” I’d just look at him and say, “No I wouldn’t.”

After I quit that summer and went to work for the Porsche dealership I didn’t see him very often, I didn’t want to. I was terribly happy at my new job and told him once I’d finally found a home. He’d call from time to time to check on me and once he came down to see about buying a new Jaguar for his wife. It was in a different department under a different manager, but he still insisted I wait on him. When I gave him the figures on the car he called back and cussed me out because the manager hadn’t told him about twelve hundred dollars of dealer money the car had on it. I thought “I don’t have to take his shit anymore why don’t I just tell him to go fuck himself?” I held my tongue because of all the years and things between us and because I figured I might need him someday. In fact a few months later I went with my parents to buy a new 2002 Dodge truck from the dealership he’d set up for Joe in Brownwood. Rob later called me in August to thank for the purchase. Little did I know it would be the last time I’d ever speak to him.
On a Friday night November 8th, 2002 my phone rang. The television was still on, but I was asleep. It was my mother and I could tell she was upset. She told me it was just on the local news that Rob and Joe had been killed in a plane crash in Flagstaff on their way to Midland. I couldn’t find anything about it on my local news channels, so I got up and searched for Paul’s cell phone number. I called Paul and sure enough Rob, Joe, another guy, and their pilot had flown to Las Vegas to a car show and were on their way home with a stop off in Midland for re fueling when the wings iced over and the plane spiraled to the ground from seventeen thousand feet. When I called and told mother she said, “Rob got what he deserved, Joe and the other guys didn’t, but that’s what happens when you shake hands with the devil.”

I’ve related these stories about Karma to others and their remark is usually, “Remind me never to piss you off!”

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