This is the story of how Aunt Mary came to acquire those junk Volkswagens that sit in the field out behind her trailer...
The company that Mary was working for , Acme-Credenza International,had taken the politically correct stand of forbidding smoking in the building some years before, and as at so many facilities, nicotine-addicted employees were forced to stand outside in rain, sleet and snow, in order to indulge. Anymore, this is not an uncommon sight, occurring outside most public buildings and many private ones. In fact, these days at almost any Courthouse in the land, you can always identify which guys are cops - not by handcuffs in the back pocket - but because the cops are the only ones smoking inside the building.
Anyway, Acme-Credenza figured that it was cheaper to make employees step outside rather than adopt a smoking lounge or some other approach. Eventually, this too changed. One Spring, after the snow and ice had disappeared, exposing the winter-long collection of cigarette butts on the asphalt and concrete. The word came down from on high:
"Smokers may smoke in their cars, but not elsewhere on the company property"
On one hand, this edict was actually an improvement in the situation of the smoking workers, because it forced them to get out of the inclement weather and actually cut down the number of cases of colds and flu among them. But on the other hand, those people who parked furthest away from the building were the most effected.
Now at the time Mary was driving the conversion package van with the electric bed and furnace, so it was only a matter of time before Mary was inviting smoking co-workers to her vehicle for break. One thing leading to another, her co-workers were asking to use the van themselves, when Mary was occupied inside the building. This situation worried Mary a bit, especially when she found that someone had bent the electric bed, so she began casting around for an alternative.
The solution to which Mary finally arrived was the purchase of Big Blue, a 76 Westphalia with debilitating rust around the periphery that was languishing away down in Charlie Palmer's yard, slated for eventual delivery to the scrap yard. Charlie Palmer gave Mary a great deal on the bus, and she got most of the smokers to kick in a couple dollars. The interior was perfectly suited to becoming a smoking lounge, and the only drawback was the inability to seat more than nine people simultaneously.
Big Blue was mobile after a fashion, but Mary left it sit in the same parking place right next to the side entrance to the Acme-Credenza building, adjacent to the Security office where Don could keep an eye on it. For a while Mary was unlocking Big Blue in the morning and locking it again at night, but in short order it was being used by all three shifts.
After a while someone ran a phone wire out, and there was an AC extension cord to run the space heater and the small color television. After a couple of months, Mary ran into another VW van (she named it "Big Black" and painted it black) to sit one parking place away from Big Blue, side doors facing. Some guy from Shipping brought in a tarpaulin that was hung between the two vehicles, providing sort of an atrium or portico populated with folding chairs, and the seating increased to three dozen.
When the company held its annual picnic there in the parking lot, Big Black-N-Blue, as the pair of vans came to be called, was the center of the party, much as the smoking car used to be the place on the AMTRAK train where everybody (smokers and non-smokers alike) would congregate - a custom, alas, which has vanished much as AMTRAK itself is soon to vanish, the victim of political correctness.
The morons who run AMTRAK have banned smoking on the train citing second hand smoke for justification. Evidently, they can't open the windows on a train running 60 miles an hour to ventilate the smoking car or perhaps they are just thinking of the environment. Mind you, there is no holding tank for toilets on the AMTRAK; you can see the tracks going by underneath when you flush, and that's why they have those signs about not flushing when the train is in the station. So smoking hasn't been banned from the train because of second-hand smoke; it has been banned because the knucklehead cognicetti of AMTRAK think that they don't need those smoking passengers (as a non-smoker, I'll tell you there used to be a lot of smoking passengers) on the most expensive form of public transportation in the nation today. Your tax dollars pay their salaries. Write your Congressman.
And after the company picnic, there was a keg of beer left over, so it got moved to Big Black-N-Blue, and for the ensuing weeks, non-smoking workers would take their breaks there as well. The beer keg never seemed to catch the eye of higher authorities at Acme-Credenza, although some said this was because a number of managers would also take regular 3:00 breaks and have a beer or two.
The keg proved so successful that upon its depletion, it was mysteriously replenished, evidently by a collection taken among the drinking employees. This situation continued for the remainder of the summer, and Mary was looking for a third junk van to add to the growing community when the cooler weather of Fall appeared.
Suddenly, the temperature was uncomfortable for the beer-swilling workers gathered in the portico. They quickly took up positions sitting in either Big Blue or Big Black, and it was only a matter of days before some of them started complaining about second-hand cigarette smoke. And as you know, the step from complaints to official action is usually a near one.
So one day, there was a decree that there would be no more smoking permitted in Big Black-N-Blue, and "No Smoking" signs were placed on the side doors of each vehicle. The smokers, of course, were non-plussed, and they retired to their cars as they had before. Mary locked up the vans and eventually had them towed to her house where they double as storage sheds and guest accomodations.
And now the employees of Acme-Credenza who wish to wet their palates must sneak out of work and up to the local bar. Like AMTRAK, the poor shleps had a good thing going but brought ruination down on their own heads in a manner right out of a Greek tragedy.
See? Everything always works out in the end. Tell them you heard it here first.
c 1996 Air Cooled Volkswagen Junkyard of Richfield, Ohio "Where Advice Is Always Free" (216)659-3638 This story may be distributed only if it is not altered in any way and is distributed freely without charge.