It was because of the pay phone at the Doug Out Bar and Grill that the Swinging Fatbob came to be the owner of the Turbo Bus. Here's the story.
The pay phone at the bar had been broken for years - the OUT OF ORDER napkin taped to it had already turned yellow and the words were pretty illegible. All the locals knew it was broken and never tried to use it, but whenever strangers tried, they would peer at the napkin, trying to decipher the message there, before feeding their quarters into the slot only to have those same quarters speeeeeeeeewed back from the coin return.
What finally convinced Doug that the phone should be replaced is a matter of conjecture, nobody is really sure, including Doug himself. In any case, one day there was a brand-new shiny-chromish pay phone sitting on the wall above the phone books, and everyone noticed.
Those who tried to use the phone noticed also that if their call did not connect - if the line was busy or nobody home - the phone would steal their money. This presented no real problem, since Toni, the bar maid would refund the lost change. Toni told Doug, but he didn't care. All he had to say was, "it's a profit center now."
But, the one day that Doug was sitting at the bar while five people in a row lost money in the phone tried his decidedly incendiary temper. When the Swinging Fatbob lost 35 cents and walked down the bar to tell Doug, Doug exploded, thundering in his capacious voice, "if you don't know how to use a phone, stay away from it."
The Fatbob took this as an affront, and after a few moments of stewing, returned down the bar to discuss it with Doug, who by that time had cooled down. This discussion that followed in no way ameliorated Doug's hair-trigger temper, so he was primed for the events that followed.
A stranger, unknown to any, entered the bar a few minutes later to use the phone, unaware of the emotional tinderbox into which he was placing himself. Seeing him, the Swinging Fatbob took it upon himself to warn the fellow about the pay phone, but whether he was not believed or whether the fellow needed badly to make the call, the stranger began to put money in the phone.
Evidently, the call was not completed, because the fellow - perhaps miffed that he had failed to heed the warning - SLAMMED the receiver down on the cradle. So hard, in fact that the entire phone crashed from the wall to the floor with a THUMP that immediately silenced the room.
Silenced the room, that is, except for Doug, who rose to his feet blasting like a fog horn on a dark night, "I guess today's the day and I guess you are the guy." As he lumbered down the bar, a great behemoth of a man, his invective became sharper and louder, threatening the stranger with bodily harm and use of the reposing pay phone as a sexual utensil.
The stranger kept his wits and in fact seemed mildly amused. He was still holding the telephone receiver in his hand and would pull the pay phone a wee bit by the cord like a recalcitrant, chromate pet. Doug's bellowing didn't seem to bother him at all. But once Doug confronted him at close quarters, using his massive corpulence to force the smaller, slighter stranger back against the cooler by the Ladies' room, his sense of humor seemed to evaporate. And when Doug might have bumped him with his belly the stranger bounced into the cooler and then in a pile of cardboard boxes by the kitchen, he reached the end of his tether.
Rising to his feet, he placed a well-considered kick into Doug's crotch area, evidently reaching his mark as Doug slowly and gracefully assumed a supine position on the floor next to the phone. The stranger calmly walked over to the bar, the gawkers all separating out of his way, and politely asked Toni, who was tending bar, to call the police, which - of course - she did.
By the time that the police arrived, Doug was back on his feet, although his temper had not abated. He was still berating the stranger with predictions of dire and woeful events to occur once the police arrived, but such was not to be. The police arrived, determined that Doug had been drinking and the stranger had not, determined that the phone had been fastened to the wall with four drywall-screws into 1/4 inch plywood (possibly reusing the holes from the last phone), and determined that Doug had verbally abused and threatened the stranger, threatened sexual penetration with a foreign object (the pay phone was made in Taiwan) as well as physically attacking him.
The arrival of the police had not slowed Doug down in the least. He occupied one officer with rantings and threats while the other took information from the stranger and some of the by-standing patrons, including the Swinging Fatbob. But when the policeman asked for identification from the fellow, and he turned out to be T Elsworth Higgle, the famous lawyer, the man who broke up Sohio and threw the Gund brothers out of the Coliseum. Doug finally shut up. It was a very sudden transition.
Two weeks later when the court papers came, informing Doug that the famous lawyer had hired Banes and Coatworthy - lawyers even more famous than himself, to sue Doug and the Doug Out for an unspecified amount of damages, was when Doug's infamous temper reappeared. He ripped the entire package of papers into wee little shreds, spewing them around the bar to the dismay of Toni, who would have to sweep them up before going off shift.
But his temper was tried even more later in the day when the Swinging Fatbob came in the bar with a letter packaged similarly to Dougs, requesting his appearance in front of the court. In fact, within the hour, three other regulars appeared with the same package, The Holy Wanker, Slick Rick and Corn Dog. All had been questioned by the cops as witnesses of the incident, their names had gone into the police report as witnesses to the incident and now T Elsworth intended to use them in court as witnesses to the incident
The way things worked out, there was no "quid pro quo", as the newsmen say when they talk about the illegal antics of our representatives in Washington, but Doug told Toni that all of the subpeonaed-four were to have unlimited tabs from now until court day, and that he'd cover all of those tabs. Obviously, Doug expected to waylay the wheels of justice, short-circuiting it in his direction. The four - Fatbob chief among them - made clear that they would not be going to court and lying for Doug, but Doug felt he was a better judge - if not manipulator - of human nature than were they.
But in that he was quickly proved wrong. In the weeks that followed, one of the Flab-four (as they came to be called) quit his job and another took extended vacation for the purposes of exploiting Doug's fit of generosity. The Swinging Fatbob wasn't working at the time, so he started coming in earlier and earlier, until Toni finally gave him a copy of the key so he could open up in the morning. Only the Corn Dog held onto his old drinking habits.
And, as you might expect, the tabs rose to greater and greater heights as time passed - especially after the first and second continuations to the case. At first the four were buying drinks for all of the rset of us - but Doug put the ke-bosh on that pretty quickly. In response, they started competing with each other to see who could run the highest tab each week. The four finally stabilized at a total figure of about $120 a day, which mounted up to close to four grand a month.
Doug started to think that he had made a mistake, but could not very well abandon the project at that late date. Too much water under the bridge, as it were. Even when the total of the tabs exceeded $11,000, Doug still felt that he was investing his money rather than frittering it away. Besides, that $11,000 figure was the retail value of the tabs. It wasn't really costing Doug that much.
And - as you might also expect - the affair had various effects on the foursome as well. The Swinging Fatbob, in particular, added about 30 pounds to his normally lean frame. He had also made semi-permanent arrangements to be dropped off and picked up at the bar at pre-appointed times, thus avoiding the problem of having to limit his drinking because of the need to drive, allowing him to focus his entire attention on the matter at hand.
Wanker was fired from his job as crane operator at the construction of the new stadium up in Cleveland, and although he blamed a foreman with a grudge, everyone else blamed his blinding morning hangovers, evidently a liability in a heavy equipment operator. But he wasn't unhappy. Unemployment insurance and free beer assuaged his sorrow. Slick Rick was self-employed, being a burglar by trade and a first-class second-story man to boot, and although his business took a plunge because of Doug's largess, he didn't seem to mind at all.
The Corn Dog - since he would not increase the volume of his alcohol consumption - instead switched to the trendy, upscale imported beers, drinking the entire stock of such rarities as Old Crustacean and East Indian Port Lager in the green bubble bottle. This was his only hope for maintaining a position in the weekly-tab competition. More than the need to order twice as many kegs each week, Doug noticed the change in the order for imported beers. Noticed and wept. But still he would not be deterred from his course.
Spring changed into Summer and Summer was starting to degenerate into Autumn, when the actual court date came around. No more continuations. The real thing was looming. And then the bottom fell out of Doug's plan.
First was Wanker. He was offered a new job - a better, higher paying job - down in Mexico, and although he was loath to leave the land of the free bar tab, he realized that opportunity doesn't waste a long time knocking, and suddenly he was gone forever, or at least for long enough to guarantee that there would only be three impartial witnesses at the trial.
Next was Corn Dog. It was a bottle of Hamberschmidt's Lager gone bad that put him down. You connoisseurs of imported beer know that Hamberschmidt's always has a skunk taste and a heavy aroma, and so did Corn Dog, so he finished the bottle that a wiser person may have dumped. It was in the early hours of the following morning that Corn Dog's wife drove him to the emergency room.
Unfortunately, Corn Dog's wife wasn't familiar with the reputation of the hospital to which she took him. I'd tell you the name, but their lawyers are much better than their doctors and it would be dangerous to identify them (suffice it to say that if you have to take me to the emergency room, take me to any emergency room other than Medina County Hospital).
Mistaking Corn Dog's symptoms for appendicitis, the medical team immediately took him into the surgery amphitheatre where they proceded to explore inside his lower abdomen and trunk for the appendix which had been removed at the age of 16. When they finished with him. he was little more than a sack of parts in need of lengthy recuperation. He was in the hospital for two months following the surgery. A court appearance was out of the question.
And then it was Slick Rick. While burgling a house up in Bratenahl, after a hard night of tab-drinking at the Doug Out, he slipped and fell from the roof, suffering a list of injuries longer than Doug's menu of imported beers. And just to make matters worse, it happened at the end of the burglary job, so the evidence was right there next to him on the ground when the Bratenahl police showed up. The upshot was a prolonged stay in the county workhouse and Doug was down to only one friendly witness - the Swinging Fatbob.
With less than a week to go, the Fatbob was enjoying this life. Doug was taking him out to dinner at the fancy-shmancy Stagehouse Inn up in Brecksville, and when customers peered in the imported beer cooler, Fatbob could give them an accurate, educated review of each potential selection. His brother would drop him off in the morning about 8 AM on the way to work, and the Fatbob would amuse himself with the beer tap until Toni showed up and opened the bar at 10:30. By then Fatbob would have the floor swept and mopped and all the tables cleared, as much to have something to do as to help out.
Other regulars would show up during those hours between 8 and 11, some skipping out on work or stopping on delivery runs and others who were out of work just stopping by. Some would help with the chores and others wouldn't, but all of them left money for Doug to cover their drinks and so Doug was happy.
One morning the Buggyman stopped in for a fast snort and he and the Swinging Fatbob were sitting at the end of the bar by the window watching the traffic pass through the intersection outside. The Fatbob was waxing philosophic about events of the day when the Buggyman stopped him: "Isn't today Doug's court date?"
The Swinging Fatbob dismissed the possibility. "That's not until the 22nd," he said.
"Friday, the 22nd?" Buggyman asked, but the Fatbob didn't reply because the truth of the matter was starting to dawn on him. It indeed was the day to appear in court, and in fact it was almost the appointed hour of 9:00.
"Let me use your car," Fatbob sprang to his feet. "I can just make it."
"Sure," Buggyman replied, "but I brought the Slow Bus."
That stopped the Swinging Fatbob cold in his tracks. And sure enough, instead of one of his dune buggy fleet, the Buggyman was driving his 1966 bus, painted carnival red and famous for being the slowest vehicle on the road.
This, of course, presented quite a quandary. The Swinging Fatbob was due in court momentarily, but the only ride available would be unable to deliver him before the afternoon. Richfield, like most of the United States, has only vestigial forms of mass transit, depending instead upon the premise that What's Good for General Motors is Good for America, a premise that has resulted in massive air pollution, inflation, and the quandary in which the Swinging Fatbob found himself.
With no alternatives at hand, the Fatbob decided that the slow bus was better than none, and that he owed it to Doug to at least try. "Alright," he grumbled, "let's take a look at the summanabitch."
So long as the Buggyman had owned the Slow Bus, it had been unable to go faster than 25 mph, even though he had tried tuning it and replacing heads and even installing larger tires. The problem was not that the bus ran poorly - it sounded fine and used little oil - the problem was that the engine had no power.
Buggyman handed the Fatbob the keys, and the Fatbob started the bus and left the Buggyman in charge of the Doug Out, then - with a minor clashing of gears - he was off down the road.
Less than thirty seconds later he was back, wheeling the bus into the lot and pulling up in front of the bar. The Buggyman emerged from the building about the same time that the Fatbob emerged from the vehicle to say, "You caulkhead - the throttle's not opening all the way."
And sure enough, upon examination the problem was revealed. When the gas pedal was completely depressed, the throttle lever on the carb would only open about 1/4 of the way, resulting in no power for the engine. Within moments, Fatbob had pinpointed the source of the problem as the hopelessly bent and mis-aligned throttle linkage directly under the gas pedal.
But there was no time to repair that then, even if it was repairable. The Fatbob had an imminent court appearance and a quick, on-the-road repair was called for. So, finding a ball of twine in the drawer under the bar cash register, Fatbob tied a length of string from the front of the throttle cable to the front of the bus, then back through the hole in the floor for the gas pedal linkage and then up past the dash all the way to the fresh air vent control on the ceiling air box.
And so the Swinging Fatbob was on the road in the Slow Bus, but the Slow Bus was slow no more. By pulling on the string, Fatbob was able to apply full throttle to the engine and keep up with traffic on I-77 heading up to Cleveland. He even passed a couple other vehicles.
Unfortunately, the entire affair had taken a bit of time, and even in the revamped Slow Bus, he was a little late for court. But luckily, that didn't matter, as Doug, in the absence of any of his friendly witnesses, had settled with T Elsworth and his legal team for an undisclosed amount that might have been just an apology, because Doug was happy even after he found out how much it cost him to have the Fatbob leave the Buggyman in charge of the Doug Out for a couple hours. The entire affair was closed and behind him.
When the Swinging Fatbob got back to Richfield, the first thing he did was buy the Slow bus from the Buggyman, who gave him a good price on it. These days the string has been replaced with a thin cable that traverses a pulley and comes through the floor in its own hole. And it isn't tied to the ceiling any more. There is a nice lever with a walnut handle mounted on the dask with the legend inscribed on a dyno-tape label that says "TURBO" on it.
The free tabs at the Doug Out are now only a thing of legend, and Doug has learned to mind his temper - and I believe him, and everything is back to normal in Richfield, except of course, that the Slow Bus is now known as the Turbo Bus.
But you have to expect change sometimes.
c 1998 Air Cooled Volkswagen Junkyard of Richfield, Ohio http://www.acvwjyro.com "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.