Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Only Me- Chapter 27- Kids and Jobs and Donuts

Sept 1985 found me back in Baltimore with an instant family. Sue had, as I have mentioned, 2 sons. Keith was 10 and Shane was going to be 8. They were typical kids, a bit starved for attention, but overall just average, hell raising, boys.

I really didn't have any problems with them. The hardest part was that they were very competitive for my attention and at first I was overwhelmed. I had just come from a lifestyle in which I was responsible solely for myself. Suddenly,I had to worry about homework, baths, getting breakfast etc.

Playing with them was also hard, I had been in the company of grown men for the last 10 years. Children were something I heard about but seldom had any interaction with. How do you handle it when you play ball with 2 boys and one of them has to win and one of them is going to cry? I had no clues....

So I forged ahead, doing the best I could. I only hope that in their memories I was not an ogre, but perhaps a stabilizing influence as well as a pain in the ass! There were fun times too, especially when I would take them somewhere one on one. We were getting to know one another and I was becoming less afraid of the responsibility.

At the same time that I was trying to adjust to this "instant father" stuff I was also trying to find some meaningful employment. My only forte at the time was mathematics and Navigation. I had no idea what to do, so I answered all ads.

To begin with I had no idea what "minimum wage" was. It had been awhile since I made $2.50 an hour in the paint factory. It was now 11 years later and the minimum wage was now only $3.35 per hour! So I started at a Royal Farms Convenience Store as a clerk, working nights and waiting for a better job to rear it's head. It took 5 days.

The donut delivery guy came every evening at 7PM and the donuts were fresh. They were made at Donut Delite on the site of the present day Camden Yard Stadium in Baltimore. We were horizontal to Babe Ruth's birthplace. Nearby was where the circus train unloaded the elephants each year and I would re-arrange my whole day to go and see them walk to the Arena.

Anyway, back to the donut guy. He was paying $5 an hour for a 6 hour day which beat what I was making in 8 hours. So I got hired on and assigned to a route that took me through 3 counties. It was at this job that I learned all the back roads of the adjacent counties. I had alot of freedom and all the donuts I could eat. It was 7 days a week with no holidays off.

Donnie Laws was the boss. He owned several routes and had vans for each one. They were specially fitted with racks for the donut trays to slide in and out easily. My job was to deliver the fresh donuts and remove the "day olds." Everything was done by Invoice, so we carried no cash.

Each day at 2 PM I would load up at Donut Delite and head out for my deliveries. Donnie was the type of guy who would think nothing of sending you out in a truck with no gas and a broken gas gauge. This was a constant source of irritation. That and the fact that he constantly referred to me as "that New York Jewboy" behind my back.

At the end of each day I would return the "day old" donuts to a trash bin located outside Donut Delite and across Martin Luther King Blvd. from the "projects." The kids who lived there had drug addicted parents and didn't get much in the way of treats. So each evening when I returned there was a crowd of kids waiting to ask for some of the "day olds." I would always give some away and throw the damaged ones in the trash bin. This bin would get picked up every two days and transported to the rail yard where it was shipped out to somewhere as "hog feed." When Donnie would catch me giving donuts away he would climb up on the dumpster and piss all over everything so that the kids would not get any treats. This was yet another sore point between us.

I was paid each Friday with a personal check- I was collecting Unemployment out of New York at the time. One Friday I was forwarned by another driver that Donnie was going to lay me off the following week on Wednesday. His brother in law needed the job. Then he was going to stiff me for the 3 days pay, knowing that I couldn't file a complaint due to the Unemployment issue. He was right about that, but there are other ways to skin a cat.

Taking his check over to his bank I cashed it. Getting back in the van I thought to myself, "How can I hurt this guy?" Inspiration came in a flash as I realized that I had about $1,500 worth of fresh donuts. And I was now also one day AHEAD in pay. Driving around in the city a bit I noticed that there were a lot of people sitting out on porches after the long winter had finally broken. It was now late April.

I pulled the truck up on a street that ran adjacent to North Avenue, in one of the poorer areas of the city. Stepping out into the early spring sun I shouted out, "Donuts, free donuts, fresh and warm!"

It was like a scene out of one of those jungle movies where the natives swamp the plane with arms outstretched for food. The trays were flying out faster than I could count and people were shoving bills in my hand, although I had not asked for any money!

Within minutes the van was stripped bare of donuts and I had to jump back in and race off. The rear doors were swinging wildly to shouts of, "Jack it up- get the wheels!"

I now had about $60 and 2 trays of donuts that I had stashed up front. I took these to Keiths Cub Scout Troop which was meeting nearby at the Harborplace that day. I was a hero to the kids as I handed out the donuts. I then parked the truck outside Donnies as usual, placing the keys in his mailbox and got in my car and drove home.

The next morning the phone rang and it was Donnie. He wanted to know where the donuts were. I feigned ignorance and then he let fly with what a donut stealing Jewboy I was and how he was gonna get me. I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about and not to call me anymore. I hung up, thinking that was the end of it. Sometimes you can be so wrong...

2 weeks later, on Mothers day, I was out front washing the car when a police car passed up and then down the street in front of our house. This was very unusual and should have clued me in, but it didn't.

Stepping out of the patrol car I was approached by an officer who asked me if I was "Bob" Williams. This should also have clued me in as everyone ashore called me Robert. But I answered yes and then was asked to step away from my vehicle. This guy was going to cuff me for something but I had no idea what! He explained that Donnie had filed a complaint and though the warrant was not in the officers possession he had the right to detain me while the warrant was delivered. I was able to talk him out of doing the handcuffs in front of the neighbors and kids and then got in the back of the car and was taken away. Around the corner he stopped and handcuffed me.

We arrived at the local county station house to await the warrant. I was placed in a common holding area which had 6 bunks and 7 inmates- my addition bought the total to 8. There was a phone, which I was not allowed to use, on the wall just outside of the cell. It was very strange being locked up but I knew that things would work out. It was really a question of how long I was going to be here. To make it worse, I was scheduled to start working on a horse farm in Elkridge the next morning at 8 AM. So I was a little worried about making it there on time. It was now 7 PM on Sunday.

I was the only white prisoner and thinking of the movie "Hard Times" with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Particularly the "I'm bad" scene. Just then the biggest black guy in there comes up to me and asks, "What'd you do?" I replied that I had stolen some donuts. This produced some laughter and a scornful "We got us a creampuff motherfucker!" There were now some suggestions being tossed about concerning what could be done with a creampuff when the oldest guy in there, who had been snoozing on heroin, came to life. He explained that "The white boy ain't no fool- them donuts be worth duckies!" Then he went back to sleeep.

The dynamics immediatley changed with everyone wanting to know how the donut thing worked and could they get in on it? I explained that Donnie went to the Royal Farms store on Security Blvd and Forest Park Drive every night at 7 PM. I also added that he carried alot of cash. You can imagine my joy when 3 weeks later Donnie was beaten and robbed at that location by a "big black guy."

Now that we were all friends they showed me how to use the phone. I had been calling out "Guard, Guard" and alternating that with "Officer, Officer" to no avail. The big black guy started to laugh and said, "Man, you new to this- you gotta do this to get the phone." He took his shoe of and started beating it against the wall while shouting "MOTHERFUCKER!!!" loudly over and over. This bought several guards. My new friend told the guard that "Whitebread needs to use the phone." The receiver was passed through the bars to me and the guard dialed O for Operator, instructing me to leave the receiver dangling when I was through. Prison Etiquette 101.

I called Sue, who was very upset, and explained that I would undoubtedly be late that night so don't wait up. I would call her when I knew something.

Shortly after this call the Warrant arrived and I was transported, again in handcuffs, to a Paddy Wagon and driven down to Baltimore City and the Southwest Precint. This was a very old jail on Ostend Street which has since been razed. I was placed in a private cell next door to the only other prisoner that day- a drunk who had been urinating in public- at Harborplace on Mothers Day- in full view of everyone there. He had been arrested by a female officer and was highly intoxicated and pissed off. So it was going to be a lonely night.

Around 1 AM on Monday morning I heard the cell block gate open and someone was at the cell next to mine asking the drunk some questions. He began by introducing himself as the "Pretrial Release Officer." I could tell by his voice that he was black and educated. He began asking the other prisoner questions, like his name and contact info. For every question asked he received a scathing racist reply. For instance, to the question "What is your address?" he replied, "I ain't telling nothing to no nigger so he can go to my house and rob it." The Pretrail Release Officer went from question to question without pause and never reacted to the abuse being heaped upon him.

When he came to my cell I was on my feet at attention and answered everything with a "Yes,sir." This really surprised him and he started to leaf through my charging documents. He looked at me and asked for some contact info. I gave him Sue's number and address and told him he could also call Military Sealift Command in Bayonne, New Jersey to verify my identity. Although I was no longer an employee my security clearance was valid for 2 more years and I figured it couldn't hurt. He was impressed with my bearing as well as my response. He told me that the warrant should never have been issued as it didn't satisfy the who, what, when, where and why required by the law. He could not dismiss the Warrant but could get me out without bail if my responses were all correct and could be verified at this hour. He left promising to return shortly.

About an hour later he came back with a guard and my cell was unlocked. I was taken to the Magistrates Office where I was told that I had been unjustly confined but that I still needed to go to trial. Advising me to seek counsel I was then released at 3 AM.

I got a cab home and woke Sue up so we could pay the driver. I got a few hours sleep before getting up and beginning my new job at Mr. Perry's horse farm. I would be making $7 an hour.

Mr. Perry was 83 years old and married to a woman 15 years his juinor. They had met one day in 1934 when Mr. Perry saw her crying at a bus stop. He approached her and told her that there was nothing in this world that couldn't be fixed. She explained that she was pregnant and unmarried. He married her and raised the kid!

A little background on Mr. Perry is in order here. He arrived in Baltimore in 1917 at the age of 15 years old. He got a job as a Conductor on the trolley and then started the Baltimore branch of the Transit Workers Union. He became President of the Union during the 1930's and never looked back. He was an evangelical Christain with great respect for the Jews. We spent many hours talking politics and religion while I worked hoeing his 1/4 acre vegetable garden with a short handled hoe while he sat in the shade wearing a Panama hat. I also took care of feeding and watering the horses that were stabled on his property.

Mr. Perry had bought the farm in 1964 as a buffer against Route 95 on his West side and the Airport on his Southern side and Baltimore City 4 miles to the North. He was way ahead of his time concerning ecology. He was also a pain in the ass. He would start yelling at me just like my Dad had- telling me, "Use the other hand!" At times like these I would stand close to him and let my foot fall softly on the tube for his oxygen tank. He would get shortwinded and quiet down, or else panic and send me for a spare tank. Either way- things got quieter.

It was an idyllic job and Mr. Perry was one of those people you meet that you love and hate at the same time. He gave me a $1 raise within 2 weeks, remarking that for a city boy I was the best worker he ever met. His only complaint was that I "didn't know a weed from a rosebush." I still have trouble with that.

The donut trial came up 30 days after my release and so I took the day off from Mr. Perry's to face the music in court. I was charged with Grand Larceny so this was serious. I had gotten a Public Defender but we had totally opposite opinions on how to deal with the charges. He wanted a jury trial- I wanted the Judge to decide right then and there on my guilt or innocence. In my opinion it would've have been disastrous for a Jury to have enough time to ponder any future evidence against me, while the Judge would be under pressure to arrive at a decision with the little evidence currently at hand.

The trial began and the Judge was a mean woman who apparently knew Donnie, so she was ready to throw the book at me. Donnie had not expected that I would forgo the Jury Trial so all he had was the Warrant which did not satisfy all the criteria necessary to have been issued in the first place.

We arrived at a point where the Judge said that "you would admit that you have stolen a days pay from Mr. Laws?" I replied that I had and reaching for my wallet offered to pay him the $30 in question. The Judge then screamed at me- "What did you do with the donuts?" My lawyer said not to answer but I did- I said, "I don't know what happened to them. You have to tell me." She yelled some more about the lack of definitive evidence and found me Not Guilty "against her better judgement." And so I was free.

Sue and I were now 3 weeks away from our wedding date of July 4th,1986. We had also just found out that we were expecting a baby!

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