Ten years ago today the world was consumed by the huge Y2K paranoia. In honor of that I'm going to share another postal story with y'all.
Remember Cliff Claven on Cheers. What about Newman from Seinfeld? Both of those fictional characters were a few stamps short of a full book. But guess what? I've worked with far crazier people in my years at the Ol' PO and perhaps the strangest of them all was a fellow named California Jim.
Now most Texas consider anybody from California a little bit off, but Jim was out there by any standard of the definition of crazy.
He dressed like a 60s sitcom star. Think Ward Cleaver. He wore thick black Buddy holly glasses and drove an old beat up 1960 something Ford Falcon. He had a mail order bride from I believe the Philippines and five or six kids. He also swore that drinking a shot of Hydrogen Peroxide every day would ward off both cancer and AIDS. And sure enough I witnessed him down a shot from the brown bottle of the solution every time he sat down for lunch.
California Jim worked evening 3:30 to midnight and for quite a few years so did I. I hadn't worked at the post office more than a few weeks when one day he sat down at the break table and enlightened me with this knowledge.
"Did you hear they are reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone?"
Now I'd never spoken to this man before so all I knew was the fact he appeared to be stuck in the decade of peace, love, and protests. Nodding, I said, "Yeah I heard that."
Casting a suspicious look to the left and then right Jim lowered his voice to a whisper, "Know why?"
"These wolves have been trained to protect a secret NATO compound buried in the center of the park. They attack anyone that gets to close." And with that California Jim got up and walked away.
Over the years via similar conversations he told me about black Helicopters, Israeli double agents, and Government crop dusters that flew over cities at night spraying all of us with mind altering chemicals.
So it came as no shock when on December 31st 1999 he showed up to work all in a dither about Y2K.
By that time I was on the day shift, so when Jim arrived a half hour early at 3 PM I was outside taking my final break before I clocked off at 3:30. I was not alone as four or five other guys were sitting around the smoking area in anticipation quitting time.
Jim walked up to us, sat his lunch box down on a picnic table and announced, "In two hours we'll all be dead."
There is one idiot in every crowd so sure enough someone piped up and asked, "Why is that?"
Jim needed very little encouragement so being asked why set him off like New Years bottle rocket. "That's when the clock strikes midnight in Moscow. They still have thousands of nuclear warheads pointed right at America and since we have Pantex (A nuclear facility located just East of Amarillo) you can bet several of those babies are aimed right at us. Yep. When their computer malfunction that will be the end of the world."
"You really believe the world is ending at 5 O'Clock today Jim?" Somebody asked.
"Damn right I do," Jim folded his arms across his chest proud to finally be receiving some attention for theories.
"Then how come you brought your lunch when you don't go eat until 5:30?"
We were all laughing too hard to hear his mumbled answer, but California Jim grabbed up his lunch box and stomped away. Just before he turned the corner he said, "Y'all just wait and see."
Things went bad for Jim after that. Turns out he ran up over a 100K on his credit cards in anticipation of either the world ending or the banking computers malfunctioning and wiping off his balances. In debt his mail-order wife decided to leave him. She filed restraining orders on behalf of herself and their kids.
But California Jim was a true rebel to the end. He quit the Post Office and abandoned his 20 some odd years to avoid being forced into paying child support. A few years ago he sent a postcard from Malaysia describing his perfect life in paradise where a man can live on less than twelve dollars a day.
No doubt he is preparing for the next doomsday 12/21/2012.
Here is hoping each and every one of you has a safe and Happy New Year. I got a feeling 2010 is gonna be a great one.