Jim was one of those people, had he been on the Titanic, he would have been having a drink at the bar when the boat slid under the waves. Had Jim been at Pompeii he would have been one of those people frozen at time, watching the ancient Roman equivalent of television, maybe a fish bowl or a napping dog, whatever the Romans did when they weren't doing anything. Jim was as laid back as cold molasses. Nothing bothered him, nothing riffled his feathers, and he flat just didn't get excited.
It might have been the pot, looking back now, yeah, it just might have been the pot.
We both worked at a dead end move the boxes onto the trucks move the boxes off the truck more than a few bucks past minimum wage job, and we both liked it. I had just gotten out of the Army and I was tired of orders, tired of order, and I just wanted to spend a little time figuring things out. Jim had flunked out of college because on the day he had two finals he went to a concert in Atlanta instead. No,not some super mega group, not the Beatles, not Pink Floyd, not Gary Neuman,or anything like that, Jim blew off two finals to go see Wall Of VooDoo and the Swimming Pool Q's. Jim's parents went berserk. This was their youngest son who had done so well in High School now all of a sudden he's smoking pot and cutting classes. Jim had been doing what he had been told to do all his life, and he had been who he had been told he was all his life, too. Jim stepped away from his life, and put everything on hold for a bit. I taught him how to drink tequila and play quarters. Jim taught me how to smoke pot out of a Pepsi can.
Jim knew wires. We found a massive console television sitting on the curb and Jim said in his matter of fact usual tone, "I think I can fix that." It took both of us the better part of an hour to get it up to his apartment, and Jim breathed life into the monster. Here Jim was with this itty bitty apartment and this great big color television. It took up the entire north end of his place, yea.
Jim got hooked on one of the early video games and we played it like fiends for hours on end. On today's scale, it was primitive, but back then it was cutting edge state of the art stuff. The game was one of those quest type games where you get swords and spells and that sort of thing and you go forth to slay dragons and defeat evil. We'd get high as hell, play that game forever but because Jim had lost the rule book we didn't know where all the good stuff was. It took us forever and a week to beat that game. It was a one player game, but one of us would run it until we got killed and then the other would run it until they got killed. Jim liked the idea of weapons, and I liked the storyline.
One day I came over and Jim was having sex with a woman on his sofa. I usually just walked in without knocking, and after work we had talked about pizza and beer, but apparently somewhere being us getting off and that moment Jim had decided he would get off in quite another fashion. I slowly backed away from the sex, and went back home to eat all the pizza myself.
The woman turned out to be a chick named Susan. I knew Susan from, Jeph's, a little local bar we hung out at but I couldn't figure out when Jim had time to make contact, much less talk her into setting foot in his apartment. Jim was the world's worst housekeeper and it wasn't rare to find green things growing on dishes. Jim had a high powered pressure washer he used to wash his dishes once a week. I thought it was great. Susan was appalled. Susan was appalled as a natural state of being, as it were.
The next day at work Jim came in and told me that he stopped at Jeph's for a drink and found a very inebriated Susan celebrating her twenty-first birthday. Susan wanted to try some pot. Apparently, pot had a very dramatic affect on the young woman. I lost Jim to Susan for about two weeks. For the first ten days the man was outright giddy. After the new wore off, Susan began to wear on Jim's nerves. As it turned out, two weeks was a lot longer than most people made it with her. The pot, it must have been the pot.
I had an on again off again girlfriend named Stephanie who worked as a waitress. Stephanie had roomed with Susan for a short while, and she told me horror stories about the way the woman kept house. "Mike, I swear, hand to god, the woman mops under the washer and dryer every day, every single day she washes every single dish she owns. Susan keeps all the cans in the pantry lined up in alphabetical order. And that damn cat of hers is worse than she is!"
Worse, Jim and I were going to smoke some pot, get drunk, and play video games one night but Susan had gotten there first. I never knew Jim had brown carpet in his apartment. I wasn't sure I had ever seen it before. Susan had come in and even hung curtains. It was incredibly clean, and it was incredibly scary. I fled the scene.
Jim lined up a short road trip for me to go on with Susan and him. It was just a trip into Jacksonville, no big deal I thought, and Susan drove. It was like watching someone pluck out their own eyes in slow motion. Susan drove the speed limit. No matter what it was that was how slow she drove. Worse, and each and every traffic light, she stopped and chanted. Chanted? Chanted! After the third or fourth time, I had to ask.
"There's a law you have to wait five seconds before proceeding through an intersection with a traffic light." she told me.
"Huh?" I asked.
"You have to wait five seconds before you go through.." Susan began again.
"Okay, yeah, but that's a law?" I interrupted.
"There are more people killed at intersections than there are people killed in any other traffic related incident." Susan was good with stats. I thought she was wrong, but who am I to argue?
"So what's with the..chanting?" I asked.
"That's how I was taught to count seconds," Susan replied, "One tiger stripe, two tiger stripe, three tiger stripe, four tiger stripe, and five tiger stripe."
"Tiger Stripe?" I looked at Jim, and Jim looked at me as if to say, "I told you so."
Susan and Jim went on to get married, incredible as that may sound. The last time I heard from them they had moved to somewhere up north, to get away from the weirdness that came from the production of their first child. That's another story. But whenever I'm behind a car stopped at a traffic light I silently count, "One tiger stripe, two tiger stripe, three tiger stripe…."
I almost never get to five, and I almost always grin.