We got our newspaper this morning, thanks to the especially intrepid carrier who braved the already quite deep snow, and it was most welcome since we're not going anywhere for a while.
Ever since I once came across the obituary of a former co-worker who died in his early fifties, I scan those grim pages for anyone else I might have known. I remembered he had been in the paper a few years previously for a big domestic blow-up at his trailer home. Not out of character; probably just the first such incident to make the news.
I've given up wasting time reading the endless who-robbed-or-shot-whom stories about random misguided locals, but today couldn't help noticing one involving another former co-worker -- again, not at all out of character (people don't change, do they?). It seems yesterday afternoon at a truck stop, one trucker got into a fight with another and he ended up getting stabbed. The stabee, whose name I recognized immediately (and the age was right, too), said they traded punches after an argument. Now, this guy was big, aggressive, loud and always right about everything, so I can see how a minor problem escalated. The knife wielder was soon caught down the highway, but without knowing the exact circumstances I think he should have sensed this guy was volatile by his manner, walked off and avoided becoming the one sent to trial. The first story my former co-worker ever told me was of the time he punched out a guy at a tony downtown gym and got away with it, of which he was quite proud. He also stole from our company (which handled lots of cash) because he was trying to support a non-working wife and three children at the age of 28 at the time. Not adept at good choices.
The owner of another company I worked for (quite happily; it was a good group) was sent to jail a while ago for bribing a school district official to participate in a computer-sales scam. Now, this guy had everything and, as Bob D. said, he threw it all away. He lived in a wonderful tree-ringed home in the excellent Forest Hills (Harrisburg, not Richmond) neighborhood, had a red-haired model girlfriend, a cool ride and he was as personable and well-liked as they come. And our company was doing well. So greed for even more lost everyone their jobs, and he lost his freedom for a couple of years and his reputation permanently. Probably the redhead, too.
Once I gave a hard-luck co-worker a ride home after a very long day, finding out too late we were going to the 13th Street projects at 10:00 at night. Two skinny white boys in a Toyota at that hour -- oh, yeah, we were about to become the subject of a "First 48 Hours" television episode, all right. He was trying hard to move up and out, though, but also had a non-working wife and two small children, and was closer to desperation than even was apparent. I forget why he lost his job there -- probably non-attendance due to transportation problems -- but within the year I saw him in the evening news, being carried out of a suburban home in a body bag. He was surprised during a burglary and quickly shot dead by the homeowner. It seems he went back to the same area time after time and both the residents and police were on alert. I still feel bad for him and his family, despite his brief crime spree; he was enjoyable to talk to and seemed brighter than most. Sometimes people carelessly make bad choices and sometimes they seem to have no choices left.
Yes, there are more. Another co-worker, who was at first a pretty entertaining character, acted like John Belushi, much to our amusement. It slowly stopped being funny, as we observed him doing things like hooking up with a waitress during an out-of-town job (despite having a long-suffering wife #2), disappearing during the workday to have long conversations with anyone he could find, and shoplifting. Once we picked him up at his apartment for a group trip for this same distant job, and he refused to get in until the football game was over and he had loaded up on drugs sufficiently. He once explained to a visiting company higher-up that "I gots to be productive!," sending us reeling in laughter, because of all the things he was, that was never one of them. A few years later, another former co-worker couldn't wait to tell me that guy was busted for crack near Pittsburgh but had escaped from jail.
Bad boys. Whatcha gonna do?