I'm baaaad, I'm nationwide: A Wally Crankset Tale
The phone rang in the wee hours of the morning. I hate that. It's either bad news or Wally, sometimes both.
I fumbled around in the dark searching for the handset on the nightstand. “Hello?” I mumbled.
Sure enough, it was Wally. “Hey, I'm glad I caught you still awake.” he said. “I've got a great idea.”
Mary's voice rose from her pillow. “Kill him. Kill him now.” She probably wasn't serious.
“This isn't a good time to talk, Wally...” but he interrupted and went right on.
“I've been thinking about a better way to make a living, well, a better way than I do now, and I think I've hit on the solution.” After losing his position at the University of Southern Oklahoma extension campus in Broken Elbow, Wally held a succession of jobs around town, finally settling into his old one at the Amiracle Airlines hub out at the airport, where he quietly slipped back into his ticket agent/baggage handler/ fueler/wing walker duties. Almost everyone's heard their slogan, “If it's on time, it's Amiracle!” The airline serves most of the Midwest from the hub, flying regional jets.
Fortunately for Wally, the lynch mob of flight attendants who pursued him relentlessly for some months had moved on to other targets like the current management team and the onerous contract they'd signed a few years ago. Wally was still on their list, but he wasn't a priority these days. Sure, they took an occasional potshot at him for old time's sake, but their hearts just weren't in it anymore.
He went on. “You know I don't do well when I'm working for someone else. I mean, it's almost always turned out wrong for one reason or another.” This was certainly true, and the 'one reason' often involved a woman, sometimes a drunken, angry woman waving a handgun. “So I've decided I need to run things, start my own business, and be my own boss. I want to start a bicycling advocacy organization, a big one, and I'll need your help.”
A flash lit the window curtains and a few seconds later thunder rolled overhead. I took it as a bad omen. “Wally, you need my help. OK. But can't this wait until morning?” I temporized, hoping he'd get some sleep and forget about it. “Where are you anyway?”
“I'm down at Larry's. Wanna join me?”
“No, it's too late.” I glanced at the clock. It was just before 2AM. Larry would have last call and close the bar in a few minutes. Chances were good that Wally wouldn't remember any of this conversation.
Mary's pillow said, “I'm gonna get medieval on his ass.” She was educated in the classics, after all.
Wally continued. “I'm thinking – big organization – big ideas – big name. How about Thundering Herd Alliance? It has to be national, coast to coast, and it'll be a force to be reckoned with in advocacy!” Alcohol made Wally expansive, to put it mildly. Less kind people call it delusions of grandeur. Regardless, he'd have a crushing hangover in the morning. “We'll get money by scaring the hell out of the membership, just like the NRA. Scared people shell out lots of money!”
He had a point. Fear is a powerful motivating tool. Look what it's done for Dick Cheney, for instance. My kids wore Dick Cheney masks at Halloween last year and came back with bundles of cash rather than candy. We stashed it in an undisclosed location to keep the IRS at bay. Our mortgage payments will be covered for a very long time, like maybe another thirty or forty years, so Wally may have hit on something.
Still, any organization with Wally at the top should more correctly be called the Dunderhead Alliance. “Uh, Wally, Thundering Herd Alliance sounds like some other group. Maybe you should pick another name.”
In the background I could hear Larry bellowing that it was last call. Something about late night drinking induces deafness at 2AM.
“I gotta go, “ Wally said. “I'll stop by your place sometime tomorrow so we can talk about this.”
Mary's pillow mumbled things that would have horrified the Spanish Inquisition, and once I got back to sleep, led me to have terrible dreams for the rest of the night.
Wally didn't show for a couple of days, which was probably a good thing because I found Mary sitting in the kitchen sharpening knives and fashioning a sort of Pillsbury dough-boy voodoo doll that looked like him. It was pin-cushioned with uncooked vermicelli, except for one limp piece of elbow macaroni boiled well past al dente and strategically placed. Women can be so mean.
I bumped into him at the grocery. “Wally! Good to see you! How've you been?”
“Did I call you the other night?” he asked. “I'm really sorry for doing that. It's rude to wake you in the middle of the night.” He didn't remember the conversation, but Larry had given him hell for calling me. It's wise to stay on the good side of your favorite bartender, or in our case, the town's only bartender. Even Wally knew that.
As he left to get on his bike, I noticed he was walking a little stiffly and I asked him about it. “Oh, well, I've just had a bunch of little aches and pains for the last few days. Nothing major. It's probably just the weather.”
I'd dodged a bullet. He'd forgotten about the Thundering Herd Alliance idea. Then I went back in the market and bought a bouquet of flowers for Mary. I made a mental note to try to stay on her good side too.