Living for a living

“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small … by giving you no time instead of it all.”

-John Lennon, Working Class Hero

Years ago, when Common Pleas Court bailiff Pete Hennon told me he was retiring, I told him where he could find me on Oct. 16, 2013.

I said, “I’ll be at Mohicanville Dam, loading my canoe with enough beer and gear to float to New Orleans.”

I’ll be 62 on that day, old enough to start collecting Social Security.

At the time I had that conversation with Pete, I thought the $900 a month I’d be collecting would be enough. After all, how much do you need to live on the river?

The reality of it is, there are other expenses, medical insurance being the biggest.

Medicare wouldn’t kick in for another three years — maybe longer if the politicians continue to promote corporate welfare and shift the tax burden to those of us who have labored under the delusion that working for an honest living was the right thing to do.

But, I’m no stranger to frugality. Being the grandson of a poor white sharecropper, I learned to be resourceful from an early age.

After graduating from high school, I would work for a month or so, cram all my worldly possessions into a backpack and head out on the open road, hitchhiking across America. When I had my fill, I’d return home, work for a month or so, and repeat the process.

As a career college student — 14 years at Cuyahoga Community College, thank you — I worked part time. I lived cheaply, doing things like befriending people who worked at restaurants and delicatessens and getting free food at closing time. There would always be a pizza that didn’t get delivered or bagels they couldn’t sell the next day.

I also drove hundred-dollar cars, sometimes for years, curb-shopping for tires with enough tread to last five or six months.

I was younger then, but I still have a sense of adventure. And I’ve never been one take it for granted that the creature comforts — or the job — I have today will be here tomorrow.

I enjoy working as a journalist. But there can be too much of a good thing. When making a living becomes so demanding you don’t have time to live, what’s the point?

After all, I haven’t put a paddle in the water since October.

October …

Toilet paper truck wipes out, driver and passenger find themselves in deep shit

Ka-ching! These guys will get dunned for the price of a fence, utility pole and semi. Plus court cost.

Ka-ching! These guys will get dunned for the price of a fence, utility pole and semi. Plus court cost.

On days like this, I love my job.

I’d just finished gassing up my car at the BellStores on U.S. 250 East. I was going to use the carwash and was folding my side-view mirrors in when an Ashland Fire Department ambulance flew by, headed east on U.S. 250.

They often make runs to Kingston of Ashland, a nursing home across from the Highway Patrol post. But this one was running hot — too hot for a nursing home call.

I folded the mirrors out, got into the car and listened to the scanner. Semi rollover with entrapment at the 184 mile marker on southbound I-71.

As I headed south on the interstate, I called the paper and asked them to send out a photographer.

I squeezed off a few shots with my Canon G-10 before he got there, just in case. It was early dawn and the lighting was bad, but I managed to get maybe three good shots out of 30. Good enough to post on breaking news when I got back to the paper.

The cab of the truck was mangled. The driver sustained “significant injuries” as one firefighter put it. Not life-threatening, but enough to need a higher level of medical attention.

The squad took him to MedCentral Hospital in Mansfield.

Given the circumstances, he probably dreaded the thought of getting out of the hospital — where he was going to feel a different kind of pain. Mainly in his wallet.

As I gathered more information on the crash, what appeared to be a tragedy morphed into a mystery and comedy.

I’ll piece it together.

The trooper arrives on the scene. (Actually a lieutenant from another post was the first on the scene.) The trooper from the Ashland post finds two guys climbing out of the wreckage, one half-dressed.

He tells the trooper he had been driving.

He eventually confesses that he was in the sleeper of the cab and his buddy was driving . The half-dressed guy ends up getting cited for obstructing official business.

The driver, meanwhile, is under suspension.

He was cited for failure to control and driving under suspension.

The Highway Patrol considered charging him with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, since the half-dressed passenger didn’t own the rig and probably didn’t have the authority to let his buddy drive.

Bottom line, they were hauling a load of toilet paper. Talk about something that would automatically make you the butt of jokes.