Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Exciting Adventures of Uncle Zack

          I mentioned in a recent post that when I was a teenager I worked picking up litter in a drive-in movie following my gigs as a musician. It reminded me that I also worked there as a security guard on the nights when I didn’t have a gig.
          On my first night on the job, me and the other security guards got a call on our walkie-talkies to go to the front as there had been an incident. In most drive-ins there is a playground under the screen and after the movie was over and the cars were leaving, one plowed through its chain link fence.
          Now here’s a little back story. The manager was a big (and I mean BIG) Missourian with an authentic cowboy hat, cowboy boots and authentic cowboy balls. When we all reached the site of the crash, the manager (I’ll call him Big Dave) was talking to the Driver of the vehicle. I saw there were three others in the car, a man in the passenger’s seat and two women in the back.
          After making sure everyone was okay, Big Dave explained to the Driver that for insurance purposes, he had 2 choices, he could sign a release stating that he and his passengers were unhurt or the drive-in would have an ambulance come and take them to the hospital. He also explained that this would be paid for by the drive-in.
          The Driver refused both options. So Big Dave explained that if he didn’t agree to either he would have to call the police and file an accident report.
          I should point out that everyone in the car was pretty drunk and Big Dave was trying to give them a break. Make the problem go away. This was the Bronx in the 1970’s and nobody in their right mind wanted to stir things up.
          Apparently the Driver wasn’t in his right mind because he unleashed a tirade of curses and threats at Big Dave which ended with him telling Big Dave that he and his friends were leaving and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
          The Driver was apparently mistaken because that’s when Big Dave reached into the car with one arm and yanked the Driver out through the opened window. Seeing this, the guy in the passenger seat takes the car keys, jumps out the door, runs to the back and opens the trunk.
          Okay, more back story. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my fellow security guard, a southern gentleman named Billy was a Viet-Nam vet. He was missing his left hand and his jaw had been constructed from one of his ribs, as he had been severely wounded when his unit was ambushed by the Viet Cong. Billy, I soon learned, was not a man to be messed with.
          So here’s what happened. The Passenger opens the truck, leans in and reaches for a shotgun. 
          I see the metal glistening in the moonlight, there is another gun in a holster packed beside it.
          I was stunned. We didn’t receive any training to deal with this. Was I supposed to jump the guy and wrestle the gun from him? Run away? Duck and cover? What?  I didn’t know how to react.
          But Billy did. And looking back I think he prevented a bad situation from getting a lot worse.
          With a shrug Billy pulled a snub-nose .38 from inside his blue jean jacket and pressed it against the back of the Passenger’s head. What followed was the sound of the gun being cocked. With an expression of the utmost sincerity Billy said in a slow southern drawl, “Yo’ lay a hand on that shotgun, son, and yo’ brains is gonna be all over it.”
          I am going to assume the Passenger picked up on the sincerity of Billy’s tone because he immediately raised his hands and stepped back. After Billy brought him to Big Dave at gunpoint, I bravely stepped forward and closed the trunk.
          I was sent in to call the police, (which I also did very bravely) and it turned out the car was stolen and in addition to the guns there were also drugs.
          Billy and I went on to become work buddies and we had several other adventures together. One led to a full scale riot and the other had me on the roof of the concession stand trying to convince some nut high on PCP to drop the knife and to please get off the roof because the customers were complaining that he was blocking the picture.
          But that’s a tale for another day.

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