For legal reasons I won’t reveal Ed’s full name nor will I reveal the name of the car wash or the city it’s in. But it’s safe to say that Cool Breeze Ed was a lovable guy.
Back in the day when I was a wayward youth of 19 years old I thought it would be cool to work in a car wash. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up watching too much television. This is a true story though. I’ll never forget when I went to go talk to the manager for my impromptu “interview”.
Him: “So, why do you wanna work in a car wash?”
Stupid me: “I dunno, I guess cause I always liked that movie.”
Him: “Bullshit nigga.”
Stupid me: “No for real man, I really liked that movie. I guess you’ll be kind of like Lonnie, the dude that supervised everybody.”
Him: “Are you for real?”
Stupid me: “Yeah. Somebody else around here can be ‘The Fly’ bizzzzzzz.”
Him: “You can’t be serious…”
Stupid me: “Nah, it’ll be fun.”
The manager wasn’t exactly a stranger to me I knew his brother Jason from my previous employer: Mc Donald’s.
Needless to say it wasn’t that much fun working there. To start with, I washed windows for what seemed like forever. Don’t get me wrong though, it was ok at first - in the summertime. The cars would go through some kind of conveyor system and blower and then they would roll into my section. It would be like four or five us that would jump in there and clean the windows.
There were some interesting guys that worked there – well, sort of. There was a guy named Warren, who was like 40 something years old, and a shade darker than Wesley Snipes. To make matters worse he always seemed to like to wear these extremely dark sunglasses. On a hot day, duke would be so tired from working hard in the sun that when he took his shades off, his eyes would be beet-red. He looked like a really hard-core dude, but he had one of the highest, non-gay sounding voices I’ve ever heard in my life.
“Oh, what’s up dude?” He’d say to me with that high pitched voice that had a touch of a southern drawl. I liked Warren he was a cool guy. He and I would be so busy jumping in and out of cars washing windows that we would accidentally slam each other’s hands in the car doors sometimes.
“Aaaagh! Goddamn!” I heard as one car door slammed.
“Oh shit, yo Warren, you aiight?” I’d say.
“Goddamn man, that’s the third time today!”
“Yo, man I’m sorry bout that, I ain’t see you man!”
“Do it again lil’ nigga and it’s gonna be me and you!”
When I know I’m in the wrong, I’m the type of dude that cops to it and apologizes, ain’t no sense in playing bad ass when you know your wrong. “Yo my man, I’m sorry bout that, yo go ahead and take a break, I’ll cover for you.” I said.
“Nah, that’s alright.” He said to me still holding his hand. “Just be careful.”
And back to work we’d go.
I was washing the window on the front passenger side, not paying attention to my surroundings when I tried to get out of the car. I tried to step away but I couldn’t. It seemed like my foot was stuck. I looked down on the ground and looked, my foot was stuck underneath the tire of a big ass truck. The tire rolled onto my foot in such a manner that the side of my foot was stuck underneath it. In order to avoid the pain of having the whole weight of the truck on my foot, I’d have to pull it out. But I couldn’t because the conveyor and had been stopped at the same moment as the trucks tire had rolled on my foot. “Yo!” I yelled out. “Somebody start the belt!”
And there was Warren with a bottle of water in his hand and a smile on his face. “That’s for my hand, lil’ nigga!”
Just then the whole weight of the truck was on my foot. “Yo! You win, move that shit, yo!”
That was one fond memory of that place. But the rest of my experiences there weren’t funny like that. In fact they were pretty sad. Not for me, but for the older guys that worked there. Here I was at 19 years old wayward, directionless, aimless and all that other stuff that goes with being 19. But I was in the prime of my life. On the other hand, there I was working with grown ass men my parent’s age. These dudes were in their 40’s with nothing going for themselves. They were there working for minimum wage just like I was. I couldn’t understand it back then. These brothers were down on their luck. Quite a few of them were drunks, ex-cons, drug addicts and God knows what else.
Like this guy named Mike from somewhere deep in Arkansas, he was 39 years old at the time and probably had 27 of his 32 teeth. This was problematic for everyone but Mike, you see, he was missing his front teeth, so when you combine that with his southern accent, I guess you can say the guy pretty much spoke mush mouth. “Hey, I’m a be boopin’ da car, man – wa ou now!”
The most mysterious guy there was an older white guy who looked like somebody from off of the 'Andy Griffith Show'. Go find a picture of the Kennedy assasination from 1963 - he could easily have fit into that picture. Hell, he was probably a part of the conspiracy. He wore coke bottle glasses and baggy slacks and he wore his hair slicked just like Lee Harvey Oswald. He never said a word to anyone. I used to look at him and wonder, what in the hell he was doing working there around so many black guys.
There was a down on his luck, sho nuff fo real drunk (who was also named Mike as well) that worked with us. He was a white guy that was hard to look at. He had tattoos on his arms and looked like he slept in a Meth lab day and night. I think he too, had 27 of his 32 teeth. But mostly he stank.
And there was a fat older guy named Otis - the shoeshine guy. He wore a captains hat everyday and could pick out the instances of on the job related racism faster than you could spit. Now here was an angry dude. He was quiet but he was angry. He’d say things like this: ‘You see that there, Youngblood. Look at the way the white man stands over the brother while he’s working. Do you see it? You know why he’s comfortable doing that don’t ya?”
“Slavery?” I’d say.
“Damn right. He’s trying to catch up on what he missed out on back then. But he better not bring that shit to me.” I tried to steer clear of him.
I suspected most of the brothers there had done some kind of time in prison. But the one dude whom I knew for a fact that had done a whole heap of time I avoided. He had all of his front teeth, but I suspected that he was missing his back teeth, cause I could never understand a word the brother said. His name was Duane. He had a heavy voice, on the rare occasions that he did speak it sounded like a low mumble, no words could be understood. I would just nod my head in agreement whenever he talked.
But without a doubt the most interesting guy there was a gentleman named Ed. At 46 years of age he was hardly ever seen without a bottle of ‘Cool Breeze’. Of the thirty-two teeth that a normal adult has Ed probably had 22. And they were stained yellow and brown. His uneven reddish-brown Afro was misshapen from always wearing a hat. I think he slept with that hat on because the hair on the back of his head would be flat while the sides always stuck out. He had joke about everything and everyone. And the man had no shame.
“Say Youngblood, why don’t you gimme a dollar!” He’d say to me with that squeal of an alcohol and cigarette smoke-stained voice.
“No prob, my brother.” I’d say to him as I’d extend a dollar to him.
“I’ll get you back on pay day, Youngblood.”
Of which would never happen. But I didn’t mind. After a while it got to the point where he owed everyone in the place at least twenty dollars. If you went to him to get your money he’d laugh you off.
“Yo Ed man, what’s up with my money?”
“HA HA HA HA”, he’d laugh with his mouth wide open revealing his twenty-two yellow stained teeth.
“I ain’t laughing Ed, gimme my money!”
“Eha, he he he ha”
“Yo Ed, you gonna be short mo teeth if you don’t gimme my money!”
“AAAAA HA HA AH AHA HA AH HA!”
The circumstances of my co-workers living conditions was bought home one evening at a company meeting, well, I guess you could call it a meeting, mostly the management hollered and cussed at us.
“Goddamn it, I try to help y’all out, but none of y’all appreciate shit!” The manager yelled.
“I give you a little extra money every week and you’d think that some of you would wanna do something for yourselves besides smoke that shit or drink Cool Breeze. But nah, y’all just want to act like your grown asses weren’t taught shit! I found a pair of somebody’s dirty drawers in the washing machine. Now what kind of shit is that?”
All I could think about was somebody washing their drawers there. Just then in mid-thought, Ed tapped me on my shoulder.
“Hey, Youngblood”, he whispered. “Give me a ride home.”
On the way to his house Ed told me about his newfound girlfriend and that he was gonna “hook” me up with her.
“Ok, Ed no prob.”
“Man, you gotta see her Youngblood, she sucked my dick last night.”
Just then the thought of some woman blowing his crusty ass popped into my head. I needed to change the subject. Quick.
“Yo man I’m gonna watch the Tyson fight, wanna come?’
“Nah, I’m getting’ my dick sucked tonight.”
Once again the thought of some woman with feet so dirty that the bottom of her feet were charcoal black and ashy popped into my head. I gotta find a way to keep him off of this subject.
“Yeah, I think he’s gonna take Michael Spinks out tonight.”
“I don’t care”, he said, “I’m fuckin’ tonight.”
“Isn’t this your place right here, Ed?”
“Come on Youngblood, you gotta see her.”
I guess the saying is right: curiosity is a motherfucker. I had to see what kind of broken down, old, dirty-feet havin’, snaggle-tooth, wig wearing, forest creature would be blowing him.
“Oh shit, hell naw, Ed, you’ve been fuckin’ her?”
I couldn’t believe it that ol snaggle-tooth, Cool Breeze drinkin’, quarter- stealin’, dope- fiendin’, no good money grubbin', crusty drawer wearin’ coot was fucking a broad I wouldn’t mind fuckin my damn self. For starters she had all of her teeth and was somewhere near 25 years old, she wasn’t fat and sloppy like I imagined, but thick and fit. How in the hell did this falling down drunk –
“See ya later Youngblood, enjoy the fight.” Ed said as he shut the door.
I hopped in my car and did 80 mph on the freeway laughing to myself thinking about that old lucky snaggle-toothed bastard Cool Breeze Ed.