Bob Ifer said he was leaving. If anyone asked, which they rarely did, he told them, “it’s pronounced like Eiffel but with an “r.” The Eifel Tower never had a more distant cousin than Bob Ifer with or without an “r.”
Our shifts ended the same time, and the airline terminal was closing because planes were grounded due to weather. I asked if I could grab a ride. Bob had a car, you could call it that, a beat-up ‘62 Olds that some dope thought would look great with a white stripe down the middle. You wouldn’t want to sit in his backseat, covered with dog hair, and I don’t believe Bob owned a dog. It was like the Eiffel Tower only with hair.
He offered to give me a lift to the employee lot where I could catch the 109 bus to Kew Gardens and take the A train to Manhattan from there. The reason why Bob wasn’t known as the worst driver in history to own a New York Driver’s License was that he was from New Jersey. When I asked why he drove that way, he said he learned by driving taxis in the summer for college tuition. Either the school was cheap or he dropped out. Bob would floor the gas, then coast, and hit the pedal again. It was a routine an idiot could follow, and I realized I was in the company of one. I think he did it to save money. I felt like I was on a train with a drunk in the control booth and it made me nauseous. I told him. He said, “you’ll get used to it.”
He turned and asked, “what do you think of Andrea,” like it was the most natural question. She was the passenger agent everyone was in love with. A tall, gorgeous brunette who never stopped smiling but had a tomboyish way that made her one of the guys. You saw her coming down the passenger terminal at JFK a mile away, and there would always be guys hanging around. Most women at the airline put their hair in a bun, but she tied it in a ponytail wrapped around her head, which made her alluring. She wore the tightest blouse the specs would allow, and oh, those legs. She smiled at everyone who passed. There goes Andrea, you would say. I said, “Bob, why do you ask about Andrea?” Bob was thinking of asking her out.
It didn’t help he was strange looking, like an Austrian psychiatrist with gold wire-rimmed spectacles. Think of a thatch of mousy hair, receding at the temples, and a sharply drawn face with a nose that dominated a small parsimonious mouth, and a mustache that should only be worn by a British brigadier, arguably his best feature. He laughed easily but at the wrong time, like before you finished the joke or when you were about to say don’t bother asking her.
One week later, Bob’s car is in front of the passenger terminal and he says, “jump in.” I wanted to hear what happened. He met Andrea in the employee lounge. To begin with, that’s a no-no. It was reserved for quiet time, not bullshitting, and certainly not asking a girl. He said she was reading a book. He blurted out he wanted to take her out. Then he adds, “sometime,” like he was cool and had to think about it. But coming from Bob it was more like, “I’ve got the next fifty Friday nights open.” Just like that, no small talk, no “how’s your book,” no I always wondered if you and I could be more than friends.”
Andrea looked at him. She said, “that’s sweet of you, Bob, but I hardly know you.” In my world, we call this “let’s be friends.” Bob couldn’t take a hint if a mafia guy showed up holding a machine gun. He decides this is the time to reveal his innermost thoughts. He says he took a deep breath and said, “I knew all along you wouldn't go out with me.” She asks why? Bob had a way of making people wonder about him when it wasn’t their problem. He said she wouldn't go with him because “even though I know I’m handsome, I’m not charming.”
Just like that. I stared, no idea where this is going.
He said it looked like Andrea was thinking. Then she said, “Bob, you know how I just love charming men.”
We drove in silence until he came to my bus stop. I opened the door and asked Bob, “you feeling okay?” He says, “I’m fine.” Then adds, “Andrea’s going to find out the hard way, you can’t have it all.”
He floored the gas and took off.