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The Chauffeur

By Jim Ganley

Manchester, NH 1975

While the Fire Department gig for which I had interviewed may not have been the ideal job, it would've helped to pay my bills at the time. Unfortunately I was not hired and instead continued to search for jobs until eventually I found one, though this too was barely tolerable. It was assembly line work at Mrs. Budd's Chicken Pie plant and this one went nowhere as well. Many of the guys working there had just gotten out of prison or were mental defectives in one way or another.

One day we had a temporary worker sent to us from Employment Security. He and I got to talking, and as it turned out, he related that he had been selected for the Manchester Housing Authority post for which I had applied immediately prior to my bus ride out of town to San Diego. According to what this fellow had to say, he had only lasted there for a few months before that position was eliminated as part of a fiscal belt tightening strategy in Washington, D.C.

I can recall the realization that staying in Manchester in February of 1974 to see whether or not I would be hired by MHA would have been yet another colossal waste of my time and talent. I promptly gave myself a pat on the back for having gotten out of town when I did.

Mrs. Budd's let me go not long after that when Irving Budd, the owner, entered the packaging department and found the entire staff boogying around the assembly line to some funky tune on the radio. All fingers pointed at me as having been the instigator. I should've seen it coming, but didn't particularly care, finding myself once more pounding the pavement looking for work.

Then the threats at home started. My mother, embarrassed to have her grown, youngest son unemployed and still living with her, told me that she was going to call her lawyer and have me evicted. At this point I found myself in a quandary. I needed a job, but my search was going nowhere. Personnel and placement agencies would not return my calls after I had registered with them. Jobs for which I applied "had just been filled" even though my inquiry came on the first day the job ad had run. I simply didn't get it......college educated and all. What's more, my mother and siblings were being subjected to harassing calls from collection agencies as well as from Boston area attorney Francis X. Newton, looking to have me pay off my college loans. And at the same time, the St. Anslem College Alumni Association was trying to hit me up for a major contribution. I kid you not, though they claimed to know nothing of the heavy-handed collection tactics levied against my family.

Then one day in June of 1975 I decided to become more creative in my search for work. The Manchester Union-Leader had offered to post free employment listings for local high school students and recent grads. So I posted an ad, claiming to be a student at Central High. I can still hear Mike Gittleson howling with laughter in the YMCA weight room after he had read the ad. But this time it worked.

That evening at home around dinner time the phone rang and an elderly woman's voice was on the other end of the line.

"Is this Jim Ganley?" she asked me. When I confirmed my identity she wanted to know if I was Tom Ganley's youngest brother.

"Yeah, why do you ask?"

She identified herself as Helene Chase Miller and launched herself into a spiel, waxing nostalgic about Tom, going on and on ad migrainum about what a great guy he was.....good looking, intelligent, Etc.

I did recall that my eldest brother had pulled a stint with the Millers back around the time of his discharge from the service in the late 1940's. The Millers, you may recall, had some major bucks and owned real estate all over the Queen City.......Chase's Furniture, The State Theater, The Chase Building, among others. Helene and her husband Lou lived in a brick Mansion directly across from Stark Park on North River Road.

The particulars of the job were as follows: Salary, $150 per week (under the table, of course, and a good wage in 1975). They would provide me with a brand new 1975 Dodge rental car for my own personal use and pick up the gas tab as well. In exchange I was expected to take care of Helene Monday through Friday from 8 to 5.

My first day working at the Miller residence started out unremarkable enough. Helene had just finished her breakfast of bagels and lox.

Lou Miller nodded to me curtly but didn't have much to say. A moment later I gazed out the front window and saw him cruising off down North River Rd. in his silver, 1975 Mercedes.

Helene was rather stocky, had closely cropped, tightly curled gray hair, and was in her late sixties though she appeared to have been much older. As she would soon reveal to me, her medical history for the past thirty years had been punctuated by repeat bouts of hospitalizations and surgeries. She spared me none of the details, describing vomitus the appearance of coffee grounds.........mineral oil enemas, medicated suppositories, and hemorrhoidectomies that could have made a gastroenterologist turn violently ill. She also volunteered the fact that her husband had "girl friends on the side", and that most of her family was mentally ill.......except for her of course, and that she and her husband had slept in separate bedrooms for the past decade. I had nothing to say. overwhelmed as I was by far more than what I wanted or needed to know.

On that particular morning she wanted me to take her shopping. So she and I entered the Dodge rental car and drove toward Elm St. in Downtown Manchester.

"We're going to Moreau's," she told me near the corner of Bridge and Elm Streets. "You can drop me off right there next to the entrance. Go find a place to park and meet me inside."

"Okay, Mrs. Miller."

By the time I arrived within the store proper, Mrs. Miller was involved in an argument with one of the store's clerks.

"DO YOU KNOW WHO MY FATHER WAS?" she shouted to the bewildered clerk, "DOES THE NAME CHASE MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?"

I walked up to Helene and the clerk but said nothing. Helene pivoted and pointed to me, all the while glaring at the clerk.

"AND IF YOU FAIL TO COMPLY WITH MY DIRECTIVE.......I'LL HAVE THIS MAN TAKE YOU APART!"

Standing behind Helene as I was, I caught the clerk's eye, shook my head from side to side, and then with my right index finger next to my ear, rotated it a circular fashion to convey the fact that Helene Chase Miller was severely deranged. The clerk winked at me to convey that he comprehended my not so subtle message.

Mrs. Miller and I walked out of the store with her fussing and fuming all the way. We were on our way to Ferretti's Parking Lot where I had parked, but Helene soon let me know that she was not yet finished with her shopping jaunt. She entered Moreau's Annex and, of all things, picked out a bull horn.

"We'll take this," she told the cashier handing him her credit card.

I wondered what she planned to use a bull horn for but said nothing. She explained her strategy to me about ten minutes later as we were driving up North Union St.

"Take a left onto Heather St.........Now you can park in front of that futuristic looking, gray stone home on the left ."

The house in question had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1940s and currently was the residence of a local radiologist named Dr. Toufic Kahlil, M.D.

"This is where my friend Toufic Kahlil lives," Helene explained to me, "He appears to have been avoiding me lately. Let's give him a wake up call!"

"Y'mean with the bull horn?" I asked, pointing to it beside her in the car seat.

"Yes, and let's be quick about it, Jim!"

I exited the vehicle, placed the bull horn up to my lips, pressed the SPEAK button, and began an extemporaneous monologue which I'm sure not only aroused Dr. Kahlil from his sleep, but the rest of his neighbors as well.

"TOUFIC KAHLIL! TOUFIC KAHLIL! THIS IS THE MANCHESTER POLICE! THROW OUT YOUR WEAPONS AND COME OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH YOUR HANDS OVER YOUR HEAD!"

As I re-entered the Dodge, Mrs. Miller was frantically motioning for me to drive away as she giggled like 6 year old school girl. Though unbeknownst to me at the time, she had been receiving twisted phone calls from one of my friends named Bucky AKA, "The Turkeyman"

It was lunch time during my first day working for The Millers. As I sat there at the kitchen table eating a can of albacore tuna and nonfat cottage cheese, I found myself wondering where this rather unorthodox employment adventure might be heading. To me it seemed that nothing could top the bull horn prank with Helene and her doctor friend, but once again I was thrown headlong into a sea of insanity.

Helene was sipping a cup of tea when the telephone rang. She answered by the third ring. I listened in on one end of the ensuing telephone conversation.

"Hello?"

"You are not! You are not Mr. Einertsen! I spoke to him yesterday and he......"

"No! No, we don't need any sausage!"

"Who is this and what do you want?"

Helene gasped and her face took on an ashen tone.

"I'm reporting you to the police if you call here again!"

Obviously flustered, she sat back down at the kitchen table and took another sip of tea.

"Who was that?" I asked her.

"That's our mysterious caller," she explained. "He's been calling us several times a day for the past month."

Not two minutes later, the phone rang yet again and I volunteered to answer it.

"Hello, Miller residence........"

"Who's this?" inquired a voice on the other end of the line. Something about that voice sounded familiar, though I was unable to make a positive ID.

"Never mind who I am! Who would you like to speak with?" I pressed the caller.

There was hesitation on the caller's part before he claimed to have dialed the wrong number and hung up.

Not two minutes later Lou Miller arrived home for lunch and Helene, in a very distraught state, told him about the calls as I sat there sipping a protein drink from my thermos bottle.

"I thought it was that farmer that we use for Thanksgiving, dear. But I asked Mr Einertsen about it two days ago and he knew nothing."

Her husband seemed nonplussed.

"Well, did the caller identify himself?"

"Yes! He said he was The Turkeyman........"

At this revelation of Helene's, I immediately spit my protein drink back into the thermos bottle, arousing the suspicion of my employers.

"Do you know anything about this?" Helene asked me.

"Oh, no! I,uh......I think my drink went down the wrong pipe."

Helene turned back to her husband and continued discussing the most recent call.

"Oh, dear! It was awful! He told me that he wanted to ruffle my tail feathers and stuff my back pocket with sausage!"

I bit down hard on my tongue to keep from laughing, realizing who the Miller's mysterious caller must have been.

At the end of the day I drove over to Bucky's house and found him as usual out in his garage gym lifting weights. I got right to the point.

"Hey, Buck.........have you been giving prank calls to Mrs. Miller?"

"Hey, it wasn't me!" Bucky exclaimed, denying any connection whatsoever to the calls.

"Doesn't your father work for them as a building superintendent at The Chase Building on Elm Street.?"

"Yeah," Bucky admitted, "but I didn't do it."

I just shrugged my shoulders and left.

Later that night I stopped by my girlfriend's house to show her my new car and take her for a cruise around town. I felt like such a big shot. The kid who'd never been able to afford a car was now driving a brand new 1975 Dodge, courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Lou Miller. I had been seeing Nancy for the past few weeks. She and I appeared to have had a lot in common. Both of our lives were in transitional periods, she in the middle of a divorce and having just been hired to teach Spanish at Gilford Middle School, and me, confused and not sure where my life was taking me. Also, we were both living with our parents. At best, the job with the Millers for me was a stop gap measure to buy me some time to get my life on track.

Nancy looked at the car skeptically.

"Who's car is this?" she wanted to know.

"It's mine!" I told her proudly. "The Millers rented it for me from McKenzie Dodge!"

"WOW!"

"C'mon, Nancy! Let me take you for a ride!" So we did.

About an hour later Nancy and I were out behind The Brookside Congregational Church sitting beneath a forsythia bush drinking beer as we talked.

I had been describing my adventures earlier that day with Helene.......the bull horn prank and also the prank phone calls. Nancy asked me why I was so certain that it was Bucky who had made those calls. Then she smiled and took a swig of beer.

"Well," I explained, "Whoever it was told her that he was The Turkeyman........"

Nancy promptly spit out her beer all over that forsythia bush and laughed loudly.

"The Turkeyman!" she shouted between gasps and bouts of convulsive laughter, "That guy's been calling me for the past four weeks!"

"What's he want?"

"Come on! Use your imagination, Jim! So it really is Bucky?"

"No comment!"

Soon we shall see how the Millers launched a police investigation into the matter and if not for some quick thinking by me, Ed Donahue would have been arrested.

The remainder of my tenure with The Millers that summer was as unbelievable as that first day had been. The weeks ahead saw repeat performances of Helene locking horns with retail personnel and threatening to unleash me upon them if they refused to cooperate. The most egregious incident took place at The Elliot Hospital. Helene and I had been cruising around Manchester's East Side when, on a whim, she decided to view her father's plaque in the hospital wing which had been dedicated to him as a major benefactor of the facility. There was new construction going on, and apparently her father's plaque had been removed, misplaced, or lost in the shuffle. Not good.

Helene stormed up to the nurse's duty station and demanded to speak to the floor supervisor. Shouting loudly and gesturing wildly, no one there could calm Helene's mania. The doctor on call was brought in and he had no impact as well. All the while Helene was going on and on about the good that her father had done in his life. "and for what thanks.......TO BE FORGOTTEN AND THROWN OUT WITH THE TRASH?"

As subtly as I could, I suggested to Helene that she and I leave the Elliot before the local gendarmes arrived. This seemed to have a calming effect upon her and we left immediately. An injection of thorazine, sodium pentathol, or valium is what she really needed. All I succeeded in doing was delaying the inevitable.

Once again, she had me drive her over to Dr. Toufic Kahlil's house on Heather St., but this time the bull horn was gone and we actually went up the walkway and rang the doorbell. Toufic's wife seemed rather surprised at our arrival and summoned her husband, who invited us into their den for some cold drinks. This home, as I already mentioned, had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was one of the more remarkable structures I have ever seen.

I had an uneasy feeling however, not sure what Helene had planned for this visit and fearful of what lay ahead. She started out by introducing me to the Kahlils.

"This is Jim Ganley," she began, "He's my chauffeur. His older brother Tom used to have the same job nearly twenty years ago. Tom, as you may recall, was a great trumpeter."

Both Kahlil's nodded but said nothing. Helene went on to reveal the intent of our visit, which pretty much put me on the spot.

"Now, Jim here is an intelligent young man, but he was unable to be accepted by any medical schools." Ah, jeez! Well intentioned or not, I was afraid that she may have been seeking help from him in gaining my admission to medical school.

For the first time during that very strange visit, Dr. Kahlil seemed interested and spoke directly to me.

"I don't mean to be glib, Jim," he began, "But some day you'll realize what a lucky break that was for you.......I mean, not getting into med school and all."

Then he went on the decry the current state of medical practice and the frustration of having to deal with insurance companies, hospital board of directors, the pharmaceutical industry, politicians, etc.

"I've recently retired," he explained, "I left my practice here in New Hampshire to set up a cancer treatment facility in Arizona, but was completely hamstrung by the local beaurocrats out there. I've had it. As I say, Jim.........you should have no regrets over the direction your life has taken."

Thought provoking, and merely one of many similar bits of advice I have received over the years from countless disillusioned medical professionals.

My further adventures with Mrs. Miller were as chaotic as this one had been calming. She had a younger sister named Margaret who had been institutionalized for years in McLean Hospital down in Belmont, Massachusetts. My chore, in this particular mission, was to drive Helene down to McLean, pick up her sister, suffering from delusions that she was the Queen of England, and drive both of them up to the family home on North River Rd. in Manchester for a birthday party.

I knew this was not going to go well when Helene and I entered Margaret's room and saw her sitting in a chair, eyes bugged out of her head as she screamed like a banshee. Margaret looked like Dana Carvey's "church lady" character from Saturday Nite Live.

"THE DEVIL!" she shouted, pointing to me and backing away as if she were Dracula recoiling from a crucifix. Then she began spitting at me as she continued to scream. "THE DEVIL! THE DEVIL! GO BACK TO HELL WHERE YOU BELONG!"

There was nothing that either I or Helene could say to calm her. A moment later two men in white coats entered the room, gave her some sort of injection which put her out to pasture, and then fitted her for a forty-three button coat. And even though Margaret was in "La-la Land" all the way up to Manchester, for me it was a white knuckle drive as I continued to keep one eye on the road and the other in the rear view mirror, where I could keep tabs on her back seat activity.....or lack there of.

All summer long the phone calls from The Turkeyman to the Miller residence persisted. Even though I would take the phone off the hook for several hours at a time, as soon as the phone was replaced it would ring immediately. Bucky, as I may have mentioned, had a telephone installed in his garage gym and would call between sets.

The Miller's next strategy was to disconnect their phone and obtain an unlisted number, but this didn't work because Bucky's father worked for them and it was a very simple matter for him to obtain their new number........literally ringing the Miller's as well as his father's telephone off the hook.

Next we will see how the prank calls drive Helene further over the edge and I have to take her to see her psychiatrist in Boston.

It was an early August evening during the Summer of '75. My friends and I were planning on hitting a few of the local bars that night. There were four of us. Ed Donahue, Marc Provost, Bucky, and me. Ed was almost always the designated driver because he was one of the few in our group who had a car that actually ran, a pea green, 1971 Chevy Malibu. Plus, he could drink beer after beer without visibly impairing his driving skills, or at least it seemed that way to us.

Bucky had said something about having Ed take a cruise along Elm Street, and as we approached the intersection of Elm and Concord Streets, we noticed three older men standing out in front of The Chase Building. As we later learned, Bucky had phoned his father earlier that night, given him one of his "Canvasback" Wells ringside commentaries, and arranged a confrontation on that very spot.

"Hey, Bucky," Ed asked him, as we approached the intersection, "Isn't that your old man standing there on the sidewalk in front of The Chase Building?"

Bucky, riding shotgun, just laughed. "Yeah. Watch this, you guys!"

He very quickly pulled his sweater up over his head, and hanging out the open, passenger's side window like a sick dog, began shadow boxing while bellowing in a stentorian voice, "Hey! CANVASBACK WELLS! MEET ME, YOU CHUMP! IT'S ME, THE TURKEYMAN! I'LL GIVE YOU THE STUFFING! HA! HA! HA!"

I can recall thinking at the time that this stunt of Bucky's wasn't too smart. Too quickly I learned that I was right.

Next day at the Millers the police were there to investigate a suspicious vehicle that Helene had reported cruising past the house and spending inordinate amounts of time parked across the street at Stark Park. It was a driver education vehicle and not likely to have been up to anything of a nefarious nature, but by this point Mrs. Miller had become so paranoid that she kept her blinds drawn around the clock and was now living in abject fear of the notorious Turkeyman and his harassing phone calls.

Officer Jeff Gallant stood there in the kitchen taking notes, not at all surprised that her building superintendent had been receiving calls from The Turkeyman too. Officer Gallant thought that the likely culprit was a disgruntled former employee of the Millers and asked her to compile a list of any such individuals she could recall, going back over the past two years. Just then the phone rang and Helene, occupied with the police as she was, asked me to answer it.

"Hello, Miller residence," I said, only to learn the caller was Bucky's father claiming to have cracked the case.

"I got the guy's license plate number last night! Quick! Write this down. It was a tan '71 Malibu, Registration HA7795!"

Oh, no!

Thinking quickly, I jotted down, HA7793. And while Ed's car was green, it appeared to have been tan under the bright orange, sodium street lights.

"Y'got it?"

"Yup!"

This information was passed along to the police, who traced the vehicle to someone in the Nashua area whom the Millers had never heard of. Because of this, the police advised them not to pursue the matter for fear of generating a false arrest law suit. Pheew! Ed had no idea how close he had come to being charged with being The Turkeyman.

But the calls persisted and Helene's mental state deteriorated rapidly to the point where her husband assigned me the task of driving her to meet with her psychiatrist in Boston that Friday. This time Lou let me drive the Mercedes.

Trying to come out of Boston during rush hour can be a most harrowing experience. Helene and I were on our way back to New Hampshire, merging with traffic over the Tobin Bridge when I cut off a guy in a black GTO. By the time he eventually caught up to us, he pulled along side next to Helene, flashed his middle finger, and shouted, "FUCK YOU!"

Helene turned to me and smiled.

"Did you see that?" she asked me. "I'll bet that was Rebecca Greenspan's son! What a nice young man! Did you see him wave at me? He's polite too! Did you hear him? He said thank you!"

I'm not sure what kind of drugs, Helene's psychiatrist had prescribed, but they were either too potent or not potent enough, for she grew progressively worse. Several days later it was near quitting time for me, and Helene had been sitting with me in her living room pontificating as she had a habit of doing. But this time it was personal, going on and on about my deceased father's limited potential.

"He may have been a hard worker and all," Helene mentioned in a pejorative sort of way, "But he was never able to achieve more than he did because he was an Irishman. We call the Irish 'white Negroes'."

Not wanting to get involved in a debate with this deranged woman, I took the high road and excused myself.

"I think it's time I was on my way," I explained, but she would hear of no such thing.

"You'll leave when I say you can and not a moment sooner! You'll do as I say! DO YOU HEAR ME, BOY?"

I walked out the door with her nipping at my heals like a rabid bitch. Finally after she had been tailing me for half a block, I turned to her and said,

"For christsakes, Helene! Get back in the house before the whole neighborhood realizes what a problem you've got!"

Now in shock, she demanded that I turn in my keys to the Dodge.

"Here y'go," I told her, "Good luck to you!"

That night Lou Miller called me at home claiming he wanted to meet with me in his office in The Chase Building at nine in the morning.

Lou was all apologies as he sat there behind his desk trying to explain the situation as best as he could.

"I never intended to have put you in such a position, Jim. I'm sure by now you must realize that my wife has been dealing with some very serious issues for a very long time. None of this was your fault, but unfortunately you were caught up in the middle of it. She needs round the clock professional help"

I shook his hand and thanked him for the opportunity over the summer.

"What are your plans?" he asked me.

"I'm not too sure," I admitted. "Actually, I'm looking for a job more in line with my education."

"Feel free to use me as reference, Jim. I'll try to contact some people I know who may be hiring."

Whenever anyone tells you they'll "TRY" to do anything, you can rest assured it isn't likely to happen.

Copyright 2006 Jim Ganley

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