Picking up where I left off in my series (see Part 1 and Part 2) about my craziest customer, who had disappeared for years before I got a call from him. At this point, I should warn you that, sadly, my story turns from entertaining to tragic …

“Jimmy! How you doin’ kid?” I said when I picked up the phone. I was always thrilled to hear from him; Jimmy was so entertaining and he had such a big heart. I thought he was a living cartoon character and if someone spilled paint thinner on him he would disappear!

Jimmy asked if he could come to the shop; he needed a few things. “NEW GIRLFRIEND!” I thought. I would put money on it.

I loved when Jimmy would sit in the office chair across from my desk and intimately share his life. He was comfortable and confident, and though I found him to be a character, I was so appreciative to hear what he had to say. To me, always an aspiring writer/comedian, Jimmy was pure gold! I found a deep respect for Jimmy. There was truth to his stories, absolute truth. Crazy, yes, but fascinating and honest. I respected his individuality and his brilliant, yet insane life. We all adored him. And then … it all changed.

It turned out that, apparently, Jimmy P had found his soulmate. Jimmy didn’t have to do her floors … they just found each other.

It turned out that, apparently, Jimmy P had found his soulmate. Jimmy didn’t have to do her floors … they just found each other. I can only say that from the way Jimmy spoke, he was in love. For the first time in his life, he had found his soul mate.

In addition to finding his soul mate since I had seen him, Jimmy P had become an avid coin collector. He was brilliant at investing and would come into my office and show me his collection. It was amazing and thoroughly researched! Not only did he have gold and silver, he had vintage collectible gold and silver, and all in neat airtight cases. He knew what he was talking about! Yet … it was during those visits that I noticed a sadness had set in. It seemed Jimmy P was drifting into some maddening, manic, strange existence. We could all feel it. It worried us. He was a friend and a dedicated customer.

You might remember “Benny and Joon” with Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson—not a “movie,” a great film! It explains Jimmy and his entire existence; Jimmy P had found his Joon. And turns out his Joon, his love and soulmate, was … an heiress. They had $2,500 dinners in Boston. They received $18,500 a month for expenses. Her father was a prominent lawyer in Boston who represented celebrities and politicians. Sadly, she had more than one addiction, and so did Jimmy by now. Jimmy P loved her, yet he succumbed to the same addictions. Alcohol, pills, cocaine … everything addicts cling to just to find tiny moments of happiness or normalcy. And then, it came to pass…

Jimmy walked into my office, and we were ecstatic, but this time it was different. He asked for poly and paper and … cried. He had tears in his eyes. We had never seen Jimmy do anything but smile and crack us up. He was trying to be all business, but he had tears running down his cheeks as he played like it wasn’t even happening.

I said, “Jimmy, you okay? Whatever you need, we got this.” He came into my tiny little office, sat in the only guest chair I had, hung his head, took a break that seemed like hours but was likely seconds and then he lifted his head. He looked me straight in the eyes with the tears now falling from his stubbled chin: “She’s gone. Steve … she’s gone.”

I asked: “What?”

Jimmy responded: “She was in a rehab center; she was cleaned up.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“She made it; she got through rehab. She came home. Then hours later … I found her dead. Pills, booze, drugs … doesn’t matter … she’s gone.” For the next few moments Jimmy moved on as if none of this had transpired, totally focused on what materials he needed for his flooring project, but tears continued to stream down his cheeks.

I was worried, but I knew Jimmy P had been delusional at times, so just to make sure, I Googled her name, and there it was, her obituary, just as Jimmy explained it. My heart dropped to my stomach, and I can’t describe the dark thoughts and depression that crashed over me as I gazed between the computer and Jimmy P. We talked before he left. Her family had asked Jimmy to move out. They had a beautiful cat; he had to find it a home. Jimmy P was shaking, he was not the cocky, confident, stoic Jimmy P … he was broken. All that great big heart and character … gone. He tried to stay focused on the floor he needed to finish, but I could see how dissolved he was. Damn, that was painful to see. He was a brother in arms, a fellow hardwood floor guy.

I guess I had never actually experienced a truly broken heart, but I saw it that day. We all just hurt for him. He had finally found his place and his solace. Sad and tragic as it was, it was love; pure, honest, drug-riddled and confusing, but nevertheless, love. I could see it in his eyes as he tried to act like it was nothing or somehow just another chapter in his live he would have to burden.

Well, after that some time had passed, and no Jimmy. I had a doctor’s appointment one morning and got to work around 9 a.m. I started to get my computer up and running when people gathered at my office door. My assistant manager, Nick, asked, “What the hell happened last night?!” I answered, “What?!”

“Jimmy P was just here, he told us everything!” He told me what he had seen just moments before I had arrived: “Jimmy was outside. He was out there touching the glass and putting his hands on the windows. [There is nothing in the front of our building but glass frontage and glass doors.] He came in, and I was like: ‘Jimmy?! What’s up?’ Jimmy said, ‘I can’t believe they fixed it so fast!’ I asked him, ‘What? Fixed what?’”

Apparently then Jimmy looked Nick in the eyes and said, “I gotta thank Steve. Someone stole all my equipment. I was here last night, I busted the windows, I thought it was all here. The cops busted me. Steve told them I was okay and put me up at the Red Roof Inn. I just wanted to thank him. I can’t believe they fixed this so fast!”

My head was spinning. What the heck? Nick wasn’t kidding around! I said, “Nick, that never happened. Look at the door and windows … a glass company isn’t gonna fix windows in the middle of the night. They would just board them up! The alarms would have gone off. I did not help Jimmy! He really said that?!” Sadly, he had, and it was all in his drug and depression-rattled brain. To him it was real. To us, it meant Jimmy P was totally lost.

Some time passed after that … weeks, months, I don’t remember… but the call came in.

Nick: “Steve! It’s Jimmy P. You want me to take a message?!”

Me: “NO! send him through!”

Me: “Jimmy! How you doing, man!? Where you been?"

Jimmy: “Steve! Know where I am?! I’m at the Air Base! They checked me into the hospital! I’m crazy; did you know I was crazy?! They are trying to help me, clean me up.”

“Jimmy,” I answered. “I think you’ve been through a lot and I’m happy you’re getting some help.”

“Yeah, I’m nuts. They are trying to get me right.”

“Jimmy, you do what they tell you, and get back here and talk to me! Stay well, Jimmy. You’ve been through a lot. Let them take care of you.”

We exchanged pleasantries I can’t totally recall and mutual respect as fraternity brothers in the hardwood flooring trade, and we said goodbye.

What had happened?! We all loved Jimmy P. Our office staff was silent, and we became a bit despondent and sadly reflective.

It’s been about two years since that call. Where is Jimmy? We miss him. He might have been crazy, but he never harmed anyone, and he was both brilliant and eccentric.

I hope to write a blog one day should I find Jimmy P. Today I spoke to the Welcome brothers, and they say Jimmy is nowhere to be found. We all hope he has found a place to recover and go back to being the Jimmy P who made our mundane lives so entertaining with his magnificent persona. As I type these last few words, I have sent emails, texts and phone calls in hopes of finding Jimmy P. This true story is not over, not by a long shot; I just know it. Jimmy P is larger than life and bolder than any font I could lay to paper or put on a screen. Let’s see if he resurfaces. I promise I am doing what I can to find him, and I hope to find he's back to his magnificent self. Stay tuned.


Stephen Diggins works for Wood Pro Inc. in their Salem, N.H., branch as manager and training director. He has many years of installation, sanding, finishing, gymnasium design and technical consulting experience, which he uses to assist his flooring customers on a regular basis. With almost 30 years in the flooring industry, he has been a freelance columnist for magazine, newsprint and online medias and has conducted product seminars ranging from wood flooring to luxury vinyl tile.