AS I RECALL, Oprah's guests that week were transsexual dwarfs, wives who beat their husbands for no apparent reason, ex-Nazis in show business, rural couples who claimed they were abducted by UFOs, and me, Floyd Hawkins.
"So . . . Floyd," Oprah said as we began taping the Friday show. "Tell us about yourself."
"Be glad to, Oprah," I said, and proceeded to tell the audience about my job down at G&D; Auto Parts.
For instance, I said, let's say a customer comes in and says: "Floyd, I need a pair of windshield wipers for an '87 Honda Civic."
No problem, I say. 'Cause I know without even checking that we have 'em. Now, if you needed wipers for, oh, a '76 Pontiac GTO, we might have a problem. But your newer makes and models are a snap to replace.
So then I go to the stockroom, get the wipers, ring up the transaction on the register and say: "Have a nice day now."
This is how it goes for most of the morning. Around noon, I usually turn to Pete Martino, the guy who works the counter with me, and I say: "Goin' over the Qwik-Mart, Pete. Get you anything?"
"Burrito and a Mountain Dew," Pete usually says.
Then one guy eats his lunch in the back room under the Miss Monroe Shock Absorbers calendar while the other guy waits on customers, updates the inventory book, re-stocks the shelves, etc.
Anyway, as I'm telling Oprah all this neat stuff, I notice that she's, like, rolling her eyes and looking at her watch.
Then she says: "Come off it, Floyd. Aren't you really a mob hit man who's in the Federal Witness Protection Program?"
Well. I just about swallowed my gum! As it was, I could barely catch my breath for several seconds.
"Oprah, that's . . . that's the craziest thing I ever heard!" I said finally. "Like I told your people when they called: I'm just a guy who works in an auto parts store!"
Oprah was real cool to me after that. When the taping was over, she just up and left the set. Didn't even shake my hand or say "Thanks for stopping by," although I heard her whisper to one of the technicians: "Is this bozo for real?"
Don't think that didn't hurt.
My next stop was the Geraldo show, where I hoped things would go a little smoother. Geraldo was nice enough at first, but even before I got to the Qwik-Mart story, he was interrupting me.
"Floyd, Floyd, Floyd . . . " Geraldo said, shaking his head. "My God, man! You're putting everybody to sleep! What about your social life?"
Well, I said, I get off work at 5. After dinner, I usually play with the kids for a while. Monday evenings I like to watch "Major Dad." Most other nights I spend in the basement refinishing old furniture. Usually turn in around 11. Do a little fishing on the weekends.
With that, Geraldo jumps to his feet, points a finger at me and yells: "Oh, yeah?! What about the time you chopped up your wife, stuffed her remains in a steamer trunk and fed them to the sharks?"
And I said: "Ex-CUSE me?"
Because this one really threw me for a loop. No. 1, we don't even have a steamer trunk. No. 2, the closest I ever came to a shark was at the aquarium.
"Katy's fine!" I finally blurted out. "I just left her! She was going with her mom to Sears to look at bathroom fixtures!"
Sure enough, first commercial break, Geraldo snaps his fingers and these security people hustle me off the set. Get out of here, they said. And don't come back. What the hell is someone like you doing on the talk show circuit anyway?
Next stop was Donahue. Here again we sort of got off on the wrong foot. Five minutes before the taping, Phil's producer runs up to me says: "Floyd, can we introduce you as a male stripper who's joined the priesthood?
"Hey," I said, "I know about ratings and all, but that's a bit much. If you want to mention I'm a 14-year member of the Knights of Columbus, fine."
Anyway, we start taping and even before I can mention G&D; Auto and our new store hours (now open to 9 p.m. Fridays AND Saturdays), Donahue is all over me.
"Floyd," he says, "the glue-sniffing. The cross-dressing. The wild orgies with the Hell's Angels. Tell us about it."
We're supposed to do Sally Jessy Raphael's show next week. Providing someone can cover for me at the store.