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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Because Nothing Is Better Than Reality TV... Except Reality!

A few years ago I got a call that a local catering company was in dire need of holiday help. There was a week-long event down at the coast and they needed as much wait staff as they could get their hands on. The selling point was that they were going to put you up for a few days in a hotel and you wouldn't be required to work before 4pm so you could enjoy the mornings. Plus it was over the Fourth Of July so you got holiday pay: 3 and a half days at the beach and getting paid double-time? Sign me up!

Of course, as you can see below, it was quite the adventure...

On Saturday July 1, I met up with a crew of fellow caterers (none of which I had known as I was new to working with this company) in Raleigh around 2pm and drove in a 15-passenger van to Beaufort, NC, to work for a few days at the massively disorganized Tall Ships festival.

Upon arrival roughly three hours later, I was immediately thrown into the madness of a 700-person seated, served dinner. All hell broke loose shortly after it was discovered that the punch we were drinking to hydrate ourselves was spiked. I thought it tasted weird but weird in a “someone made lemonade in the sweet tea cooler” kind of way. An older Southern woman started hollerin’ “there’s firewater in da juice!” until one of the managers heard it and moved the “rum punch” out to one of the bars. They were less concerned at that moment of having tipsy wait staff on their hands and more concerned with having enough punch to serve the VIP guests. In attendance was Bernie Reeves - the former publisher of Spectator (my old boss) and current publisher of Metro Magazine. Of course he didn't remember me and was still as self-absorbed as I remember talking about himself until our encounter was broken up by his wife.

The whole event was sponsored by Pepsi yet during a speech given after the dinner by Lt. Governor Bev Perdue, she asked everybody to raise their glass of beer, wine or Coke for a toast.

The crowd went silent.

We ended up serving 700 entrees in 25 minutes, which was a feat in and of it self. The tent was the size of a football field and I can't tell you how many times I crossed it; it’s times like this I wish I was wearing a pedometer. A good half-dozen people broke during the event, some walking off in tears mid-shift regardless of the fact that they were hundreds of miles from home. The event ended – and after a scramble to get the beverage truck unstuck from the sand - every body headed back to the hotel where I found out I was going to share a room with five guys and that since I was the new guy (the other dudes had been there since Thursday) I would be sleeping on the floor. But the floor wasn’t all mine: while the two white guys didn’t mind sharing a bed, the two black guys refused to sleep together and would alternate as to who had the bed from day to day so essentially two people had to share floor space.


And I had no room key so I was tethered to one of them named Kenji* - a Jamaican dude - for the evening. Everyone ended up drinking and smoking pot down at the pool. Someone procured minis of Crown Royal that where on the tables during dinner and they were drunk as well. At one point these two white trash girls come down to join the party but one blonde girl in our group - who was clearly drunk and cock hungry - would have none of it. Suddenly she was “double dawg dared” to throw one of the redneck girls in the pool which she did. Quite convincingly I might add.

She told me that I reminded her of "dude" from the Big Lebowski but I'd never seen the movie (despite being a big Coen Brothers fan). I soon found that all my roomies had wondered off so I retired to the room around 4:30am narrowly missing sleeping on the floor in the hallway when one of my roomies woke up to pee and fortunately heard me knocking on the room’s door.

About and hour later one of my roommates – a college guy named Conner* - came in with the same girl from the pool who liked the Coen Brothers. They drank in the bathroom for a spell, their silence broken by giggling, before leaving.

Sometime around 6am I heard them come back into the room with a clutter of noise. I overheard talk of fire ants and the hospital. Later I came to find out they were fucking on the sound behind the hotel and he got bitten by the ants and turned out he was allergic to fire ants causing him to swell up and break out in hives. So they ended their tryst with a trip to the emergency room. She left him her myspace page URL on the night stand as a means to get in contact with her – a sign of the times indeed.

It was like a bad episode of The Real World.

I called my wife in the morning to debrief her and she asked if I wanted then to drive down and rescue me.
"It can't get any weirder," I said.
"Besides, the pay is too good to pass up."

Around noon we got a call that said we needed to be at work at 2pm instead of 5pm surely do to the fact that several people wouldn’t be returning from the night before. I was dead dog tired. I got to work and ended up scheduled at a tent party sponsored by a yacht company that was right next to the stage where Anna Nalick and Train play. She was good and had more rock sensibilities than I expected.

Train totally sucked.

Breakdown was a bitch but we end up riding back to the hotel in the beverage van full of Red Stripe and liquor. Me, my two roommates and a guy named Jack* drank beer mostly because it was cold and we were thirsty. Two guys proceeded to pinch some for the poolside after party. On the way to my room to change I saw through the crack of an open door that someone was smoking pot out of a apple – you could smell the pungent aroma of marijuana throughout the hallway.

The hotel - by the way - was also ground zero for security for the ship event and was crawling with SBI, FBI and state troopers. Oh the irony. You’d see them in the hallways and in the elevators with their 9s strapped to their hips, earplugs in and fully-engaged in two-way radio conversations. But there's was a war on terror not on drugs. Paging Hunter S. Thompson!

Jack bugged out about the possibility of being caught with the beer he stole so he put it in his trunk and said he'd leave it open for us but to keep it on the down low.

He ended up shutting the trunk in a panic when a supposed tattle tale approached and subsequently locked his keys in the car. He was afraid to call AAA because his car smelled like dope and apparently his stash of dope was in there with his keys. Some lesbian chef jumped in to help out and it turned out she was an ex-con and when some Sorority-girl type told her to give it up with the coat hanger technique she turned and said something to the effect of “I fuck girls like you for breakfast. Shut up before I tattoo my name on your ass and make you my bitch!”

I took that as a sign to retreat back to the pool and avoid the car at all costs.

Drinking ensued well past "being late into the night" and clear on into sunrise wherein every body ended up raiding the continental breakfast. At one point the early morning clerk showed up, an older woman, and the big screen TV in the lobby started showing porn. By now the hooks-ups were obvious and at least three couples had paired up or were well into the process. One of the gay guys asked some dude who all the girls thought was cute and had been working in the tent earlier in the day to come “party by the pool.” But he also wanted to fuck him so there was this juggle to find out if he was gay or not. One of the SBI guys came down and said he heard a complaint about us over his radio and that we should heed his warning, clean up the place and go to sleep.

I go to bed at god knows what time.

But the floor had never felt more comfortable.

I woke up the next morning tired as all get out. My Jamaican roommate rolled up a blunt and smoked it in the room. Mixing a cigar’s tobacco leaf wrapper with pot could quite possibly result – when burning – in one of the most putrid smells ever.

I left the room for obvious reasons and walked to a gas station to get some Gatorade but when I walked the couple of blocks it turned out it wasn’t a mini-mart but rather a straight-up gas station. I cursed myself for even thinking about walking as tired as I was and with each step my legs reminded me so. I went to the Taco Bell by the hotel, got a burrito and ate it by the pool where several girls in the group were trying to piece together the actions of the this so-call slut who went back to a room knowing there were 5 guys in there.

I told them that was my room they were talking about and that nothing happened in the room but that there was some sort of fiasco with fire ants and emergency rooms.

That night I worked a party for 600 that turned out to be less than 300 which was a total blessing and the shift went off without a hitch save for the fact that everybody had that crazed look on their faces. Most people planned to leave the next day so it was a full-scale party at the pool after breakdown was finished. Then it started to thunder. One guy said, “no way is the party going to my room” since his floor had all the cops. Although he quite possibly could have been the apple smoker. We ended up sitting in the outdoor section of a bistro across from the hotel with a fireplace and steel chairs.

People lit the candles.

Delirium set in and I went to bed at god knows what time again but the sun was already up and bringing the heat.

I was told to meet at 11am to catch my shuttle back to Raleigh. Not wanting to get fucked, I walked over to the makeshift office about an hour before I was scheduled because I feared, the way things had gone, that is would be possible to somehow miss the shuttle back to Raleigh. But just like the days before, I spent two hours doing miscellaneous shit. By 1pm the van got the okay to leave. I ate a hot dog and did two double shots of Don Julio tequila (I had been "marrying" the booze with some other guys) for the ride home.

Several stops and hours later, I got home at about 6pm, bought a 12 pack and went see the fireworks at Kenan Stadium on the campus of UNC.

I came home and passed out from exhaustion.


And Happy Fourth Of July!

*yeah i changed the names of all involved...

Gas Station Attendant

Inspired in part by Cynical Dad's post about working at a gas station and also by the fact that I've been aggressively looking for work to help defray the cost of getting my car jacked, I've been scanning the classifieds and job web sites like a desperate girl on

Cynical Dad stirred up a long lost memory I had of working at a gas station as a full-service attendant. I did not then - and still don't today - know jack shit about cars but I could clean a mean windshield and fill your tank with wicked ease.

The station in question was in Kensington, Maryland - a Shell station nestled right by the DC/Maryland line on main thoroughfare Connecticut Ave.

The night shifters always had weird stories about what they saw after dawn from the confines of their bullet proof box but then again most of the night shifters liked their hard drugs so I was always skeptical about their talk of werewolves and vampires and sexy ladies wearing nothing but trench coats.

One of the oddest things I saw involved an elderly couple.

They pulled up in their Cadillac right by one of the open bay doors and parked it. They had New York tags and were quite clearly the kind of bluebirds who drove from NYC to Florida to winter. The nagging wife got out and asked where the bathroom was and my boss pointed her to the key on the wall and told her the door was around the side.

Someone came up to a pump, called my name several times [see below] before I assisted them with refueling and window cleansing.

When I finished I noticed that the husband had popped the trunk and was getting out some luggage and placing it on the sidewalk next to the office. He was selective in his choices of luggage and for a moment I thought he was trying to locate the spare tire or something.

Then he closed the trunk and drove off leaving the luggage behind. I assumed the old timer was having one of those "senior moments" I'd heard my parents talk about and stepped into the office to inform my boss. Just then I saw the woman return from the bathroom and hand my boss the key.

He turned and hung it up on the hook.

And at the precise moment the key met the hook the woman launched into a tirade.

"Where the hell is my husband?" she screamed.
"Where did he go that bastard?"

I remember being perplexed by it all and unable to fill in the blanks at the said time. My boss spent the next few hours bearing the brunt of this woman's expletives and offering her the use of the phone from time to time to call someone to come pick her up.

I don't remember how it resolved itself but what I do remember was the words my boss told me the next day when I asked him what all of it was about: "Sometimes you just have had enough," he said.

"You mean the guy just drove off and left her here?" I asked.
"Yep," he said.
"Happens every so often," he said. "Sometimes those long drives get to you."

My tenure working at a gas station also led me to the conclusion to never ask for directions at a gas station. I don't think anybody I worked with gave people the right directions including myself. It was a way to entertain yourself on the job. Someone would come in and ask me where the White House was or how to get to the Mormon Tabernacle and I would tell them to ask the guy in the booth. The booth guy would then send them in the complete opposite direction. Usually directions would involved something like "go about three miles until you see a steep grade in the road and right about the time you feel you've gone too far and missed the turn, turn right. Then drive past the mall and the car dealership and go left. You can't miss it."

So there you have it: I have just explained why men don't like to ask for directions at gas stations. It is not that we are too proud to ask for help, it is that most of us have worked at - or known someone who work at - a gas station and know the secret of giving the wrong directions on purpose when asked for them.

To all the GSAs out there, much apologies for breaking the code, I've kept it for over 20 years and besides cars now come equipped with GPS.

And no, you are not getting my GSA shirt back. And not because it was hip and cool to wear such a thing a decade ago, nope it is because I never got to get my own personalized shirt because I told my boss I'd only be there temporarily.

For six months I wore a shirt that said "John."

I bet people thought I was dumb as a rock because it would take them three or four times calling my "name" before I would reply.