Monday my friend Bunny asked me, "Did you have a happy birthday?"
"Happiness," I answered levelly, "is all relative."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I didn’t cry this year."
I walked into Hot Topic with my daughter and looked around. There was the worker, a seventeen year old pale chick with her hair dyed jet black and the required facial piercings and indecipherable tattoo peering out of her cleavage. It was some arcane and ancient symbol that meant "spiritual, but an easy lay." She stood, leaning back with her arms crossed, popping her gum and sighing at the same time in the classic bored-yet-cool look. As I walked past her to the exit, I scoffed at her as I went by and said, "If you think you’re jaded *now*, wait till your *my* age, honey."
I had talked with Stan about my rentor from the past, but yesterday I said enough to get him to realize we knew the same person. "Wait, ‘Nicole’?" Yes, the same one that had rented from me that I knew from Domino’s, he knew from Domino’s also. It would be hard to be in the witness protection program–I know somebody *everywhere*.
He talked about his run-in with Nicole, and how big she had gotten. She is a fat, fat girl. Not chunky, not a little heavy. Fat, as in, there are not clothes made to fit her. Stan said her legs were so fat that they didn’t even move any more, just her feet, like one of those old toys. Her feet just moved up and down as she waddled. And she has five kids–what the hell kind of life are they going to have? Jesus.
Anyway, I recounted to Stan and Mike something my dad told me many, many years ago…when he was drunk. Otherwise, this is not normally something a father tells a son.
"You know how you fuck a fat woman?" he said, grinning and slurring a bit. I shook my head no, and looked for a way out.
He leaned forward, talking with his hands as he explained. "You lay them on the side of the bed with their legs up in the air, and you take a running start at ’em. You run up to them and kick them in the stomach, and their pussy will squirt out, and you grab it and pull it onto your dick like a boot."
Yeah, yeah…that’s my dad.
My friend Serena wanted to show me her new phone. Some T-Mobile thing that looks like an iPhone rip-off, which is a rip-off of yet another device. It’s not stealing; it’s "research" and "building on current technology."
Touch-screen–in the future, if all phones are touch screen, I probably won’t have one. Why? Because I’ll be doing what I did with Serena’s phone. She offered it to me to examine. Gingerly I take it, and accidentally touch the screen. "Oh-"
I press a few things, trying to get the hang of it, but it is oddly counter-intuitive. Things I want to press don’t respond, but if I gently glide my finger over the display, barely making contact, it activates things. "Oops," I say, and hand it back to her and quickly start walking away.
"’Oops’? What did you do?" She starts to examine her phone.
Heading for the exit, I said, "I may have deleted something." It was my birthday, it was Friday, it was quitting time–I’m getting out of here.
"Delete? Delete what?"
I dig for my keys as I prepare to run. "Your, uhm…contact list. Bye."
Okay–Oh, my God, I swear I did not plan it this way. I wrote the title down, then started writing random things. And then I put two and two together–"Fat Tuesday" and the story about Nicole–that’s some funny shit, I don’t care who ya are.
You know, I never thought I had any kind of real mental illness to speak of until the last few years around my birthday. Just like some people get depressed around Christmas–and I may be one of them–I also get really weird around my birthday. Christ in a roadshow, I get more emotional than an emo teen watching a Lifetime movie. On her period. And off her meds. Who just got dumped my her closeted gay boyfriend who is going on a journey of discovery and anal rape with a football player turned cheerleader. On the Varsity squad. (It’s the details that are important.)
…I promised myself I wouldn’t cry…(sniffle)
Whatever. I think the problem on my b-day is that I am just too aware. Of myself, my age, my situation, my brain. That’s enough to make anyone a little emotional. Self-awareness is a crippling disease; that’s why ignorance is bliss.
So on this birthday, as gifts to myself–
*I’m not going to let most of this shit get to me.
*I’m going to pick up my daughter and call my son, thereby avoiding the "they never call me" pit of despair.
*I’m going to do some other random cathartic stuff. Steak for lunch, for one.
At least I know that it’s all in my head. Some people just freak out and think it’s normal. I know it’s not. I know it’s me. I’m a fucking guy for Chrissake. Guys aren’t like this in a normal way.
I’m actually having a good day so far. I don’t expect much, and boy, did I get it. The girls wanted to order out, and I got in on the order. Of course, I sat at my desk and ate alone…which made me happy. I’ve talked to a few people, had a few conversations. These brighten my day despite my anti-social tendancies.
The key is expectations. Ladies, lower your expectations. I lowered mine. For some insane reason I expected my birthday to be a celebration of ME. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that is? Lordy. Celebrate me home? Puh-leaze. I’ve decided to set my sights on a more realistic goal of not getting arrested for a felony on my birthday. Since my 21st birthday, I’ve been able to maintain the status quo.
It also helps that I have people to fuck with. Did I tell you this already? Morgan the newlywed sits near me. She wants to move to Alabama. Ahh, the Innocence of Youth. I set her straight about Alabama. I said, "You know, there are no paved roads in Alabama. All dirt."
"Really." It didn’t sound like she believed me.
"Really. The interstate? It’s gravel." She ignored me, a sign that I should continue. "They have no electricity in Alabama either. Just 9-volt batteries."
She looked at me as though she were going to say something, then changed her mind. I continued to pour it on. "Most of Alabama is in such a deep valley that there is no satellite TV. All you have is three channels. CMT, BET, and that Spanish one."
I could tell I was starting to sway her. "Everyone is required to learn the banjo, and there are tribes of Polynesian aboriginals that live in the swamps. They are cannibals. With Southern accents."
I’ve decided to dedicate my life to helping other people.
The duality of vanity is such that the vain are stricken also with an inferiority complex. The vanity is an attempt to compensate and overcome this. I’m not a psychologist, but I play one on TV. I’m not vain, but maybe you did write that song about me. I understand my nature.
My real and true crippling fear is growing old and dying without accomplishing anything of note. Since it is a "crippling" fear, it keeps me from doing anything, and henceforth, I don’t get to accomplish anything noteworthy, which is my fear. The circle of life is a vicious, vicious cycle.
Am I truly in my age of Middle? Is it Now, or is it Never? Will I, or won’t I? Is now the time of our Discontent? If there is a season to everything, then of what is this the season?
As a callback to January 07 Archives, remember my entry "You’re So Vain":
Tycho Brahe said as he died, "Ne frustra vixisse videar!"–
"Let me not seem to have lived in vain."
Happy birthday, everyone.
As it happened, we didn’t get to go out Monday to the comedy club with the whole gang. They could find no one to work for me. I have a suspicion that supervisor Tom didn’t try real hard. Still, my people, the ones at my store, wanted me to come and felt bad that I couldn’t. So that was nice. Making someone feel guilty feels pretty good. Should I feel bad about that?
The back tire on the truck was low on air, Detroit says. She airs it up on the way home for 75 cents. Remember when air was free? And a candybar was a nickel, and you could get cigarettes from a machine, and there were only four channels?
The next day, it’s low again, and a guy at her work has a portable air compressor, and airs it up again. I thought I was going to have to fix it, but if he has an air compressor, we can do this *FOREVER.* Am I right?
Well, the spare isn’t in the truck, but there’s no jack, anyway, because we gave it away when we traded in Nigel for the Mercedes. Speaking of the Mercedes–
My front right tire was low the other day. I aired it up at the Sinclair station that is about 2 blocks from our house. Hmmm.
Yesterday between jobs, I put the spare on the truck, intending to take care of the tire later. Maybe today.
This morning, it’s 20 degrees when I go out to my car. The tire on my car is low. Again. And it’s *really* low. Flat kinda low. Uhm…yay? I drove slowly, carefully, the two blocks to the gas station and aired it up. It didn’t air up right away, and I thought it was shot for sure. Then suddenly, it took, and started taking air. Well, alright. I aired up the tire, and headed off to work.
And then I get to work, and I look at the tire. As I suspected from the ride I was getting, it was already low. In order to leave here today, I’m going to have to change the tire first. It’s supposed to warm up to 35 degrees.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here at the bank, we’ve been busy, and so the bosses provide little things for us, like letting us wear jeans on Friday (hooray for all the fine looking chicks with fine looking asses here in the office!) and occasionally provide food. Like today, it was suppose to be a Mexican food thing, but instead, we went with an alternate vendor. Crazy Bowls and Wraps? Heard of them?
Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. Whatever. In line at our lunch room, people are walking out with plates, and the stuff looks odd. But I get in there, and I honestly–okay. A "wrap" is when you make a "sandwich" but put something around it other than bread, like a soft tortilla, or a big ass leaf of lettuce, or a cow turd.
There were a couple of trays filled with different wraps. The first wraps were lettuce and rice and cucumber wrapped in a tortilla. The next wraps were chicken and rice and cucumber wrapped in lettuce. And it was token chicken, too. Like they added a little to call themselves diverse. Like the one black guy on MASH. Or the one white guy on In Living Color. Or the one Asian chick on Gray’s Anatomy. The last one had cucumber and lettuce wrapped in rice, or some ridiculous shit like that. They had different colored corn chips, with a weird, chunky-looking salsa. They even provided desert–rice crispy cakes that they managed to ruin by putting something odd in them. It might have been cucumber as well.
Christ. I feel like a vegetarian in a slaughterhouse. That’s some irony for ya right there, I don’t care who you are.
Carol from the title company notices my unhappiness and says, "It’s good for you; try it."
I measured my words carefully. "Do I *look*… like I *care*… about whether or not it is good for me?"
I went in again after the crowd died down to look at the selection again. It’s free food, so I am honor-bound to have some. But I looked closely, carefully at everything there was to offer…fuck this. Morgan, sitting next to me, said, "Maybe if you tried it, you might like it."
I answered, "Maybe if I had a vagina, I might like it."
I have never used the word "ridiculous" to describe food before. But this shit is ridiculous.
We are going out tonight. For some goddamn meat, even if I have to kill and eat a homeless person.
Earlier this week–was it Tuesday?–was Dina’s birthday. This coming Monday is both Stan and Mike’s birthday. Next Friday is my birthday. Mike and Dina plotted to get a bunch of people together to go out for everyone’s birthday. Everyone’s but mine, that is, because they forgot or didn’t know.
I had originally wanted Monday off because I’m off on my day job that day (and paid, boo-yah!) but once I heard about the party plans, I figured I would go ahead and work, and I told them that. But, I said, I’d like to have Friday off, because that’s *my* birthday.
They stopped in their tracks. Although I didn’t think much of it, they realized they had to include me in the plans, because it was as much for Dina’s birthday as well–everyone who has a birthday in February. So they have Tom, the supervisor working on it, trying to find someone to run the Monday night shift in our store so we can ALL go.
That is, everyone except Myron and Paro. They will be working that night. Party is not of much interest to Paro and no one likes Myron. It sucks to be him, I guess. Other than that, everyone from the store will be there. As well as other people.
And where is it, exactly? Mike arranged for the a special night at the Funny Bone–the first comedy club I performed at. On Monday, they were going to be closed, but when Mike said they were going to have a group of at least 35-40 show up, the club manager said he would throw some shit together. So it will be almost like a private engagement at the club. Cool.
Of course hearing about it and talking about it makes me think I’d like to get back on stage someday. We’ll see. But right now, I’m looking forward to just going out, with a group of friends, and the girl friend, and having a good time. It’ll beat the hell out of other crappy birthdays I’ve had in the past.
And…even if the can’t find someone to work, I will know that at least they put forth the effort, they tried. And that means they care. You all know how I get around my birthday lately, especially with my kids not calling me and crap like that and this self-pitying little depression I go through. Woe is meh, et cetera.
It means alot to me to know they care.
I was destined to take all four years of science offered in high school. I chose Earth Science over Biology as a Freshman, then the track was pretty well laid out: Physical Science, Chemistry, then Physics. These coincided with the math needed, I guess. Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, then PreCalc. I know that nowadays lots of kids have the opportunity to take Calc in High school. Good for you. This was the early 80s, before calculus was invented…and who are you going to believe, anyway?
In Physical Science, we did a variety of things that led up to physics and chemistry. A lot of it was learning to measure, learning about tolerances, human error, accuracy versus precision, the metric system, and things like that. Other than temperature, I’m pretty handy with the metric system. For all things scientific since junior high, I’ve used it, so I’m pretty familiar with it.
One day we had a simple enough experiment, and the whole class–about 24 of us–had our notebooks out and ready. Mr Deason was our instructor. Older guy, white shirt with collar and thin black tie. Glasses, too. He looked like your standard instructor that would show up on the slide projection tutorial with the pointer in his hand. I really liked him, he was a great teacher.
This was an old school building. The newer part that we were in was built in the 50s. The older part was built in the 1850s. So this new, modern science lab had the tables that seated two, with drawers, and the gas burner outlet on top, and a small sink in the middle. Standard. We went back to the back of the room, and we were going to do a simple experiment in measurements. Time. The dreaded analog clock.
As I thought about this afterwards, I know that he must have done this for a reason–otherwise it is a silly, redundant exercise. I’m glad I could play my part, and teach the class a lesson, not only in measurements, but also in division and also peer pressure and politics.
Mr Deason had us look at the clock, and for each of us to record what time it was. We all recorded 9:17. A little over a minute later, he had us record the time again. Well, it was obviously 9:18.
But it didn’t look that way to me. It looked like 9:19. I was going with 9:19. We all recorded the measurements, and then took the average. If we had all agreed, the experiment would have been futile and redundant. But now we had 23 people saying it was 9:18, and one–me–saying it was 9:19. Do that math, folks.
The brainiacs and the linear thinking robots were disgusted with me for not towing the company line. "You’re throwing off the average!"
I said, "But I’m right!" As I think about it, the giveaway was that Mr Deason did nothing to try to dissuade me. Perhaps he chose this clock in the back of the room because he knew the minute hand was subject to interpretation.
I wasn’t afraid of the extra work, the extra math, or the numbers that did not end in an orderly fashion after two decimal places. Or, I now reflect, what they thought of me. In the movie version of my life, in this scene, I would have said something to the class to persuade them to come around to my way of thinking, and then the jocks and brains alike would respect me, and the hot but brainy cheerleader would go out with me, and I would be the popular guy because I took a stand and was hereafter respected for it.
Instead, they were just pissed at me. I remember one cute chick that I liked working the math with a venomous expression on her face, pounding her notebook and hitting her calculator. I’m not gettin in those drawers anytime soon.
I have always been a rebel.
Lots of people, lots of activity. Couple of guys that were actually working, repairing a wall. Stan was there, and Sam brought some food from another store. Also Tom, the supervisor. You know, he’s nice enough–but it is specifically stated in my contract that I do not have to have contact with anyone in upper management. This is about the fifth time in 12 months that I’ve seen the guy, and I swear that enough is enough.
But from the pictures on his cell phone, and the story being told, I got a clearer picture of what happened the previous night. A couple of thugs tried to break in through the front door using a crow bar. They didn’t just break the glass, instead they tried to pry it. Failing at that, they went next door to the vacant space in the strip, kicked in the metal door, and then proceeded to break into Domino’s by busting a hole in the wall.
The clowns tore a hole in the wall (through the map) knocked a bunch of shit over, tried to pry the safe open (obviously they were professionals), and beat the hell out of the drivers’ drop box (I have a picture of that) If there had been pie residue around, I would say that the culprits were The Three Stooges.
We ("we" meaning the other people before I got there–I did none of this) threw out a bunch of food. Fearing contamination–in other words, who knows what these ridiculous thugs might have done to the food–we got rid of anything that was prepped up, in an open container. Before he left, Tom asked me to make sure I do a very accurate food count that night, to account for everything that was tossed. He said insurance would cover it. More on that later, unless I forget.
The store didn’t open until about 3pm, because it was a crime scene, and because it was a disaster. Then they got people in there to fix things, get the computers up and running, and–oh, yeah–replace the office printer. It was stolen.
The store has at least half a dozen flat screen computer monitors, plus other shit, and they stole the printer. New, the printer is 200 dollars. Used, it’s a good forty bucks. These guy were smart. Eventually we got things together.
Sam left shortly after I got there–he had dropped off some food for us from his store, and then stayed to help on the line because there was too much going on for Stan to focus on the task at hand, which is make pizzas. I got there, I jump on the line immediately while Stan walked around with a bewildered look in his eyes. He truly couldn’t focus with this much activity.
Then Tom left, and finally, the guys fixing the wall left. This guy shows up–I swear I’ve never seen him before–and he calls me by name. Come to find out he is the owner’s brother, and his position is Director of Operations. So, he’s the one that does the actual work. We chatted for a few minutes as though we knew each other. In the back of my mind, however, is the thought that this is the mother fucker who wouldn’t give a me decent wage and now wanted to cut my pay. But he was a nice guy. He left after inspecting the job that was done fixing the wall.
Stan put the office back together after dinner rush, and then he left. That was good, because it seemed like he was going to stay. And if he was going to stay, I was going to leave. I was prepared to tell him, "Look dude, if you’re going to stick around, I’m leaving. We don’t need both of us here, and I don’t need you looking over my shoulder when I’m sitting on my ass reading."
But he left.
The late night was dead, and about 1030 I put down my book and started to count the food. He said, "Count everything as accurately as possible–" I wanted to say, "You mean like I do *every* night?" because it was funny and because we both knew it wasn’t true. So I did count everything. Practically everything. I mean, I’m not a religious fanatic. So when it was all said and done, we lost an extra 500 dollars worth of food. That is quite a bit, let me tell you. But we get it back through insurance, and it was a freebie in terms of catching up. But let me tell you a secret–
The computer generates what we call an "ideal food" This tells us what we should have used and lists what the ending inventory should be. This is why I have never counted everything and on the rare occasions when I do count something it’s only a dozen or so important items. But this gives you a guide so that when you count you know where your number should be. This way, if you’re short, you can look for more stuff, count again, or fudge the number. Your choice.
So for many things that night, what we had was way short of the ideal, which was to be expected. But some things…Some things that I’ve never counted we were *over* on. There was more in the store than the inventory showed. The number I used was what the ideal generated–what’s gone is gone. But I have that list, and if I need to make up some food, I can go back to that list and enter the real number. This is known as a "buffer." And that, children, is the end of the lesson for today, "How to use disaster to your advantage."
"Yeah, I can do that."
She’s relieved. I needed to show them that I’m not completely selfish. They covered for me when I was sick, and I never heard a complaint. I need to be able to reciprocate, and show that it’s no big deal. So, no problem.
Then she tells me some of the stuff that’s happened. Sometime after I left last night but before Stan got there this morning, someone broke into the store. Broke open the front door with a crow bar. Performed some vandalism, threw some computers around. Of course, it was raining last night, so their are muddy foot prints all over, as well as some handprints.
So the store is not even open right now, for lunch. The cops are there, and I think the company IT people are there too, trying to put the store back together. We should be open for dinner. So, unless we hear from them, I plan on going in.
But that’s not even why Dina was upset, or why she wanted me to close. She just got served with papers from her ex husband, father of the oldest daughter. She has not received any child support from him, and when it finally catches up to him, he sues for custody. We all know that the only reason he wants custody is so he doesn’t have to pay child support. You know that, right? That makes him a dick. And a lawyer that takes that case *knowing* the reason is a dick also.
So, she’s upset. Kind of a basket case right now. She just wants to stay home and be with her kids. I get that.
I’m glad now that I said yes, before she explained, so I didn’t have to feel like an asshole and then change my mind, and then feel like I was forced into it, and then she would think I was a dick, and then there would be this whole thing between us.
Last night was a typical Tuesday. Dina left early, this time with a good excuse; it was her birthday. I handled dinner just fine. Around 7pm I got rid of Mike, and around 730, I got rid of Paro. It was then that Steve showed me the tickets for a timed order.
Twenty-one pizzas, due at 8:30. Oh, yeah–tonight. In an hour. Less than an hour. But I can actually wait to start making them until–
It’s 7:37. The phone rings. It’s Maryville University, the place where the big order is going. What are the odds? Steve takes the call.
They want to know where the pizzas are.
Steve explains that we have them down for 830.
She said no, it’s supposed to be 730. Uh-oh. While he talks to her, I go grab a stack of dough and wheel it out. But I don’t start making them yet, because the clues I am picking up from watching his end of the conversation lead me to believe they might just cancel the order.
Steve listens to her, then explains what happened. As the story goes, Dina took the order Sunday. Monday, they called back and talked to Stan, and changed the time. However, Stan didn’t bother to change the time in the computer, the mother-fucker.
You know, I have an excuse for my perceived incompetence–I don’t give a shit, at all, about the job. Stan cares alot, and he fucks up all the time. Dina cares, but not much (but way more than I do) and there is always little shit that they don’t take care of. So my half-assed effort is at least as good as their best effort.
In a world of slackers, it doesn’t take much to be an over-achiever.
Finally, the woman decides that she does want the pizzas after all, if we can get them to her by 830. Well, duh–that was the original plan. "even better if you can get them here by 815." It was 745 now, and it was 21 pizzas. How the hell am I gonna–?
I threw down on some dough, pronto. Luckily I had Steve to help, who was a veteran of school lunch orders. This order was just like that. I did the dough and sauce, and Steve cheesed and did the toppings. You start with the harder ones first (it’s all relative), the pepperoni. They are just more time consuming. By the time you get to the end, the plain cheese pizzas, you’re on your own because your help now has to catch the pies coming out of the oven. We are synchronized.
We wail away on the order–again, 21 large pizzas–and it is completely made, in the oven, out of the oven and he is bagged up and leaving at 807. That’s 22 minutes from start to finish for 21 large pizzas. That includes the oven time of 6 minutes, boxing, cutting, and bagging them up. He gets it delivered at or a little after 815. Not bad. Not bad at all.
I’ve said before–I’m not THE fastest, but I’m one of the fastest. I’m not THE best, but I’m one of the best. If I was as good at ANYTHING else as I am at this–
If I were an actor, I’d be Will Smith. Or Julia Roberts.
If I were a scientist, I would have invented flying invisible cars. And robots to fly them for us.
If I were a race care driver, I’d be…one of those guys that is really good. I can only think of a few names right now and I’m not sure which ones I’m thinking of are alive and which ones are dead.
If I were a band, I’d be Led Zeppelin. Oh, definitely Zeppelin. Hear me out: I make pizza sexy. I’m way past my prime. And as far as *you* know, I did make a deal with the devil. And I may have choked on vomit at one time or another, either mine or someone else’s.
If I were a porn star, I’d be Ron Jeremy. I do have a hairy back.
I’m not trying to supplant real emotion with a one-dimensional feat of fairy-tale adventure of heroic deed. This is in addition to, not instead of the love and emotion and so forth. All that sappy crap. But I want to impress Detroit. Kind of juvenile, I know–like the boys in junior high showing off for the girls. I want her to see me doing my thing, and be impressed. I mean, instead of joining a band to pick up chicks, I went to work for Domino’s. Not a winning strategy, but it’s the only one I have. I guess groupies might be a little much to hope for.
I remember shortly after we got together, I changed the brakes on her Aztek. She practically jumped on me while I was under the car. It was a masculine thing I was doing, I suppose, and it turned her on. That’s what I’m looking for. I just want to impress her. I know I don’t *have* to–after all, I already have her, what the hell does it matter?
This is related, but not the way you think it is:
Long ago–perhaps the early to mid-90s, at a time when I already thought I had been doing this a long time–I remember a carry-out customer, a woman who came in. She was nice, we chatted briefly. I can read people, and I could tell she was a religious person, perhaps a little nutty that way but not in an I’m-an-evangelical-and-you’re-going-to-burn-in-Hell kind of way. She was sweet.
Anyway, she watched as I made the pizzas, then we talked, and then they came out, and I gave them to her.
"Here you go, ma’am."
I remember exactly what she said. "Wonderful! You are blessed by the work of your hands."
I felt like…she had given me a hug.
But it was Saturday, and last Saturday I wore my jeans. So I was going to just wear my regular shirt, but Stan said there was a new shirt in the office, in the supply tub. It was a 2x, big enough, so I took it. I told Stan that if anyone asks, he doesn’t know who took it. I only have one other shirt, and it’s been that way for a year, dammit.
No problem, sez he. I noticed new hats in the tub. My hat is a year old as well. I said maybe I’d take a new hat, too, and cowboy-up.
He turns to me to get all serious to explain to me that sure, do that, but before I get rid of my old hat, I need to take the scissors and either cut the Domino’s logo OUT, or cut it up and deface it before I throw it away. The reason is because we don’t want them to get in the wrong hands. People have used them to impersonate delivery driers and–
I stopped him. "Stan," I said, "it seems like alot of work for something I don’t care about."