The Ghost of Pizza Past, Redux

December 23, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Posted in Fiction | 5 Comments
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Chuck had a flash fiction challenge this week for something Christmas-themed, and he wanted it in less than 48 hours. Time to cheat. I took an old blog entry I had written and gave it some much-needed editing. I feel certain that anything I can say in 1600 words I can say better in a thousand.
You have to pick that thousand carefully.
Anyway, what he wanted was something about Christmas in an unusual setting. Nothing is more unusual to me than a pizza place.
To see more catch a one-horse open sleigh and slide on over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Christmas in a Strange Place

Christmas Eve and of course I am working.  My son is too.  It kind of helped, because if I was going to be there late, they would start without me at home, but if it more than me—like my son, then they would have to wait for us.  Christmas is a family time.  And Domino’s—well, Domino’s cared about family.  But not employees.  Where is the supervisor?  At home with family.  Where is the franchise owner?  Three states away with his family.Where is the director of operations?  Probably at a strip club.
In our area there was a local joint which closed about 4 pm.  Pizza Hut and Papa John’s both closed at 6 pm.  Up and down the main drag, as snow was falling, stores were closing, and the streets slowly emptying of traffic, as lights of businesses shut off and people went home.  It was serene and calm outside.  Blissful.  A Christmas choir sang.
Inside my store was chaos.  EVERYBODY else was closing, leaving only us to serve the masses.  We start getting busy as everyone realizes this is there last chance for pizza.  People also call just to ask how late we are going to stay open.  I quickly realize these are the ones who want to wait until the last minute.  We are supposed to stay open until ten, but if they asked we told them nine.
As predicted, the last hour is the busiest hour.  We no longer had the 30 minute guarantee, but we still tried to deliver timely service.  With the snow and the business volume, however, it got to be too much, and we were telling people 45 minutes to an hour, with emphasis on the hour.  Hopefully the fuckers were at least tipping well.
My son, Mike, comes back from a run about 9:50.  I send him with a three-stop that was already getting old.  The last run leaves a little after ten, and then I am counting the money and directing the cleaning, trying to get everyone to help and get them out the door.  We were still getting phone calls, and telling them we were closed, and it tapered off.  At ten after someone calls and wants to speak to the manager.
“Domino’s Pizza, I’m sorry we’re closed.”
“Yeah, I ordered a pizza over an hour ago, and it’s not here yet.”
“I’m sorry.  What’s the address?”
“Number one Happy Street.”
“Let me just look that up for you.  Okay, sir, the driver is on his way even as we speak.  It does look like it has been only 40 minutes, though.  And we did tell everyone an hour or more.”  Customers cannot tell time.
“This is ridiculous.  Why is taking so long?  I am a valued customer!”  All customers think they are valued.
“Well sir, we are a little busy because of the holiday and the snow. But the driver should be there any minute.”
“Just cancel my order.  Call him up, or whatever, and tell him I don’t want it.  I’ll call somewhere else.”  And all customers think they are smart.  This was 1994; I could count on one hand the number of cell phones in a ten-mile radius.
“Sir, I have no way of getting in touch with him; feel free to tell him when he gets there.”  Yes, please tell my son you don’t want the pizza.  My son is six-foot-eight and three hundred pounds.
“Fine!  This is bullshit!”  He hung up.
I didn’t get the chance to tell him that—or tell him that no one else was open. I would have tried–I wanted to help.  Because I care.
About 9:30 my son returned, and he had the pizzas.  The dickhead actually refused them.  I guess Mike arrived at the asshole’s door right after I talked to him.
Being pissed off dragged us down, but we were well on our way to getting the place cleaned up. Generally we close with three people, but we had more people that night because of business, and we were able to share the wealth and get it done more quickly.
In all the rush, I forget to lock the door.  About 9:40, and older man, a black man, came in.
I said, “I am sorry, sir, we’re closed.”
He seemed crestfallen.  “Oh, are you?  I just needed to get some food for my grandkids before I take them home.  We got a ways to drive and nothing is open.”
Suddenly, I had a thought and I said, “Hold on a second.”  I looked at the pizzas Mike had just brought back from the fucker that refused them, to make sure no one had yet dug their greedy little paws in them.
They were untouched.  I said, “Sir, how about a pepperoni-sausage and a ham-bacon?”
He perked up.  “Oh, anything, it doesn’t matter.”  He started to reach for his wallet and said, “What do I owe you for these?”
I said, “Hey, don’t worry about it.  Take ’em, feed your grandkids.  Merry Christmas!”
He smiled big and bright, and shook my hand.  He said, “Thanks, I will.  And Merry Christmas to you!”

Now, I originally thought that this story was about me getting a little revenge on a customer that was a jerk—because I did–or that it was about me brightening up some old man’s Christmas, because I did that, too.
But it is actually about what the old man had done for me.  I deal with several hundred customers in a night, and it only takes one, just one, grind me all the way down.  Here it was Christmas Eve, and look what he did to me!
But when the old man came in and needed a little help, and I was able to do it for him, it put the wind back in my sails.  I truly felt the spirit of Christmas.
And knowing that other guy was fucked for pizza really helped.


The Day the Van Stood Still

August 7, 2011 at 12:07 PM | Posted in Journal | 3 Comments
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Detroit bought this 1998 Ford Windstar Minivan (3.8L) from my buddy Kearbey, at the same time we bought the Saturn. The Saturn is a different story.
The van has been pretty reliable. It does this odd thing on occasion where it acts like the door is still open, so the interior light will stay on (until you hit 17 mph) and the door chime will go off (EVERYTIME you’re going under 17 mph, like at a stop light, or stop and go traffic) but it doesn’t do this all the time. M–mostly when it’s cold or wet or both.
The alternator went out on it over a year ago, and it was then I had a supreme appreciation for the vehicle: it was phenomenally easy to get to and replace. Front brakes? Been there, done that. Twice. I’m not sure who is harder on the brakes…

Right at the end of June–right when I started my new part time job at the liquor store–I was driving the van to my bank job. When I tried to leave, it wouldna start. Fuck.
I came back later to try a few things. No luck. I called my son Mike, who is a mechanic. He told me something to try that made sense, even though it involved a big-ass hammer. Based on the symptoms I described, he said “Fuel pump.” I cringed, but agreed.
He said the motor in the fuel pump has a weak spot, and it just happened to stop on it. If I hit the bottom of the gas tank with a hammer while someone tries to start it, it could jar it enough to get past that and start working. I might be able to get by and not have to change the fuel pump for a while–it may never stop at that point again.
We tried it, with Detroit at the key and me at the hammer. No luck. Fuck.
Detroit has towing on her insurance, so we had it towed home. However, we waited a week until we got paid, because the way it works is, you pay for the tow and then they reimburse you.
As it turned out, the tow was completely free because the first 20 miles are covered, and it was only 17. So we wasted a week. Fuck.
In the meantime I drove the truck and got rides to work and finagled various things to get rides. We were down to one vehicle.
So I priced fuel pumps. I thought it would be 200 bucks or more, but I found it for 125. Cool. I wish I was certain it was the fuel pump. I was about 95% sure. I tried to get someone to come out and at least hold my hand through it. I gave up, bought the fuel pump, and started the process
Of course, it wasn’t easy. I’m not only not a mechanic, but as it turns out, I don’t play one on TV, either. Plus, if you’ve read the news, the entire Midwest is in the grip of massive heat wave. Between working two jobs and trying to find a cool time to do the work, I was have a hard time. On a Sunday when I had to be at work at 11am, I got up at 530 and worked on it for several hours. I didn’t get it done, but I made progress.
You have to disconnect the fuel tank and drop it down because the fuel pump is inside the tank. Again, fuck.
As I said, I’m no mechanic. But I’m willing to tackle anything. Tenacity isn’t always a virtue. Hell, the simple connectors for the fuel lines had me scratching my head for a while, until I figured it out.
Finally, I get the connectors. That was the hard part. The tank comes down and comes out easily. It’s made of plastic, and there isn’t much gas in it. I get it up on the tailgate of the truck, change the pump, and I’m good to go. I get it back in relatively easily, because although I’m stupid, experience helps and I’ve been here before. I get it all back together, check the hookups, reconnect the battery, give it a crank, and–
It doesn’t start. Fuck.
I try several times, for a few minutes. I’m getting nothing here. It’s cranking, but not getting any gas.
Maybe it wasn’t the fuel pump after all. Fuck. At that point, I was ready to give up. All the wind, she came out of my sails. Combine that with the heat, and I didn’t touch it again for a week.
I called a mechanic guy I know, Pat, who is an old friend of my dad’s. And by old I mean he’s about 75. He told me a few things to try. Okay. I was ready for another attempt. I was going to analyze it carefully, and narrow down the possibilities.
First, let’s see if the fuel pump is working or not. The simplest test is to open the gas cap and listen for it to whir right before the engine cranks. As I recall, that was the one thing that led me to believe it was the fuel pump in the first place. I had Detroit come out and crank it while I listened with the gas cap off.
Sure enough, I heard the fuel pump.
Sure enough, the fucking thing started.
Well, I guess that’s…I don’t know–a victory, maybe? That was Saturday. Of course, I go to test drive it, and the brakes are mushy.
Well, it was low on fluid before, and I had a leak somewhere–I figured it was somewhere in the area where I had changed the front brakes. Maybe something loose. I’ll look it, add some fluid, bleed the brakes–
I added fluid, and was still not getting pressure. I added more, and got nothing. I filled it up. Still no pressure. What’s this? Oh, brake fluid has sprayed all over the underside of the van.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I jacked it back up to investigate. It looked like it was in the steel brake line underneath the fuel tank. Did I damage one putting it back in? It seemed likely.
I decided to write all this down–now, at this point–to help me back up and regroup, and collect my thoughts and gain some perspective. No perspective yet, but I do have one hell of a headache.
We’re not up to the present yet. Sunday, I think it was, I again wake up early and have several hours before I go to work. I drop the tank again, and get at the brake lines. It actually looks like they are rusted or corroded behind the gas tank. It make sense–in the open spaces they can drip dry, but behind the tank, any moisture is going to be retained longer and cause corrosion. So, at least it wasn’t my fault, in the strictest sense of the word. Sunday night I took them out.
Monday night after work, I go to the auto parts store with the lines in hand, looking for replacement. I end up having to piece them together. Each one is over 9ft long. One is about 9 1/2, and the other is over 10. They are short-handed at the auto parts store, so the girl lets me go in back and worry out how to piece them. It’s hot–their air isn’t working–and I don’t quite know what the hell I’m doing even though I think I do.
I get the parts, and the special tool for bending the tubes. By the time I get home, it’s dark.

I decide to take Tuesday off from my day job. I call my boss and leave her a message Monday night, and then call Tuesday morning and talk to her. She’s cool with it. By the time I called–9am–I had been up for four hours working on it. I managed to get one line pieced together, but not the way I intended. There is some slack in the line. WTF? Okay, I’ll just bend that out of the way. That means I have to go back to the parts store for another piece. Fuck.
So then I’m trying to put together the other line, and something isn’t quite right. There are two lines running to the back, one to each side. The junctions for each of them TAKE A DIFFERENT SIZE FITTING. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
My receipts show I made four trips to the auto parts store that day. Although, for the last one, I got money back. Finally, I get it all back together. Looks like nothing left but the bleeding. That was about 10 or 11 in the morning.
Well, one thing led to another, and I didn’t get out there to bleed them until about three. Man, it’s hot. I get things set up, and then Detroit comes out to step on the brakes for me. We do the one on the left, and then it seems fine–it seems tight. We do the other back one just for the hell of it. Just fine.
Well. Maybe–just maybe–since it was all in the back brakes, the front ones don’t need to be bled. I’ll just take it for a ride to see. I start it up and roll back.
There are no brakes whatsoever. I can’t even stop rolling down the driveway.
I put it in neutral, let it roll to a stop. I had to turn the wheel to go into the street, more or less avoiding cars parked on the side. I put it in reverse, and back up a bit, and pop it in neutral. Still going. I feel like sticking my foot out. I pop it into drive, and I go forward. That’s the way I inched myself back into the driveway.
I get out and look under the car. Brake fluid is dripping promiscuously from three or four or seventeen different places.
I decided I would go out there again in a few minutes and do some damage control.

I ate lunch, got more brake fluid, and tackled it again. Either it was cooler, or I was getting used to the heat. I don’t want to become acclimatized to this shit.
I have a routine now. I jack up the back end. Again. I put the jack stands under it. Then I jack up the front left…again. This gives me more room from front to back. Once in a while I think about being crushed under the weight of the vehicle, and I wonder if that’s preferable to the mechanical discomfort I’m feeling. Christ, my head hurts again.
This is the third time I’ve done this part, so by now I’m pretty good at it. I disconnect the lines from the filler, disconnect the gas tank lines, and lower the gas tank just a bit. It looks like it’s just leaking in two spots: One of the connectors at the very front, and one just under the gas tank. Everywhere else seems good. That’s good news and bad news. The good news is, some of it is okay. The bad news is, I can’t just throw in the towel.
By now I’m a little more organized, and I have a plastic tub that has all the tools that I use for this job, which is surprisingly few: Fifteen millimeter socket for the tank straps, a nine for the hoses and also the battery, a small flathead screwdriver for some of the hose connectors, and for the lines themselves, a 13 and a 10.
Those little plastic pieces connecting the fuel lines–I’ve pulled them out and put them back in so many times–shit, one of them broke. It was shaped like a U, now it’s shaped like a J. Fuck.
Well, these are the new ones that came with the fuel filter. Do I still have the old ones? Yes I do. Okay.
From the places brake fluid is leaking, I am able to tighten the connections. Okay, maybe that’s all it was. I push the gas tank just a little (it’s supported by the jack with a piece of plywood on it) and I can get to that connector and tighten it a bit also. Hmmm. Okay. Anything else? Really? That seems to be it. I start to put it back together. The last part is the gas lines.
Oh, remember that plastic piece that broke? I don’t want the other piece to be stuck in there before I put it back together. I tilted the line to have a look–
And gas pours out, onto my face, and into my eye.
Why does good shit never happen in slow motion?
Ouch, this burns a little. In what would be probably my smartest move of the day, I went in the house immediately, limping because of the gas in my eye, and called for Detroit as I went to the kitchen sink and hit the cold water.
When I tell her what happens, she kind of over-reacted. She got the phone book and called poison control.
They said to flush it out with cold water. Check. For 10 to 15 minutes. Uh, check? The best way, they recommended, is to get in the shower and just stand there with the water going in your eye. It doesn’t have to be cold; it could be “comfortable.” How comfortable is water spraying in your eye that has gasoline in it?
The answer is “not very.” But I stood there, and I took it. I felt like I was being water-boarded by some really incompetent foreign agents. Poison control said they would call back in an hour and see how I was doing.
I’m fine, but I still have to go out there and put it back together. And then probably take another shower.
I put it all back together, and it’s now 8pm. In the summer, it’s still light out, but I have about 20 minutes of daylight left. I fill the reservoir, then run the trouble light out and call Detroit out to step on the pedal for me while I look.
The spot up front is still leaking. So is the spot under the edge of the gas tank.
“Okay. That’s good. You can stop.” I roll out from under the van once more, and start to gather my shit up. Detroit looks at me. “It’s still leaking. In two places.”
By the time I come back in the house, I have collected my thoughts and gathered a strategy. “Okay–we have to have the van fixed by Monday.” Monday is when she starts back to work. “I only work at the liquor store Wednesday night and Saturday night. I have Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday day, and all day Sunday. I am not defeated.

Thursday night there was an after-work function. I drank about 4 Margaritas in hour, then went home and fell asleep. Being old sucks. Friday after work I should have worked on it, and I was about to, I swear–
It started to rain. I’ll just wait.
Saturday morning, I gets up bright and early, see, planning to have a productive day beating this bitch down. Let’s analyze this: It’s leaking in two spots. Maybe that union is bad, back there…and maybe this other one is just bat-shit crazy and I should replace it.
Let’s see–which auto parts store have I not shown my face in yet?
Well, it doesn’t matter. In one trip, I stopped seven times at five stores. I learned a lot, but here is a synopsis:
*Engineers that design cars don’t give a flying fuck about the people who may have to work on them. If they tell you anything different, they are lying sons a bitches.
*Forget standard and metric. There is also a difference between Japanese metric and European metric. What’s the difference? Fuck you, that’s the difference.
*Everything on cars since sometime in the 80s is metric, except for when they want to fuck with you. Three-eighths of an inch is just a little bigger than 10 mm. Seven-sixteenths is right between 11 and 12 mm. Ask me how I know that. Go ahead and fucking ask me.
I finally have the last piece I need: a union that is European metric. Okay, then. I get back home and I bend the new lines that I have–
Because I had to buy some new lines because there is also a difference in the kind of connectors. There is flare tip and bubble tip. Whatever kind you have is going to be the wrong one.
–and I put it back together. It seems to go well. I have Detroit come out and step on the brakes while I look for leaks.
Success! Is it? Is it really? At this point all I hoped for was to not be mauled by a bear while I’m under the van.
I don’t have enough time to put it all back together. I have to take a shower and go to work at the liquor store. That was Saturday night, last night. I put everything away, and I’ll put it back together Sunday and drive it. I hope.

Sunday morning, I get up early and piddle around a bit. I’m not anxious to see what the gods of mayhem and automotive repair have planned for me today. By mid-morning, I’m on my back under the van.
Uhm…it looks like a drip or two in two spots. Uh…
I tighten them up at the same time that I ignore them. It ain’t easy, unless you’re me. I put everything else back together–the gas tank that I had lowered a bit and moved out of the way, and other random associated things that are probably important to the functional well-being of the vehicle.
Okay. Ready. Detroit comes out once more, and I bleed the brakes, also keeping an eye on the unions for leakage. So far, so good. The back is done. In between each wheel, I add more brake fluid.
And by the way, just adding brake fluid is a chore. See the first thing I learned about working on cars, above. The reservoir is under the hood, underneath crap, so I can’t pour directly into it. Funnel? No, a funnel won’t work either. I have a strip of metal about 18 inches long bent into a trough. I pour fluid on one end, and it pours into the reservoir like a Roman aqueduct.
I bleed the front. All good. All done. All right.
I’m going to take it for a test drive. I pick up the tools, but optimism is one thing that I’m not prepared for, so I don’t put them away. I lower the car to the ground, then get cleaned up a bit–face, arms, glasses, and the back of my head. I’m ready.
I get behind the wheel and I check behind me for obstacles that I could roll into and cause me to die in fiery crash. Here’s hoping.
I turned the key. Whir-rr.
It won’t start.
Of course, it won’t–it’s sat for about a month, running only twice when I knew I had it “fixed” before. I grab the keys to the truck and jump-start it. Okay. NOW are we ready to go?
Detroit is there to see me off. “You wanna come with?” I asked. No, she does not. She doesn’t want to take any chances and besides, she heartily dislikes when I needlessly end a sentence with a preposition.
I start to back up. I hit the brakes. It stops. Wow. I back up more. I hit the brakes. It stops again. I leave. My mission is to test drive it, put air in one of the tires that is low, and put some gas in it, because gas prices came down in the last couple of days.
I did all of this with no problems. My mission was a success. Not only was gas the cheapest I had seen it in several months–3.27/gallon–but as an added bonus, the check engine light that had been on for almost a year was now off.
It’s the little victories that keep you from going on a shooting spree.

I’m Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today

June 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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Maybe it is over, as far as pizza deliver goes.
For now, anyway.
I left Pizza Hut in March, I think.  The anti-climax of all anticlimaxes, I just told them I couldn’t afford to drive to work, and then drive.  Not for what gas prices were–and are still, even though they’ve come down a bit, but not nearly enough.
These are trying times indeed.
But maybe that’s a good place to stop the book, if I were writing one.  Which I am.  At least it’s a good demarcation.  If I’m not currently working in pizza, I can concentrate on going back and filling in the holes in my story.  Sliding back and forth through time like Donnie Darko rattles the senses.  I need to be firmly rooted…in the past.
Speaking of the past, I have a new part time job.  I work in a little mom-and-pop liquor store.  It doesn’t pay much, but it’s not exceptionally demanding, either.  And it reminds me of another job I had oh so long ago.

In 19-
Wait, let me get my time line right.  In 83 I graduated, and went to college in the fall.  In 84 I flunked out.  In the fall of 84 we moved to St Louis.  I think that’s when I got the job.
There was this small chain of convenience stores in the area called “Majik Market.”  The company is long gone, but many of the buildings are still around, still being used by Asians as convenience stores.  The one I used to work at is actually an insurance office now.
I was fairly new here, going to school, and wanted to have money of my own.  My Aunt Gloria (who passed away this last December) was the one that gave me a line on this job.  “Majik Market is hiring,” she said.  “I talked to the manager up there.  You should go apply.”
So I did.
Of course, I didn’t know the reason *why* they were hiring.  At the store on Bellefontaine Road just a few weeks ago, the young woman working the register was shot in the face and killed.  It turned out that the robbery was supposed to be a setup between her and the robber, but he panicked.  Or maybe they were dating.
Either way, suddenly there were openings, and not just there.  A few people got cold feet and quit.  Enter me:  bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and gullible as shit.
I met the supervisor at the store on Bellefontaine for what I thought was going to be an interview.  Instead he took me down one of the back aisles near the cooler, and essentially had this conversation:
Him:  This job is pretty easy.  You check people out, make coffee, and keep the place clean.  Think you can handle that?
Me:  Sure.  I can do that.
Him:  Good.  Okay.  You need to call this number and set up a time to go to this address for a lie detector test.  Once that’s taken care of, we’ll call when we’re going to have you start.

I didn’t have an interview.  I had a lie detector test.  They may or may not have been illegal then, but they definitely are now, as a condition of employment.
The place was somewhere near the Arena, which isn’t there anymore.  It was late November, and we had a good snow…like 10 inches.  I didn’t let a little thing like that stop me; I made it to my test.
When they do a lie detector test, there is a pre-interview, where they screen some information in order to set up the questions they are going to ask.  That’s where I lied my balls off.  No, I don’t smoke pot.  No, I’ve never been arrested.  Yes, I promise not to masturbate in the bathroom on the overnight shift.
So I got the job.  I wasn’t going to work at the one on Bellefontaine, but rather the one nearer to my house.  The current staff was the manager–some 60-year old woman, and two other guys.  The black guy worked mostly 3rds and a few second shifts.  Let’s call him Ron.
The other guy was a middle-aged white dude.  Ken.  He was skinny and nerdy, and had a chip on his shoulder.  He had been promoted to “assistant manager.”  With four people, I’m not sure what that means.  We all worked by ourselves.  When I was there at 3am, I might as well have been the fucking manager.
This was my first job that didn’t involve bales of hay or fields of beans.  I figured out how to do it–I’m pretty smart–but there was no motivation to work very hard.  I usually had several hours in the middle of the night to do nothing whatsoever.  Not bad for 2.85 an hour.
After a week or so our manager got transfered to another location, and we got a new manager.  Nancy was younger–early 30s–and pretty cute.
We hired another guy after that who was about my age, but he didn’t last very long.  He was there long enough to cover for me (kinda) when I was going to a concert.  I still had to come in, but I could be an hour or so late.  Of course, this was Bruce Springsteen, the Born in the USA tour.  We had to leave before the show was over because he plays so goddamn long.  I’ve only left one other concert early.
I had this other thing going on that was a minor inconvenience, and I didn’t wonder until much later if it was the cause of other problems.  These two dudes I sort of knew would come up there and hang out–just hang out–in the middle of the night.  Like after 1 am until about 2 or 3.  My friends at the time revolved around my cousins and their friends, and these guys were friends of *those* friends.  So it wasn’t even a direct relationship.
They would come up and hang out and try to mooch shit for free off of me.  At first I did let them have some shit, but if you give an inch, they want a sixpack.  I had to start saying no and being a dick about it.  We would get high up there, too.  I think they were just helping me smoke *my* weed.  What the fuck?
Late at night when no one is around it does get boring and a little lonely.  But after a while, I craved to be alone.  They were pests.
Of course you have some regulars.  I learned the hard way that I actually do need to make fresh coffee before 5am, or I have a bunch of pissed off people.  There were also some Section-8 ghetto apartments behind us, so I had people trying to use food stamps for shit you can’t get with food stamps–but they have to try it on the new guy.
My worst times there were the holidays, and I had nightmares about it for a while after that.  We didn’t even HAVE gas pumps, but in my dreams we did.  Thanksgiving was a taste of what Christmas and New Years’ was going to be like.
Remember, this is the mid-80s, and there were not as many convenience stores around then.  And none whatsoever near us.  You decide on Thanksgiving morning you need milk and eggs?  Yeah, so did 140 other assholes in the last hour.
We–or I–got screwed on the holidays.  Thanksgiving was a holiday, but not until 7am that morning.  Working from 11pm the night before until then doesn’t count.  But don’t worry:  everyone has to come in and work about 4 hours so that it’s “fair” and so that everyone gets some home time.  I got off at 7am, and then come back and work from 2pm to 6pm.  That was time and half, that four hours.  If only I could come back again that night–but no, somebody else got the night of the holiday, with the holiday pay.
The same thing happened again for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day.  Fucked, I was.
After the holidays things settled down somewhat.  I worked some thirds and some seconds.  Ron worked all thirds.
Here it was towards the end of February.  There was a crisis at the store.  Also, there was a pretty rough snow storm.  I think all this went down right around my birthday.  When I showed up at 3 for second shift, Nancy said that there was a major shortage at the store.  Not money, but product.  Like ten grand worth.  I think maybe they should count again.  But I had to go down for another lie detector test–everyone did.  Oh, crap.
You know what?  I don’t think there was snow the first time.  I think that was early November.  No snow.  But there was snow this time.  I remember.  This was the big snow.
The next day I drive down, and it had started snowing.  It was late morning.  I get down there for the lie detector test, and the guy giving the test talks to me, so I have to fess up about something.  You know, I’m going to eat in the middle of the night.  I told him that occasionally I would eat something, but that I kept a running total of it, and when I got paid I paid it back.  I showed him the register tape, where I had about 14 dollars worth of stuff on it.  He was totally fine with that, and we did the test.
And then he wanted to make sure–can I get a money order for the amount that I owe, and bring it in?
Uh, sure.  Okay.  I hadn’t done anything else wrong.  This seemed minor, but I was taking care of it.  I went back–I actually had to work that night–I got a money order and I went into to work at 3pm.
With the snow, we were a bit slow.  Which was good, because every time some asshole came in for a pack of smokes I had to mop the floor behind them.
Long about 1030, I get a call from Ron.  I don’t know where he lives, no idea–but he says he can’t make it in.  There is 10 inches of snow, and it’s still falling.  Okay.
So I make the call I have to make.  I guess I called Nancy, but after I told her what happened, Don the supervisor called me, so I could repeat the story for him.  About 1130, Don comes in.
When the supervisor has to come in and work, it’s never a good thing.  When they have to come in and work a third shift, I imagine they aren’t very happy.  But he was the one who was going to relieve me.
He said that Ron no longer worked for us.  Don offered to get Ron a cab, and pay for it, to have him come in.  I guess Ron refused this generous offer.  Okay, then.
So without Ron, I worked third shift.  I worked ALL the third shifts.  For two weeks straight I worked third shift and did not have a night off.  That 14th morning, Nancy came in like always, but she was visibly upset.  Why?
Well, she had to fire me.  She got the call yesterday and was simply told to not put me on the schedule anymore.  Why, she wanted to know.  The fact that I took items without paying for them was theft, a violation of company policy, blah blah blah.  At least I wasn’t responsible for the grand theft–which was still a mystery–and she was relieved about that because we were getting along in a friendly way.  She was cute and I worked harder to try to please her.
So, I violated company policy, and I had to be fired.  But that came to light two weeks ago.  Why wasn’t I fired then?
Oh, because they had just fired Ron, and didn’t have anyone for third shift.  They kept me and strung me along until they could hire my replacement.
Am I bitter?  No.  I was then.  I’m not now.  I learned some things.  Besides, I’m still here, and I doubt Majik Market would turn up anything on a Google search.  Which is the lesson to be learned here, kids.  Don’t fuck with me.  You’ll go out of business.

Lookin Out My Backdoor

April 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I haven’t done that in a while–I haven’t looked “out my back door” lately.  But I have had my head up my ass, does that count?

The last time I looked out there, though, I noticed that where the grass is really green and getting higher, the dog has dug some impressive holes, the mother-fucker.  Meanwhile, the grass around the shed is still brown, because he killed it from pissing in it.  Can I just, maybe…spraypaint it?  I don’t know.

The ramblings, the musings, the incoherent babblings of a man with focus, a man on a mission.  You see, I know I haven’t written in a while, and it had been a while before that as well.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Well, dude, we just don’t know.

I do know this:  I did quit my job at Pizza Hut.  Now what?  Well, I need to find another part time job.  I thought about what it would be like to be reading this in the future.  Two scenarios:

1) I pop in the quaint, antiquated flash drive and read with amusement how I was concerned about this low period in my life.   Which, this, too, shall pass and things will get better.  As I view it from my utopian future one hundred and 30 years from now on my retirement farm on Mars, I ponder that all the adversity gave me strength and wisdom, and–

Blah-blah blah.

2) Uncovered from the rubble, this strange device magically plugs into the talking machine, and it tells a wonderous tale of the past, which the feral children of the village no longer believe.  Technology?  Civilization?  Cell phones?  (Not the same thing.)  As we skin and carve the deer that will make our meals for the next several days, the elders (like myself) quietly reflect that these days, these simpler, harder times–are actually better.  Better for all of us.  Except for the sickly, the old, and the infirm.  Soon, I will be left as an offering to the wolves.

But all of that is neither here nor there.  I have to deal with the here and now.  Right now.  Yesterday–Friday–I didn’t take my ADD medication.  I got through work just fine without it.  But also–

I’ve been worrying (some might say obsessing) over the money situation.  With my new ADD medication, I have focus.  So I was able to really focus on my worrying.  Christ.  I needed a break.  It was good to have a relatively worry-free day.  Of course, last night we got a helluva storm.  It didn’t damage us much, but just a few miles to the south, tornadoes did some serious damage.  As always, God is reminding me that things could be worse.

Been Such a Long Time

March 10, 2011 at 11:39 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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And several things may have contributed to why I haven’t written in a while.  There, just that one sentence–and now I am off and running.  I think.
So much has happened in the last three months, and yet there is so little to tell.  In December my Aunt passed away, and right before Christmas Detroit fell on the ice and broke her hip.  She has been laid up for the past three months, and is only recently able to start trying to put weight on it.
I…oh, hell–it doesn’t matter.  I’m writing this crap for myself anyway.  It was (and still is) a fucking lot to deal with.  I have to do everything, including shit I’m not good at, like laundry and cleaning.  I appreciate more and more what she has done now that I have to do it.
Of course I had a great line for it, because I needed one to get me through.  People would ask how she’s doing, and I would explain the whole ordeal, and how the doctor told her not to put any weight on her hip.  “And even though he didn’t tell me specifically,” I would add, “I’m sure I’m not supposed to put any weight on it either.”  I pause innocently, waiting for my audience to catch on.
But that’s what I had to endure as well:  No sex.  It’s been very hard to go without.  I have these symptoms:
*Cranky and irritable
*No desire to write or do creative work
*Did I mention cranky and irritable?
And I wasn’t sure if it was because of the lack of sex or because of the increase in dosage for my ADD medication.  I seem to have leveled out on the crankiness–
Either that, or–like my new sexless life–I’ve come to accept it as part of my life now.
But I really didn’t want the medication to affect my creativity, because other than that this new dose is really working for me, I think.  Maybe I was just too focused on all the other tasks at hand to write?  I hope so.  I never gave up the desire, it just always got pushed to the back burner.  Plus, even though I wasn’t getting any, I sure was looking at a large amount of porn.
The specific porn in a guy’s collection sure does say something about his personality–
And let’s leave it at that.
The first weekend of January, our dog picked up a stray dog.  Yeah, our dog had a dog.  I didn’t have time and Detroit wasn’t able to look for the owners, so we kept her for about three days while it was really cold.  Then her son saw a sign in the neighborhood, so we returned her.  They were happy to have her back, but it did make us think that another dog is what our dog needs.
We were having a meeting in the living room, the whole house–the whole family.  Detroit’s family.  I guess they are mine, because they live in my house.  But dammit, I don’t want to admit or have to accept the oldest son, The Troll.
I had planned this meeting after the new year to talk about new responsibilities and what I wanted out of the boys, and also some different ways to shop for groceries and plan meals.  The meeting got interupted, so I didn’t get to finish and go off on them.  Detroit’s mom got a call.  Her sister in Michigan was very ill.
She went up to stay with her for several weeks–or stay with another sister and visit the sick one in the hospital.  Then she came home, and then spent three or four days with Detroit’s sister while she recovered from lap-band surgery.  That’s the thing where they squeeze off part of your stomach when you’re too much of a fat-ass and have no self-control and just keep shoveling food down your throat.  They should have installed the lap band about a cubit higher, at her mouth.  That would solve several problems:  It would keep her from eating, and she wouldn’t be able to talk, either.  Fuck, she is annoying.
Shortly after that–about a week ago–Bonnie’s (Detroit’s mom) sister passed away.  Away we trek up to Michigan.
I had high hopes of using some of my time off that I tried to accumulate to get some things done around the house.  Instead, the three days I built up were used on this, and I have nothing again, until next month.  I accrue 11.25 hours per month, which comes to about 17 days per year, or three weeks.  This doesn’t include all the holidays we are off and paid for.  I have a pretty sweet gig.
We go to Michigan.  They pack some bags, and I have to haul them.  It’s Detroit, recovering from a broken hip, and using a walker.  It’s her sister, recovering from her minor surgery and suffering from a severe personality disorder.  And it’s their mother, a short, waddly old sedentary woman with diabetes and other problems.  And me, driving the gimp-mobile.
It wasn’t a bad visit, as trips-for-funerals go–for me.  Detroit got sick Thursday and couldn’t go to the funeral (she was there for the previous evening for the wake.)  She was able to leverage her illness quite cunningly, I thought.  Her mother had planned–without consulting us–for us to stay there through Sunday, and leave Sunday morning, driving the ten hours back.  Detroit said she would rather be sick at home, and wanted to leave.
And that was fine with me, even though I was meeting more of her family and hopefully endearing myself to them…or at least not creeping them out too much.  To be fair, they are her relatives, not mine, so it’s perfectly okay for me to flirt with her hot cousins.
But we didn’t leave Friday, we left Saturday morning instead.  Friday I got to taste the star of local cuisine:  a steak sammich at Tony’s.  But it’s not a steak sammich.  It’s a burger, or a hoagie.  It’s a large oblong burger on toasted Italian bread with cheese and pizza sauce on it.  It’s a pizza burger.
It was purty goddamn awesome.
I also got to see the sights of Saginaw, Michigan:  Deteriorating slums, a vacant downtown, and roads that could use some putty, or crack-fill, or rock, or something.  Fuck, fill the holes with spaghetti and meatballs for all I care.  Just fill them.
Saturday morning we prepared to leave.  Meaning, I packed our bags, Detroit’s mom and sister packed theirs, and they sat there and watched me while I loaded up the van in the falling snow.  Then I herded their asses out to the van, got them in it, closed the doors, and we left.  It snowed all through Michigan, and somewhere in northern Indiana it turned to rain.  By Indy it had stopped.
I was glad to have Sunday off and at home; the road was not kind to my body, especially my knees.  I did nada but lay on the couch, then nap, then eat, then lay on the couch some more.  It was a busy day.

I feel a little out of practice at writing here, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to make this interesting or funny.  Fuck it.  Live isn’t always interesting or funny.  Sometimes it’s just life.

The Belly Of The Beast

February 18, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Mardis Gras did indeed suck, as foretold in the prophecy.  However, it sucked in ways I had not foreseen–life is full of surprises.
On a side note–and something I’ll explore in more detail later–the radio show has yet to materialize.  Saturday I should have gone to the studio to work on the show, but my laptop stopped.  Stopped what, you ask?  Stopped everything.  No power to the machine at all.  It is now a large, unergonomic paperweight.
I need the laptop to access the deep fried gold that is my material for the show.  Without it, I’m shooting from the hip, unedited and unprepared.  No one wants that.  So we postponed the show for the week.  We’re still waiting on a theme song anyway.  More–much more on all this–later. 

I had been looking for a way to get out of going in to The Three Jakes on Saturday, the night of the Mardis Gras celebration.  Mardis Gras is a BFD here in St Louis.  But, since I had telegraphed these moves earlier in the week, I couldn’t legitimately beg off work without attention being called.  So, I went in.
On the drive in, several things weighed on my mind, the most pressing of which was my lapsed car insurance.  This is supposed to be crowded as Hell, with drunks all over the place, and I really did not want to be driving around in this.  I just know I’m going to hit some pedestrians, and I simply don’t have *time* to dispose of all those bodies.
As soon as I got off the highway, right at the edge of the neighborhood, there were crowds of people in the street.  The parade started about one pm I guess, and it was over about 3 or 4.  Now it was five, and people were beginning to leave.  It was a nice day for February in St Louis–clear and cool, almost 40 degrees.
Many of the streets were blocked off.  The main drag, Broadway, was one of  them.  The Three Jakes sits right on Broadway, in the middle of the closed off section.  Other side streets in the neighborhood had concrete barriers in place.  The streets were lined with large industrial dumpsters and portable toilets.
I had hoped to get out of delivering in this mess, and I got my wish.  I followed the re-directed traffic around the block and back behind the street the store sits on.  I couldn’t get in the parking lot–but not because it was full.  We had cars of employees parked strategically to block all entrances.  I called the store from where I sat in the street, and Brian came out and moved so I could get in.  Thereafter, I blocked the way, and whenever someone wanted to leave or get in, they came and got me.  This was better than the manager moving every time–he needed to be in there.
Inside the store was much like outside, except louder.  The Three Jakes always has music playing, and today it was loud, and we had a store full of people.  We were having our own fucking after-party here.  Once in, I saw we had several people from other stores there, but not all of our people there.  What the hell?
We had both lines going, which is something I don’t see at night but is common during the day.  We had a person on each register, and each one covered a make line.  Then there was two and sometimes three people on each line.  There’s really no room for any more than that, and all the third person can do is make unhelpful comments and wrap sammiches.  Then there is a runner–the person between the register and the line who calls out to the line what they need, and gives it to the valued drunken-ass customer.
All positions are taken.  Brian had put me on a register, but then I had to go back and forth and move my car, so he gave it to someone else.  I hope there’s no cash shortage that comes back on me–
I told Steve and Jared–and Will–to go ahead and deliver around me.  Those guys were all on bikes.  Jared also had his SUV for longer runs that he could get to by driving.  I stayed inside.  I grabbed a position as a runner, but Matt–the fucking district manager or supervisor, or whatever the fuck you want to call him–kept coming in, doing my job, then walking away and taking care of something else.  Then he would come back, and jump in my way again.  What the fuck, mother-fucker?
But they needed someone like me, who can back and fill and anticipate what’s going to happen.  I could roll into place, and back out quickly and go do something else.  When a driver hit the road, I grabbed that spot on the line, and then moved back to running when they came back.
Brian sent me up to the downtown store for bread.  We bake our own, fresh daily–and we had bread proofing in racks all over the place.  Someone moves into my spot to block it as I leave.  When I get there, I see that the store is closed.  The downtown store only opened during the week, and it closes early–before 8 pm I think.  The director of operations for the franchise is there, alone, baking bread and slicing meat for us.  I load up what he has and head back.
The lobby–the customer area–is just constantly full of drunk people.  Lots of hot chicks, too, so that’s nice.  I leaned over to Cameron, a young black dude on the line, and said, “What would it take to get one of these chicks to lift her shirt?  If we got one to do it, it would be like a wave, and they all would.”  He agreed–but we never got it started.
When I first got there, various employees were “guarding” the hallway to the bathrooms–no entry.  I thought it was just because of all the drunken ass-clowns, but we actually had a plumbing problem.  In a little while, a hired security guard showed up, and his only job was to keep people away from the plumbing.  All manner of drunks tried various drunken logic to gain access to the bathrooms.  They wanted to complain to the manager.  They wanted to call the police.  They thought we were being unfair.  Can’t you just make an exception for my girlfriend?
One self-important asshole–after he had talked to Brian and lodged his complaint, talked to me because Brian walked away.  He said, “I’m an architect with the city planning office in Chicago.  Just tell your manager that I called the zoning commission and lodged a complaint because you’re supposed to have working restrooms.”
I shrugged.  At this point, I had been dealing with drunks for about 3 hours non-stop.  “Whatever, Paco.  This is St Louis.”
“Well I have friends and connections here.”
“Go use their bathroom, then.”  I turned and walked away from him.
Whenever I went out to move my car for an employee (or a couple of times, for random people that had somehow gotten past the barricades and into our lot) I would pull my car out of half of the driveway, and the other half was blocked by a big red pickup that was backed sideways into the spot, backed almost against the building in the lot next to us.  Every time I went out there, there was always several people squeezed between the truck and the building.  Peeing.
Terrific.  I’m glad I didn’t have my car there.  It looked like no one peed on my Mercedes–yet another reason I didn’t want to take any deliveries.  We did let employees go to the bathroom, which was nice.  About 9 or so I finally went.  The place was trashed.  The mirror was missing–a preemptive measure to keep it from being broken.  One of our cutesy little signs in the bathroom was broken off and stolen.
Long about 1030, I decided it would be safe to hit the road.  The streets were starting to clear.  City ordinance states that–on this day–all businesses that serve alcohol must close by 8 or 9 pm, or something like that.  Most restaurants would as well.  We were the last hold out, it seemed.  But we were getting delivery orders, and the boys on bikes were doing them.  Really, we were just blocks away from most of them.  I started taking deliveries, and the ones I took were far from the party zone.  I had to go way down and around, or way up and through and around to get through the closed off streets.
The streets.  Have you ever lived in a two-bedroom apartment and had a small dinner party, and then 150 people showed up?  Imagine that multiplied by several square miles.  The streets looked like the apocalypse, and as proof you could still see the occasional walking dead.  Work crews were busy moving barricades and stacking fence pieces in the aftermath.   The street cleaners were out in force, dodging the drunks.  Cabs prowled the streets looking for blood, and showed me places that I didn’t realize I could go yet.  More than once, I had to turn around and backtrack, finding the way at the end of a maze blocked by porta-potties and barricades.
Originally, was scheduled until midnight, like most of us.  I think it was because they thought we were going to have to close early, like everyone else.  As it turned out, we didn’t have to, so we could stay open till 4 am.  Yay.  But wait–“Bryan with your nose so bright, won’t you stay and close tonight?”
Well, fuck me.  Both Brian and Matt asked me to close–“we don’t have anyone else.”  What about Steve, who always does?  Or Jared?  Where was Darnell, the fucker?  But this was my chance.  I said, “Listen, on my day job this is a three-day weekend, and you have me scheduled ALL THREE DAYS.  If you can get me off either Sunday or Monday, I’m in.  I’ll close.”
Matt the supervisor, showing supervisorial-take-charge initiative, said, “Done!”  Okay.  We had a deal.
Except, we really didn’t have a deal.
I accepted the deal with good faith, thinking that I can still make some money tonight and then have one day off.  I had started driving about 1030.  About 1130 I came back from a run and noticed some water on the floor by the ice machine.  I said, “Hey, what’s up with the water?”  No answer.  I leave on another run and come back, and there is more water there.  I’m not asking again.  The Three Jakes has a shown me a track record of lapsed communication: It’s just not important to them.  Whatever.  I take another run.
By the time I come back, it’s 1230.  The doors are locked, the customers are gone from the lobby.  One more delivery–but no drive-thru.  The delivery is a time order for 130 am.  Now, they are forced to communicate with me, and explain what the fuck.  What, exactly, *is* the fuck?
“Bryan, can you call these people and ask them if we can deliver that now instead of 130?  Thanks.”
“Okay.  What should I tell them?”  No answer.  Fuck this is frustrating.  Am I supposed to assume something?  Under normal circumstances I suppose I could, but since nobody does anything here in a reasonable, logical manner, there is nothing upon which to base a supposition.  Finally, out of someone–not a manager–I find out that because of the plumbing issue–the sewer is backing up and coming up through the drain in the floor–we are closing early.  Well, thank you very much.  Would it kill you to explain yourself for fucking once?
I delivered the one last sammich, and whoever was left worked on closing.  I’ve never closed here, and even though I am a veteran of thousands of closes at other places, I had no idea where to start or what to expect.  I asked Brian, “Well, what should I start on first?”
“Just go by the bitch list.”  Fine, you want the bitch list?  I’ll give you the fucking bitch list.  There’s water all over the goddamn floor that we have to work around, you’re wandering around in a fucking daze because The Three Jakes thinks sleep is optional for its managers, there’s five or six of us here to close and only two of them have done it.  Some things need to be done a certain way, or in a certain order.  Some things can be done efficiently…or not.  There’s shit that needs to be directed, action that needs to be taken, and orders that need to be given.  Someone needs to MOTHER FUCKING TAKE GODDAMN CHARGE OF THIS RIDICULOUS SHIT AND ACT LIKE A GODDAMN FUCKING SHIT MANAGER FOR FUCK’S SAKE.  *Tell us what to do!*–It’s on the bitch list.
Fuck it.  I grabbed the sink, started doing the dishes.
Finally, we get out of there about a quarter till 2, and we didn’t touch the floor.  Shitto-Rooter is coming, so why bother–they can clean that up in the morning.
We were busy that night.  So busy that of course no one got their mandatory break.  After 4 and half hours, you HAVE to take a break.  And you get a free sammich, chips, and a pop.  Personally, I prefer a soda, but that’s what we have–pop.  I got White Castle on the way home.  Let’s see–home at 230, in bed before 330 after eating and having some wind-down time.
I set my alarm for 11 am, but woke up before that.  But I began to wonder–am I getting off one of these days, or not?  I know we had a deal…but deals were made to be broken.  I didn’t stay till 4, even though I was prepared to.  I wonder who would be in today?  Chances are, not Brian.  Chances are, not Matt.  Chances are, whomever I had a deal with would not answer the phone.
Oh, and today is Valentine’s Day.  Of course.  Luckily, Detroit got her flowers Friday, so I didn’t have to do anything.  She gave me a crappy little variety box of chocolates probably filled with mayonnaise, hot dog water and saur kraut for all I know.  I’m not trying them.  I’m not a hero.  Maybe I’m just having a bad day, and this isn’t helping.  She mentioned something about pizza–and it never happened.  I had to get something to eat on the way to work, otherwise I wouldn’t have eaten all day.  Am I bitching?  Yes I am.
I got ready to leave for work Sunday.  Earlier, I went to the store and bought some mac and cheese to cook for my lunch, since no one else is interested in lunch at all.  Then I took a nap, got up, and got ready.  I opened the door to leave–
It’s snowing.  My shoulders slumped, much like my soul did at that point.  What else?  What else are you gonna do to me?  Fuck.  I drove to work.  The highway was backed up in various places from accidents in this freshly-fallen and soft downey blanket of fluffy white crap.
Behinder and behinder I’m getting, and it looks like I’m going to be late.  I have two conflicting yet related thoughts.  The first was should I have called to see if a miracle happened and my replacement was found?  Should I call to let them know I’m going to be late?  The second thought was a passive-aggressive stubbornness:  The Three Jakes has laid the framework for being poor communicators.  They are teaching me by example.  I’m not calling.  Let them call me.
By now I’m close to 20 minutes late, and still no call.  This makes me wonder if I’m working after all…
No, I’m working.  I almost thought I was going home.  But Jared had been there all day (six hours?) and was mistakenly scheduled to close.  Meanwhile I’m scheduled 5 to 9, and Steve is 9 to close.  Two drivers?  Sure.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  They let Jared go home.  At least Steve showed at 9 instead of 11–it’s going to be one of those two, always.  He gets out of his other job late when he works it.  I remember when I started, Brian asked if I was cool with that, and I am.  First of all, it’s a few more hours and generally more money, but also, as I told him, “I’m good with it, because I’m going to need the same consideration.”  For being late or whatever.
Brian was there, briefly, on Sunday, then he left.  I should have brought it up to him then, but he left quickly.  Monday, I thought to be more proactive.  I called about four pm, and Brian answered.  How about that?  “I just wanted to make sure I was working,” I said.  “I know we had a deal for me to be off either yesterday or today, but I didn’t think you did anything about it.”
He hemmed and backtracked and rationalized for me, telling me that since I didn’t stay until four, he didn’t see the need to do it.  And besides, now, at this point, he’d have to try to find somebody.
“That’s what I figured.”
I just went in to work.  I knew I was working late tonight–Steve was in about 1130.  As long as I don’t do it every night.  Nine pm some nights, and eleven on others.  Oh, crap.  I just remembered that I agreed to work on Wednesday in exchange for getting Saturday off for my birthday.  So I’m on every night this week until Friday.
Brian didn’t say anything when I first got there, but he did say something eventually.  “Can you stay until 10 tomorrow night?  Darnell’s going to be late?”  I agreed without thinking about it.

Zen and the Art of Homelessness

September 30, 2005 at 5:05 PM | Posted in Notes on Society | 1 Comment
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Originally published 07/27/05 at 

‘Cause during the heatwave, you know, I first heard about the deaths from the heat in Phoenix, Arizona. Then, as more details were released, it was reported that they were all or mostly homeless people.

This strikes me as completely ridiculous, and stupid on their part. If I were homeless (and believe me, I am closer to being homeless than you might think. I have a house, two houses, actually, cars, a ton of bills, precariously ahead of the bill collectors serendipitously by way of a new job. But all I have to do, I believe, is say the wrong thing at work, or the right thing to my wife, and I could bounce on the curb faster than you could say “shelter workshop”) I would plan my life around the seasons.

I mean WHY would you stay in Arizona in the summer? You’re homeless!
What are you leaving behind? Your favorite cardboard box? Your favorite
hot rock in the sun? “Arizona Heatwave” is redundant. I drove through
Arizona in early April, it was 9 oclock in the morning, and it was 90
degrees! Why, in God’s name, would you not leave?

Since you can come and go more or less as you please, subject to vagrancy laws, in the summer you want to start traveling NORTH, towards Minnesota, or North Dakota. Or New Hampshire. I bet they have a great welfare program there, thanks to that freak that was governor that ran for president–what was his name?–who cares. Dean! That’s it.
The point is, if you’re going to be sleeping outside, you want the weather to cooperate. Then in the Fall, head south, to spend the winter in Alabama, or Texas. Maybe Florida. I would avoid Arizona and New Mexico. There is a reason why only a few thousand people live there.  It’s a freakin desert!

Same with North Dakota, I’m sure. But in the right season it would be easy to be homeless there. No one would ever find you. If they did, you could just pretend to be an out of work cowboy.

I had a guy working for me whose big life plan was to QUIT HIS JOB and move to California and be homeless, because they have a great welfare system there.

Being homeless doesn’t mean you dont have a place to live. You could have a car, and sleep in it. Or a truck. It would cut down dramatically on the amount of junk mail you would get, and allow for easier migration. Instead of walking for weeks to a new climate, you could drive for a day or two.  See? See how easy it is? And honestly, you don’t even need a car, just a thumb and loose morals when it comes to paying for the ride.

In fact, this has sort of developed into my retirement plan. My original retirement plan was to work until I die. Then retire the next day. But now I have a savings, some investment stuff going on, a 401k, for crying out loud. So now, I figure I can extend my retirement money, which will be meager at best because I started it so late in life. I mean, I’m practically pushing 60. I can live in a car, and travel the country. I’ll be like Faulkner. No, not Faulkner. Tennessee Williams?  Who was it that wrote the Call of the Wild? No, not him. But, you know, like some famous author whose name escapes me at the moment. Like the one in Florida that people trek down and impersonate. You’d think someone who is traditionally good with words, or at least able to dump out a lot of them at an alarming rate, would know this.

But you get the idea. When this all occurred to me, I realized why most homeless people don’t do this: They are stupid. I mean, look, they’re homeless.
It’s not some counter-society, revolutionary, anarchist desire to be a rebel and live off the grid. It’s a history bad decision making in their life that led them to live in the gutter in Arizona in the summer. Let’s just hope they didn’t breed before they died.

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