Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Lance" the Lobby Man

During my fast food years I worked with several mentally handicapped persons. In my archives you'll find a story called "Whoop!" about a girl named Judy "the jewel crusher"--read that one to see why I call her that. This little story is about a mature gentleman. I'll call him Lance, although that's not his real name.

Lance loved bikes. He had up to twenty bikes in his apartment at one time, all in states of disrepair. If one broke he'd go down to the local thrift store and buy another used one to fill his needs. I don't know how many bikes he's had in his life, but I can only imagine that fifty would probably be a conservative estimate. Of the bikes that he had at the time that I'd worked with him, he rode three: a blue one, a green one, and the red one--it's fast! Lance was in his late forties; a stocky fellow with a great round belly and strong arms and stout legs. His face was robust with expression, mostly sporting a wide open, gapped-tooth grin. His glasses are the type that adjust their shade to light conditions, but always seemed to stay somewhat dark. Lance preferred to accessorize his salt and pepper mop with a hat. Even he was insecure of his male-pattern baldness. His favorite pastimes, besides riding his bikes, was eating, telling jokes, Elvis, and sharing stories.

Lance's stories mostly consisted of telling how fast he rode his bike, then telling the same story over and over again Teletubby style. During the course of telling a story, his eyes would light up punctuating each part he thought was good, then when he'd finish the story his mouth would hang open and the eyes would go from a gleam to a marvelous wide sea. It was if he couldn't believe it himself. It didn't matter if it was that milk happened to be on sale that day or he passed a car up on his bike, he still found it amazing.

What I found amazing was his ability to take five sausage patties and stuff them right into his mouth, whole. You couldn't leave this guy alone with food laying around. I'd cook some bacon, lay it down on a prep tray, see Lance walk by, then the bacon disappears. It was hard to come down on the guy, though; he would flash a shit-eating grin, blush, then let out his trademark two-note laugh: (Huh)low push of air/pause/slurring up two octaves to the (hah) "Huh-haaaaah!" I couldn't get mad at him.

His jokes were usually of the knock-knock variety, but he confounded us with his "Come in Elvis!" routine. Lance loved Elvis. He would sing "Hound Dog" while out in the lobby wiping down tables. The grill team once got on the topic of Elvis. We were talking about where he'd be if he were still alive, what he'd look like, what kinds of things he'd be up to. During all of this, Lance was cleaning the back room. One guy even got talking about contacting Elvis through a seance. After that, we got a rush of customers and had to get cooking again. Once it slowed back down, Lance came by and started knocking on the walk-in refrigerator, muttering in a spooky, low-toned voice, "Come in Elvis...come in!" This mystified the hell out of us, but we got off on it, giving us a good belly laugh. He must've been listening in on our conversation. He did that one over and over again because he knew we thought it was funny. It was even funnier when people who were not in on it got treated to that "joke", especially customers. The repetitive joke telling was something him and Judy seemed to like a lot (see "Whoop!"). Sometimes, the two would be in the back room together jabbering away. You'd hear a loud "Whoop" followed by "Huh-haaaaah". Those were fun times.

Lance's bike riding get up was a windbreaker worn over his uniform, with his work hat on under his bike helmet--this made his helmet stand up high on his head. He always had a full back pack strapped tightly around his broad shoulders, full of sundries and books--ones that he couldn't comprehend too well, but enjoyed nonetheless. His riding style seemed to defy gravity. While he says he rides fast, the fastest I've seen him go was probably fifteen miles an hour. Most of the time he just balances the bike and then lets the rotation of the earth do the rest. I've never seen him frown when he's on his bike: open-mouthed joy...Lance the human fly trap. If he ever saw me, he'd holler out then laugh as we parted. Once my brother, whom I worked with there as well, was parked at a stop light. Lance came riding up behind my brother and started to have a short conversation with him, while riding his bike. That's just how slow he could ride; he could actually hold a conversation with my brother parked in his car, pedal, balance, and steer while looking away from where he was headed, all in the space of a car window.

Lance's bike stories usually were no more than a few sentences long, but as I said earlier, the face, mouth, and eyes told much more. An example: "I was riding my red bike today. It's real fast. It has a speedometer that goes to thirty. That's as fast as a car! When I came down the road, I passed a car. I went faster than a car! (lather, rinse, repeat)."

I always bought into his stories whole-heartedly. I could see him: a big, round muscle of a man with cyclone legs tearing down the main road, the sprocket's teeth flashing, spokes blurred into one solid mass, passing Corvettes, Jaguars, and 911's at full clip. The red paint (the paint that gave his bike magical powers of speed) on his bike starting to peel off from reaching the threshold of the impossible. This is what it must've seemed like to him, I suppose.

After I quit that job, I still saw him around. I know that every Sunday Lance would ride forty miles down to his mother's for dinner, visit for a few hours, then ride back home. I also could tell when he changed jobs--you wouldn't see Lance around the street. But, eventually he'd spring up somewhere else and always had a knack for spotting me, even if I was in someone else's car. One day Lance showed up at my door. This was about six years after I'd worked with him. I don't know how Lance figured out where I lived, but there he was grinning at me.

"Hi, Lance!"


"Uh, do you want to come in?"

"Yes. Can you fix me a sandwich?"

"Yeah sure, man. Come on in."

I fixed Lance three sandwiches, two glasses of milk, a banana, and some soda crackers. He stayed about an hour and told me about his new job and how much he liked it. But, mostly he talked about our former job, Elvis, and his new orange bike. He wore out the red one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

When Garbage Trucks Fly

Long time Grunt Ahoy readers will have seen previous posts regarding my adventures in garbage collecting. This was a job that I had while going to school. It was hard work and extremely dirty. In those other early posts, I also introduced you to the Marlboro Man (M&M). This is the guy that I worked garbage with. He was also one of my best friends at the time. This story is also a continuation of a theme: stunts involving heavy machinery. The first one involved garbage truck wheelies. This one takes flight.

It was six months into my job working as a garbage collector/driver that the old man, who was running the small operation, decided to sell his business and retire. Who he sold it to is another story altogether, that involves a polygamist named Ralph (I'll get to Ralph some other time). Well, M&M and I weren't too happy about this acquisition, and we were a little disgruntled. We decided we'd do our time and then ditch these hillbillies.

One thing you got to know about M&M is that he had a mood disorder and had to take medication for it. This is something that he and his dad shared, but they didn't share the same prescription. About a week prior, having been dissatisfied with his own prescription, M&M decided to try out his dad's meds. This ended up bad. Not only was it the wrong medication in the first place, he also took too much.

M&M went out to do something with one of our other friends and had a 12-hour freakout as a result of this experiment. First thing that happened was he tried to leap out of the car going down the interstate. Friend #2 decided to pull off the interstate and into a gas station. He managed to calm M&M down, then went in the store to get some pop. When he returned M&M was not there. He looked around and discovered him in another car talking to a kid. Apparently, he thought that someone had kidnapped his nephew and was trying to get him to come home with him. Smartly, friend #2 got M&M out of that car before the parent came back out--crisis averted. He took him back home and set him in bed. About an hour into his nap, M&M woke up, stood on his bed, and started calling out football plays, then passed out again. What does all of this have to do with garbage trucks flying? Well after this unpleasant experience M&M decided to stop taking his medication. That was the week we discovered we were being sold out.

It was a Thursday. We had to take Thursday's load to a certain landfill. Going from this landfill back to our "depot" involved going down a badly paved road that crossed over a canal and two railroad tracks. M&M had been driving particularly aggressive that day and was in an unpredictable mood throughout, due to being off his meds. Going to the landfill, I started discussing what we were going to do about being sold: were we going to stay on, or quit, and after that, then what? I could tell that M&M wasn't taking this very well and wasn't speaking much. On the way out of the landfill, I decided to read a magazine that I had found. M&M wasn't making good conversation at the time, anyway. On the straights I noticed that he was going too fast, but assumed that he would slow down in time for the big bumps going over the various crossings. He didn't slow down.

The crossing over the canal was somewhat jarring. We did that at 35 MPH. "Slow down, dammit," I shouted. A growing feeling of insecurity was beginning to fill me with doubt over M&M's stability.

M&M rubbed his face then apologized, "Sorry man. I guess I'm just a little on edge, you know?"

I could understand, so I tried to placate him a little, "Yeah, it sucks, but we'll be alright."

He did slow down for a bit, but slowly crept back up to the same speed as before. I was back to looking at my Victoria's Secret...I mean, Time Magazine, and wondering if he'd slow down before we got to the Rio Grande line. He didn't slow down.

(Wump) "Dammitfucrapushithead...that hurt!" I had bounced from my seat (no seat belt) and had hit my head on the roof of the cab, because of the sudden pop over the tracks. I was one pissed off jackrabbit. I commenced chastising M&M, "Why'd you go and do that for?"

M&M wasn't responding. He had an F'd-up look on his eyes, like he was burrowing a tunnel through the mountain that was down the way.

I guess I thought that he'd snap out of it if I insulted him. "You are gonna kill us doing that, you bastard! Slow down, alright?" I said in a serious tone, fearing for my life.

"F--k it all! I don't care anymore, okay?" He certainly got my attention, then added, "I know how to drive. Leave me alone."

I wasn't so sure now that I'd be making it home. I surrendered myself to fate, exclaiming, "Crap almighty, I'm gonna die!"

I didn't pick that magazine back up. I figured that if I was going to die that day, I'd better leave the naughty thoughts behind and prepare to meet my maker. Besides, I had my eyes further down the road on the Union Pacific line--the big one. This rail line rose about twelve feet from the the road. It is a gentle rise but has a slight lip before the tracks, then it plateaus for a stretch of two rail lines, then slopes back down again. I looked over at the shaky speedo gauge, trying to decipher at what speed my death would occur.

"Not slowing down?" I asked matter of factly.

"*" Nothing, M&M had a kamikaze fix in on the line.

I tried to brace myself the best I could, but figured that any attempts to live were futile. We hit the small hill at about 40 MPH. The lip goosed us pretty hard, then nothing but air. In front of us there was an interstate overpass. I swear on my great grandmother that we ended up at eye level with it. We cleared the tracks completely. Two wheels on the front axle, eight on the tandem in the back. We got ten wheels hanging...holy shit! During flight, I hovered in the air without touching anything. Time slowed down to the point of being conscious of my blood flow. The landing was coming up, but I was at peace. I was pretty sure we'd brake a kingpin on the front axle and end up rolling on our side; I'd be thrown out, impaled on the shifter, or flung through the windshield out on the road with my brains dashed out of my skull--I accepted this.

We landed real hard on the decline. The tires chirped just like we were landing a jet liner. My spine still hurts from the landing, but the recoil was worse. I hit the roof of the cab again, but this time it was my whole body and not my head. I came down on the steel dash, bounced, then hit the floor board with my face. M&M was held in place by the gargantuan steering wheel. I was bleeding from my nose, my hands, and had bruises all over my body. Amazingly, the truck stayed true, and kept heading down the road after it got done bouncing a few more times.

After we got back in control, we were both full of emotion. I was curled up on the floor boards, swearing up and down at him for almost killing us. We both tried to suppress ourselves, but after my tantrum, we started crying and laughing because we were joyful that we'd made it. I'll never forget that day: the day when a garbage truck took flight.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Stereotype Fulfilled

My neighbor got hit by a woman driving an SUV, who was speeding and ran a stop sign. My neighbor and his son only had minor injuries, but the lady in the SUV didn't get a scratch. My neighbor recalls the conversation between the officer on the scene and the lady:

Officer: "You know that there's a stop sign there. You ran that, plus you were speeding."

Lady: "Well where I'm from (same state) we don't have stop signs like that."

Officer: "What, big red ones that have the word 'STOP' printed on it?"

Lady: "Well I couldn't see the stop sign."

Officer: "Mam, there were two warning signs prior to the intersection. I guess you don't have those where you come from, either?"

Lady: "*"

Officer: "I'm going to issue you a citation for speeding and running a stop sign....."

Lady: "What--why?"

I'm just curious, how many of you out there don't know what a stop sign looks like? BTW, most of the women that I know are good drivers, so please don't kill the messenger.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Restroom Run In

I don't want crap jokes and toilet stories to dominate my blog. I've already posted enough about this sort of thing to make people wonder about me. I'll be up front: the only thing that I'll bring up potty-wise is that this is where our story takes place. Oh yeah, you'll also learn a new bathroom term. See if you can spot it.

I regularly have to go to the payroll department at work and sort things out with my check. I know the guys up there pretty good. One fellow in particular (the head of payroll) is rather mischievous. This guy is best described as a "psycho-prankster". If you are familiar with some of the Peter Sellers' "Pink Panther" films, then you might remember the character Cato. Not only does this guy look like him, but he hides, then leaps out of nowhere screaming and attacks/scares you half to death or you just end up pissing your Dockers (Sansabelts, for the older bunch).

"Cato", as I'll refer to him now, also thinks its funny to pound on the restroom door and literally scare the crap out of you. The restroom by his suite is the type that is private and has a deadbolt lock. The deadbolt is a little loose, so it can bang loudly, back and forth. Also, being tiled, every noise is amplified and reverberates like crazy. Well here I was, around 5:30 pm, I thought that I was too late to catch anyone in payroll, but I see Cato's office light on and decide to go up there and bother him--maybe even get some payback.

I need to back up a bit to set up this next part. Pastrami is the meat of the Gods, as far as I'm concerned. I am a man who is beholden to its sublime mysteries and flavor. Before I die I must perform the "Trifecta", as accomplished by one George Costanza of "Seinfeld", in order to achieve eternal bliss. Oh, to sit upon a lotus with a pastrami on toasted rye with brown mustard, Ommm.... Here's another truth that I've learned form Seinfeld: pastrami is the sexiest of all the salt-cured meats--it's a fact! One thing about pastrami is, it sometimes comes accompanied with sauerkraut. I like sauerkraut, but sometimes it doesn't like me.

I had a #3 at a deli that I go to regularly for lunch. What is a #3, you ask? Why, it's a pastrami sandwich with brown, spicy mustard on marble rye. I know beforehand that eating certain things can be a crapshoot, so to speak(no pun intended). I just can't seem to reason effectively against the demands of my mouth, and my mouth once demanded German potato salad (pun intended--please laugh). Now, I made an important distinction here: your stomach only wants to be filled, but to be filled with pacific foodstuffs and bits of fluff/debris found under couch cushions; your tongue/orifice, on the other hand, demands that "it" tastes good. I don't know about you, but for me and my body, it can get quite heated when these decisions are being made. Depending on the situation and level of hunger, I take sides, make my decision, and live with it. Most of the time, both my belly and mouth are satisfied. On this particular day, all was well...up to a point.

Flash forward, office parking lot: "(gurgle, gurgle) ohhhhhoh...the hermies!" Now, I had to go #3 (you know, excretions of the third kind, or, the #3 quickly turns into #3). Faster and faster, like Frankenstein's monster in a speed walking race, bobbing back and forth. "Must...make...toilet! Oh...Hi Betty, how are the kids?....must...make...." I had that tunnel vision thing going on. I knew of only one goal, one fate, one true religion (insert Queen's "One Vision", press play now), and nothing was going to get in my way. I was headed for the one bathroom that I would not have to worry about neighbors or public residue: the private restroom on the second floor. One caveat, however, it was that restroom near Cato's office. I rushed up the stairs, because the damn elevator is too slow. I nearly had a security breach on the way up. Finally, I get up to the second floor from the basement floor, and no one is in the private restroom. Joy! In I go, careful to set the deadbolt, check the toilet seat for prior carnage (none...good), pants down (yes), Newsweek in hand (check), and awaaay we go. Ahhhhhhhh!

It was about halfway into the second wave of #3 that I became cognizant of the "Cato" factor. Oh damn, I thought, he better not mess with me. Doesn't he have any respect?...I've got a medical emergency here. Well, this is where things took off, uh...for the second time. A guy starts yelling and pounding on the door, making a big fuss, making an ass of himself. "Hey, I haven't got all day here. What's the hold up dammit?" With the fan going, and my own fireworks at full finale, I did not scrutinize. I drew one conclusion, and one only, it was Cato. I fired right back, "Hey jackass, you'll get in when you get in! Gethahellouttahere, okay?" Cato would thrive on this response and burst out laughing, but there was no laughing, just silence...then the sound of footsteps hurrying away. I finished my "bidness" and then decided to go in and slug Cato in the arm for what he'd done. I walked into his suite only to find that he's having a small conference with his staff. Damn, how'd he do that? I thought.

I didn't want to disturb his conference and went down to the first floor to look at some new artwork. It was then that I bumped into a man, Tom, the head finacial administrator, coming out of the main restrooms. When I looked at him to say hello, he had this wide grin on his blush ridden face. He fessed up, "I'm so sorry. I was the one who yelled at you. I thought you were Cato!" I had a good laugh and explained to him that I thought that he was Cato too. We both vowed to get Cato and make him pay. Tom then went home, and I went back up once I saw Cato's secretary come down the stairs. When I made it up there I could not find a soul. I ventured carefully into the break room to check it out...."HEY!!!!!" Cato jumped out from behind a recliner and scared a buffalo nickel right out of me (the one that I swallowed when I was five).

"Damn you Cato," I exclaimed, then added, "Did you know that you got me and Tom screaming at each other?"

"What..why?" He asked in a half laughing, half perplexed way.

I gave him the whole story, then Cato asked with total straight-faced surprise, "Well, why did you guys think it was me?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Birds

A simple post about a virus: Avian Flu. It will most likely evolve into a deadlier virus. It is cliche to bring up the paranoia surrounding the issue, so why bring it up at all? You decide.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Letter To a Certain Co-Worker: Your Brain is Your Friend (Please Use it).

I've been wondering lately: who was the first person to notice the possibility of life after death--recognize that "Bob" was there and is a person, but now he's not in there. Instead of discarding the corpse as refuse, it's now hallowed and given a ceremonial burial. Where did Bob go? Will Bob ever come back? Who's taken Bob? Will this thing happen to me? Is this not the beginning of myth? These are rhetorical questions. I know that most will believe that it was either Adam, Eve, or Cane (Able didn't have a chance). I'm sure that a few of those kids raised by wolfs would tell you something along the lines of "Bark, bark, bark...awhooooo!" Getting back to the subject, Neanderthal buried their dead. Of course, any bones found in the earth that are older than seven thousand years were put there by Lucifer to trick us, right? So, let's discard the Neanderthal. No, let's go with this: when humans were put here on this earth they knew all the basic civilized stuff already and lived to be like 800 years old. At some point we realized that having babies with our siblings, and parents was bad (I'm curious at what point, biblically, that happened). Oh yeah, there all of a sudden popped up all these other people and cities (because we know that the truth doesn't have to make sense). Don't forget that evolution sucks and will only lead to unhappiness. Use this one too, it rocks: scientists are smug, self serving demons, who's only purpose is to undermine the faithful with "theories" ( Boy, I hope they die of gonad cancer and leprosy).

Okay, I hope that this is not taken seriously. I'm just tired of having people at work try to convince me that Darwin/scientists, Evolutionary theory, and bees are evil. Somehow, they think that if Creationism or Intelligent Design is not taught in schools, fire will rain upon us and Slurpees will not quench our thist. I believe in God, and all that goes with that. Those that know me personally need not fear that I've discarded any of my beliefs, wear my clothes inside out, or generally flipped my lid. Only thing that is different is that I'm a 3rd degree Mason, now. But, I figured out long ago that there are little things called history, science, and critical thinking that get in the way of taking a story literally. Evidence is a bitch. When you read Genesis, is there a point where you start to wonder if the purpose for it is to tell us the "why" and not the "how"? I figured that out long ago, too. Those things are there to teach us a lesson. Yes, there can still be a man named Adam and a woman named Eve that really did live, but if God wanted us to know all the literal and physical aspects of Genesis, the pages would fill the cosmos. Why is this so hard for some people to grasp?

I had a professor (tool of Satan) ponder the creation and this is the gist of what he said:
How could God create something out of nothing? How can you create something without any knowledge of all the chemicals and molecules that make up anything that is something? Did he just say "sheep" and a sheep popped out of thin air? "Wow, it worked! Where the heck did that thing come from anyway?" No, if there's a God of creation he must know how everything works scientifically first, before he could do anything at all.

So, to those that don't know the ass-end of a hypothesis or a theory (anybody who says "it's just a theory" clearly does not understand the scientific process) ask yourself this: is it wise to discount something completely before you have any understanding of it in the first place? In science you can prove something wrong, but you can't prove it 100% right (you can come close, though). That is the fundamental that separates science from religion. In religion, you can't do either, really. You can come to a personal and spiritual confirmation of what is right, but that is beyond science.

Now, let's ask ourselves another question: is it productive to stop our scientific research of earth's and mankind's origins and just say "God did it; let's kick back and drink Kool-Aid"? That's a cop out. If you think science is the tool of the devil, then I hope you also reject medical science, physics, and chemistry too. As long as we're playing the all or nothing game, remember, it's not the research and design of the brakes that stop your car from crashing, it's the asbestos Bible! For 2006, reduce your cognitive dissonance by accepting and integrating a measure of intelligence into your everyday life. Try realizing that God will allow you to learn about mysterious things through the miracle of science, and also be able to worship him and obtain spiritual knowledge through scripture. Novel concept, I know.

Okay, I promise that I'll get back to the funny stuff.