This past summer, I first hand witnessed what comedian Lewis Black must have gone through when he overheard the comment – “if it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” What? Exactly. If you haven’t experienced this comedic genius of a bit, I’ll provide a link at the END of the story . . . in other words, please keep reading.
Standing poolside, I was enjoying a Saturday morning swim meet of my son’s. It was joyous. The coffee that is, which I had picked up along the way from my favorite double D’s java house. I love my son and I really do love seeing him swim, BUT – standing around for over three hours only to witness three 1-minute events makes you enjoy mouth burning coffee on a hot June Saturday morning. Don’t worry, I got munchkins, too.
(I see you there, jelly. You my fav.)
Being old and drinking an extra-large coffee first thing in the morning, the inevitable happened: nature was calling for my first bathroom trip to ensue. Not the end of the world, since this is always my getaway time for walking around, people watching, and taking in the surroundings of the pool. Along the way, I noticed a very curvy girl strutting her stuff to anyone nearby bearing eyes. What really begins to draw me in is the tramp stamp tattoo on her lower back. Suddenly though, she stops at the lifeguard stand and begins her climb.
Thankfully, I snap from my awkward daze. Nervously, I glance to my left and notice a couple women wearing looks of disgust, but it’s clearly not at me. Whew. I then peek right and another guy has his eyes still glued to the hovering chair in the sky. Ahhh – It’s him that they are repulsed by. It is interesting that at an event filled with all of these competing swimmers, a lifeguard is needed. Then again, there are a whole lot of younger non-swimmer kids scurrying about as well as meandering grandparents, both of whom could easily take a tumble poolside. The flashing of a red swimsuit gets me distracted once more as the guard performs her well-practiced spin into the seat. Several dads easily just missed their kid’s event.
(Wendy, Wendy, Wendy . . . thank you, “The Sandlot”)
After passing the lifeguard show and then finally completing the initial task of making a liquid deposit, I head back to my huddled-up family who are gathered around our prized table. Swim meets are always amazingly crowded and to actually achieve a designated area for your stuff (munchkins) is top notch. We also got there disgustingly early in order to have this privileged luxury.
Choosing the long-ways path through the enemy territory of the opposing team’s section, I’m then able to avoid the lifeguard distraction zone. However, along my travels, I overhear the following statement from a scolding mother to a whimpering 10-year-old son, “Don’t worry this isn’t your sport.” First thought, I’m guessing: swimming. “This is just your training for the off-season. Besides, it’s either this or ballet.”
Wait – what? I mean, I stopped and then dramatically looked back from where the sound had originated. There they were – the culprits – mother and son. She was being stern as she held each of her boy’s shoulders while giving a little shake for reaffirmation. Meanwhile, in my head, my mind was beating itself up. “It’s either this or ballet,” she said. Huh? “Swimming or Ballet.” Nothing is connecting or matching up for me.
Restarting my retreat, I kind of perform a stumbling meander and reach the table where my son and the rest of the family reside. My parents are there now, too! Geez – you would have thought that they learned their lesson of swim meet tortures through my “career” as a swimmer kid. Remember – it’s three hours for three one-minute events. They’re gamers!
After gathering each of their attentions, I begin with a stammer but eventually retell the story. Promptly, my wife is all over it and states that it’s like the Lewis Black joke about the horse and college. “Swimming or Ballet? What the hell does that mean?” Sorry, again, my parents are there – let me rephrase that exclamation. “Swimming or Ballet? What the heck does that mean?”
(synchronized swimming became an Olympic sport for the first time in LA – 1984)
Nobody has a clue and the phrase just keeps spinning in my head. At this moment, the mother and boy pass by our area. My eyes are glued to them as my body swivels along their walking path. I am so tempted to go up to them and just ask. What could his sport possibly be, if swimming wasn’t it. And, if swimming is the training for this other sport, with ballet as option number two, what is it?!?
Sadly, this is the part of the tale where I need to break the news that I never found out the answer and I’m very sorry, because I really should have just gone over and done that. It’s kind of like those Serial Podcasts that hook you in and then after several days of hours upon hours of listening, you learn . . . “Yeah, we don’t really have an actual ending.” What? “Yeah, that’s all we got. Thanks for listening.”
Now granted, it would have been an awkward moment, but who cares at this point, because then I could have a good closer for this story. Instead, I leave you with speculation and possibly even more confusion. In turn, I did what anyone else would have done given this baffling situation – I googled “what sports would ballet and swimming be good conditioning / training for.” Ultimately, basketball was the conclusion that I came to. So, there you have it, this 10-year-old Suburban white boy is the next Bron-Bron. Sure.
(“Baby-Faced Assassin” and “King James”)
Done. I don’t ever want to hear swimming and ballet in the same sentence again. (That last one doesn’t really count.) BUT – I do have a moral of the story. If this should ever happen to you, go ask. Right away. The longer you wait, the more awkward it will be. This summer that same kid will be 11. If I see him and his mom, I don’t care, I’m asking!
And here’s the as promised link to the Lewis Black bit:
One word – Empire – and you should already know which movie I’m talking about. There’s no Episode V or the second movie of the first trilogy; it’s just Empire. I’ll bet you can’t guess which movie I saw back in 1980 with my Dad and big brother, Keith. That’s right, Empire.
During the first of the Reagan years, I was a 7-year-old punk kid who never received the opportunity to see Star Wars on the big screen (notice how “A New Hope” wasn’t added to that title). I was granted mere glimpses of this masterpiece via television reruns. Back then, once you added in all of the commercials (pre-DVR and Disney+), the movie went way past my bedtime. Usually, I only made it to the scene in the movie where the Sand People popped Luke in the back of the head. I always got pretty freaked out at that point. Right on cue, my Mom would whisk me off to bed. Thanks Mom, for yanking me out of the brightly lit family room, with the company of you and Dad and into my dark bedroom upstairs, fearing the Sand People. Come to think of it, I don’t even recall having a night light for additional kid protection.
Despite missing out on viewing Star Wars in its entirety, I still knew all of the characters: Han was the cool guy, Leia was the chick, Luke was the boy wonder, and Vader was the bad guy, but a cool bad-ass. At age 7, I probably didn’t say bad-ass, but you get the gist of it. Leia, however, was always a chick. Enhancing my knowledge of this galactic world was the fact that I had all of the action figures that a tooth fairy could deliver. In addition, I had my Sand Cruiser courtesy of the Easter Bunny or my birthday – forgive me, I didn’t keep a journal at that age to refer back to regarding these details. Believe me, I get it, whether it was from the rabbit or on my b-day, it was nevertheless from the parents.
Obviously, with all of this build-up, I was pretty psyched and more than ready to catch this new flick. Previews were aired on every television channel during every commercial break (at least that’s what it felt like). These movie teasing commercials kept me primed for the release date in May (5/17/80 – to be exact), but at this point it was already summer. Numerous dinner time talks were focused on the topic of seeing this film. It was like Ralphie’s obsession with getting his BB gun for Christmas. Finally, my dad relented and announced that he was taking me and Keith to the movies that very weekend. Explosion of excitement! “Luke, I am your father.” No wait – at this point in the story, I haven’t even seen the film yet. Thank God for no Twitter back then, otherwise, the secret would have been out. To their credit, everyone was pretty good about Han getting shot by his own kid in Episode 7. Wait – you saw that, right?
So – big weekend coming up and we’re finally going to the movies to see The Empire Strikes Back. In 1980, the movie didn’t earn it’s one name status of Empire quite yet. Seeing this film was the only thing on my mind and the only thing I talked about with my friends, family, teachers, dog – and even the Jar Jar Binks of the pet world – my hermit crab.
Hermit crabs are awful pets. Spray it every day with water, feed it dog food, leave a moist sponge inside its bowl – it all just adds up to one sorry, sad pet. I had two of them as a kid. Actually, my younger sister and I each shared the bowl, but since she was 4 years younger, it wasn’t really her responsibility to clean it out. I remember the first one dying and then burying it in the backyard, but unfortunately skipped the whole headstone routine. Of course, after one goes, the other one’s not too far behind. Without any true plot marking, I accidentally dug up the first one, when I was trying to bury the second one. This type of error would never happen if the pets were two dogs. That’s a really sad sentence if you think about it for too long.
Empire! Saturday night (probably early evening or late afternoon) is finally here and the Evans’ boys are at the local movie theatre. After visiting the ticket window outside, my brother and dad each pushed open a door and we all stepped into the lobby. The buttery smell of popcorn smacks us each in the face. Looking up, I can see huge banners hanging from the ceiling with images of Vader, Skywalker, Solo, and . . . what the hell is that puppet?
Yoda. We all immediately accepted Yoda, the Jedi Master. However, Jim Henson certainly didn’t “Kermit” him up. Jar Jar Binks wasn’t as fortunate as Yoda and we’re probably blessed that this “hermit crab” of a character wasn’t introduced earlier in the Star Wars line-up. Otherwise, it may have ended the whole thing right then and there. Kids today who watch the “first” Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, have to put up with that bumbling creature. That’s why it’s our job as parents today, to emphasize the coolness of the later Star Wars trilogy, which of course is now the middle trilogy . . . wait, what?
“Hey Brent, if you need to use the little boys’ room, then let’s go now.” My dad’s voice snaps me out of my happy-place daze and concern starts to build. Unfortunately, movies don’t have commercials (aka bathroom breaks). Promptly, I followed my dad to the potty – I mean bathroom.
No need for specifics here – duty is done. We then meet up with my brother in line for popcorn and soda. Concessions are a total rip off, BUT they still remain very much, awesome. Tragically, at the movies with my mom, she would always cut us off from this eatery joy. Instead, she would bring this big purse. The more I think about it, I don’t even think it was an actual purse. This “suitcase” provided us with the popcorn that she pre-popped earlier that morning. Instead of butter, there was this concoction called “Butter Salt” sprinkled on it. “This way you won’t get those messy, greasy hands” was my mom’s defense. I so wanted that mess to wipe away onto my pants. In addition, she always had juice boxes for us to choose from – Juicy Juice, Capri Sun. Hey, how about a Mountain Dew? Nope.
This time, it was my dad and older bro and neither one of them had a big purse in tow (not that there’s anything wrong with it). In turn, we got the real deal. Humongous tubs of popcorn. Empire decorated buckets of bubbly soda. Ginormous bags of candy. We were living it up at the movies!
“Hey Dad, I’m going to go to the bathroom this time. Do you need to go again, Brent?” my brother asked.
If I was older, I probably would have been offended or mumbled out a “WTF”. I mean, I just went! Instead, I stood there hesitating as my one hand held the tub of buttery delight close to my chest. As for the other hand, it was feeling the cool condensation build on the outside of my cup, which held my caffeine infused beverage. Coca-Cola. My drink. With ice. Liquid refreshment. Dammit – too much thinking about wetness. My 7-year-old nerves were kicking in, so I followed my big bro to the bathroom.
Finally, we were all together within the actual movie theatre. Lights dimmed down, elevator-like “tunage” playing, and a glowing white screen ahead of us. Now, since my dad does everything early, the movie probably will not start anytime soon. If I were to compare it to how he does stuff today, we probably would have arrived 45 minutes prior to the start time. If you subtract the time needed for the two bathroom breaks along with the popcorn purchase, there would still be a good 30 minutes until the reel would spin out the epic Empire scenes. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but to a kid with no watch or real sense of time, it felt like hours.
Plus, remember, the year is 1980. There wasn’t any fancy “behind the scenes” show or actor interviews being played on the big screen. Boredom was thrust upon us. Heck, I would have taken the slide show that ran into the late 80s with the stupid questions that any person who wasn’t locked away in a closet for a year would be able to answer. But in 1980 – Nothing. Just one big blank screen ahead and a wandering imagination as I sat sandwiched between my dad and big brother.
My brother whisper to me, “Hey, Brent. If you need to go to the bathroom again, just let me know. Don’t bother Dad.”
My stomach does a flip before I slowly turn towards him. He must see how big my eyes got.
“Hey, I just don’t want us to miss any of the movie.”
I just stared at him.
“He’s right, Brent” are the words that hit me in the back of the head.
I perform the same slow turn back around to my Dad. He, too, notices the wide-eyed look.
“You have to go, don’t you, son,” he surmises.
I am yet to say a single word and already I am being sent to the bathroom. Before I know it, my Dad is standing in the aisle and windmilling his arms for me to move it along and join him on the bathroom journey. Yet again, I have to hand off my treasures of popcorn and soda beverage, but this time to Keith. Off we go to the bathroom, which I now have down to a solid routine – it’s my trip! I’m going to be like Norm at the bar on Cheers in this bathroom.
Nevertheless, I get my little buddy to once again dribble something out before we quickly wrapped up the trip. (Sorry – I gave duty details this time). Anyway, from the brightly lit men’s bathroom and back into the darkness of the movie theatre, I could immediately see that we still had no movie. Just a big blizzard of whiteness staring back. Snuggling back down into my seat, I retrieve the buttery snackage, which now appears to be missing some popped goodness of joy. Thanks, bro.
Some conversation is attempted amongst the two older Evans’. All I care about is Empire. Apparently, our team, the Phillies, is doing really well, which is great, but Darth Vader is about to hit that big screen in front of us and I don’t believe Mike Schmidt would want us to miss it either. I love baseball and my Phillies, but remember – I was seven and The Empire Strikes Back was about to begin!
“Brent. Brent!” were the words from my Dad.
I must have been daydreaming.
“Are you okay?” quizzes my Dad. “Keith was asking you a question.”
I gave a glazed look in return, to which he responds with, “Do you have to go to visit the bathroom again?’
My eyes quickly unglaze.
“Keith!” My dad snaps at him. Back to me though. “No, that wasn’t the question, but now that you mention it. If you do have to go, I believe that you can handle it on your own.”
Upon hearing that last statement, I know that I am definitely not at the movies with my mom. And again, I am yet to say a word.
“Brent?” My brother shakes my shoulder slightly.
Too late. I need to go – DAMMIT! My dad is already standing and then quietly barks out instructions of going to the bathroom by myself. Ha – try that today with a 7-year-old.
Slowly, I walk up the carpeted slant of an exit. It’s dark, but I can see the lit windows of the door to the lobby area up ahead. My hand hits the door to swing it outwards. Here we go – there’s a first time for everything. Then again, this is the fourth trip and I know exactly where I’m going and what I’m doing. The only difference is no adult is striding alongside me. If I had a cell phone at this age, I probably would have posted it on Facebook. Or maybe Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter?
I walk nervously across the lobby area. The next door to swing open is the door bearing the men’s bathroom logo.
Bathroom arrival – successful. Now, it’s time to try and pee . . . again. More people are in the bathroom this time. In addition, I am now seeing a type of protocol and line formation. I catch on and join in. However, after being patient for several minutes, I’m tapped on the shoulder by the tall man to my right (I know, they’re all tall at that age). First, I’m terrified. Next, I realize that he’s also pointing to the little guy’s urinal. Yeah – I get to skip ahead.
“Thank you.” I muster out. I’m terrified, but still polite. Awesome kid, I am.
Standing there at the shorty urinal feels like forever, but I eventually manage another bathroom delivery. There is no need to get too graphic, but at least with every trip, I would return a little lighter. However, before the return trip, I must first wash my hands. Again, it’s 1980. Nothing is automatic. I can reach the faucet and soap, so that’s not an issue. However, I can’t say the same for the paper towel holder. With each previous trip, one of someone else would crank the handle so the paper towel was easily within my reach. Well, that’s why they make pants . . . to dry your hands in these situations, right?
I actually made it back in decent time. However, upon return, my dad clearly looks distressed and a bit panicked. He probably realized what he just did with sending his boy solo to the bathroom. He clearly got over it because he and my brother each quizzed me enough that I needed to make four more separate trips – all by myself. The final one was during the previews, which my brother suggested I do. That way, when I got back, the movie should just about be underway. It clearly worked.
I am now forever traumatized by this bathroom routine. To this day I still go as soon as the previews hit the big screen. During date nights, I would always tell the lucky lady (she was!) about my Empire story and hence explain the reason why I would always bolt at the previews for the bathroom. One particular date sticks out because we were in the very front row and I told my movie bathroom routine tale before jetting off. When I returned, the movie was about to begin and after plopping back into my seat, I joked, “I had trouble finding where you were.” In the dark, I could see the crumpled up, confused face as she said that she didn’t get it. Sadly, I shrugged, “You were in the front row. How could I not find you?”
“Oh.” Too bad her riveting dialogue didn’t end there. To add salt to the wound, she then asks, “What movie is Empire?”
I probably should have gone to the bathroom again . . . and just left.
‘Tis the season of Christmas, so holiday decorations are everywhere, including people’s bathrooms. Standing inside one at a client’s home, I took in my lavatorial surroundings as I slowly trickled “lighter.” To the immediate right of the toilet, stood a butler frog (toad?) decoration, whose year-round job was to serve up the back-up TP rolls. Strangely, I got used to seeing this subservient frog, but today, it was bearing a lit-up, red nose along with a set of reindeer antlers (what?). My eyes didn’t have to wander much farther as I noticed the current “in use” toilet paper roll, which was imprinted with nostalgic reindeer – all eight of ’em. To my left, I saw that the regular towels were replaced with bright red and green versions complete with blinking lights along the edges. Is that even safe when drying your hands? But finally, in slow motion, like Ralphie’s F-bomb in “A Christmas Story,” my eyes fell to the very back of the toilet, where there sat a glass dish. What could be in a dish on the back of a festive themed toilet, you may wonder? Maybe some cinnamon scented potpourri? Wrong. Instead, it held edible candy-coated chocolates that melt in your mouth and not in your hand. It was M&M’s in all their delicious glory. Since one hand was busy, the free one slowly began reaching for the candy shelled chocolate delight, but suddenly, remembering where I was standing, the hand snapped back to my side. It was at this point when thoughts of Andy Rooney, Lums Restaurant, Krimpets in the shower, and dirty toothbrushes began dancing through my head. Don’t worry, I can explain.
Growing up, I remember watching, along with my dad various news specials and interviews on the television show 60 Minutes. I know, I know – why would a young punk-kid ever want to sit through that, but let’s set the scene. It’s a Fall Sunday, game day. Normally, my dad and I would have just lived through an Eagles football game (4pm kick-off time). Immediately following my beloved Birds weekly pigskin battle would be this power hour for news along with the crazy-eyebrowed man himself, Andy Rooney. Part of me felt bad bailing on my dad after the shared football enjoyment. The other part would think, “Come on, Dad. I’m a frickin’ kid, cut me some slack, and change the damn channel.” Alright maybe not in those exact words at that time, but I was feeling a rumbling of angst. Anyway – 60 minutes always had the upper hand on the remote control in my parent’s household. A handful of those stories fascinated my little brain and I’ve carried them with me all these years.
This particular special focused on the health hazards of candy bowls, mint dishes, nut platters, whatever. These snacky containers were always located conveniently by the register at restaurants’ check-out counter. The crime was that these unwrapped treats were good-bye gifts of germ collections. “Have a nice night . . . vomiting.” The show’s sleuth investigators sent away the actual dishes for testing and the results were disgusting. They found urine, rat hairs, pubic hairs, rodent fecal matter, human saliva – the list goes on! So, undoubtedly, the candy/nut/mint treat was laying in this mess and soaking it up. Kind of synonymous with today’s black light meets hotel bed sheets – hmmm, I think these were used already.
Instantly, I recalled joining my grandfather (Pop-Pop) and my father (Dad) at the register of our family’s favorite nearby restaurant, which was simply and uninspiringly called “Lums.” I patiently stood by as the bill was being paid. Once done, a treat was taken by each of my family members via the restaurant’s candy dish. Eventually, it was my turn and someone in the group would drop the dish down to my eye level. Happily licking my lips, I eagerly scooped out the night’s prize.
Fast forward to the present and here I sit on the couch, with my dad catty corner in his recliner, not a word is spoken aloud to one another. I’m young (maybe 10?), but I get it and my dad knows that I get it. In turn, we both should probably be vomiting at this point or at the very least brushing our teeth. It really doesn’t matter that the last time we went to “Lums” was over a week ago – but something was needed in order to validate to ourselves that rodent waste or human urine wasn’t still “hanging out” in our mouths.
Looking back, as a kid, you see food, you eat food. Plus, it doesn’t matter where you would inhale it. I remember eating Krimpets on the shower floor during my actual showers before school. Every morning, I delivered the local paper, so it was still God awful early when I got back to the house. It was a combo of being tired and the body needing to be fed. I would sit tucked in the shower corner, with legs stretched out, eyes closed, and enjoying the sound of my morning rainstorm. Finally, I unwrapped a butterscotch-iced cake Tastykake. Two packages were always the requisite and they were damn good.
Obviously, I couldn’t be held accountable for my food choices at that stage in my life. Who’s going to fault me for wanting those naked gum drops out of the dish from Lums? At the time, I didn’t even know about the rat feces that they were marinating in. Additionally, I certainly couldn’t taste that crap (literally) either . . . I just tasted the joy of candy.
Everyone is always so focused on the prize before them that they don’t think (or taste) the other issues that could be found within their new found treasures. Random health tip: If you’re having a party, hide your toothbrushes or get new ones afterwards. Guys at parties do nasty stuff to them. Insider tip.
Finally, we’re back to where this rambling all started – Shake, shake, shake. Zip. I’m standing at the sink washing my hands with peppermint scented soap that I just pumped out of Frosty’s top hat. My eyes remain locked on the candy bowl and, just like the days at Lums at the end of the night, my mouth is watering with anticipation. Desperately wanting to discourage myself from reaching in, I fail to convince myself that I wouldn’t eat the peanut kind or the new kind with the pretzel that’s hidden away inside – I simply love me some M&M’s – who cares what’s beneath that candy shell! Then again, the main issue is that the candy resides on the back of a toilet. Did you know that it is suggested to flush a toilet only when the lid is down? Nobody does that, but they should. Granted, I’m not in the bathroom too often with company, but I see enough of the laziness in the men’s room when the hands washing routine is skipped. Ugh, this brings us to another source of contamination. Not only do the candy delights receive an excrement spray treatment from the flushing toilet, there’s also the unwashed, urine tainted hands that dig into the colorful candy dish to contend with. Pic or it didn’t happen:
You’d think with all the excessive decorating that my clients would have purchased the holiday green & red M&M’s. Nope, instead they bought the traditionally colored . . . almond ones. 🙂 The almond ones are my favorite.
After button -pushing the bell of my first client of the day, the routine of the workday is officially underway. I walk away from their door while leaving behind two work buckets on the front stoop of the house. Why – because, I have more tools to get from the van whose side bears the image of a big, orange fish. I clean aquariums. People enjoy looking at them. Touching them – not so much.
Glancing back to the front door, I notice that it still remains shut. As a tightening of the lips leads to a frown creeping across my face, I snag another bucket along with a cooler bearing today’s new pets (yes, fish) to be introduced to the client’s tank. The building frustration is quickly released after slamming shut the back doors of the company vehicle. “Get tanked!” is staring at me from the back windows. And, NOW, I smile. Too early to really get tanked though.
I ascend the stairs once again, then sit the cooler and bucket next to the others. I wisely place them away from a possible swinging open action of a screen door. The Fish Guy has arrived ready for work. But first – did the doorbell do its job?
Yeah, still no answer.
After giving it a longer and harder press, I listen more closely this time for the sound going off inside the home. “Ding” – yup, that’s what I heard before: A ding without a dong.
Pulling it halfway out of my pocket, I glance quickly at my phone. Looking back at me is 10:15am, which means: I’m right on time. Unfortunately, this is not the first tardy from this particular client. In fact, from past visit experiences, I already know that I need to make sure that she is not simply sleeping inside, despite the late morning arrival time on a weekday. After opening the screen door, I deliver a hard rapping: knock-knock-knock on the wooden front door. Once again, I patiently wait. Still nothing.
I whip my phone out entirely from my pocket this time. After punching in the puzzling text of “Fish guy has arrived, but nobody is answering.” I hit return to send it off to the MIA client. Minutes begin zooming by and I’m fully engrossed within a sports article via the NHL app. The riveting lines of hockey playoff talk are soon invaded with the screen of an incoming caller. It’s her. My client is obviously not home. I answer.
“Hey, this is Brent.”
“Hi, are you having trouble finding me?”
Shaking my head sadly since I’ve been to this home every month for the past year and a half, “No.” Pregnant pause. “I’m on your front step.”
“Oh. You’re not on your way?” is promptly questioned back to me.
“No. I’m still here on your front step.” I really didn’t know how else to explain it. For some reason, I add, “I could snap a picture of the front door and text that to you?” I cringe slightly in fear of that “offer” being taken as an insult.
On the other end, her pause had twins. Oh man, I pushed it too far. “Well.” Another of her dramatic pauses. “I’m not home yet since you’re a little early for our 10:15am appointment.”
What?!? I’m about to explain the current moment now being 10:30am, but choose to set aside that time-suck of a disagreement.
She continues, “My daughter is actually home, so just go on in.”
“Just go on in?” I quick quiz back.
She insists, “Yes – just go on in. You know, college kids, they sleep all day. Besides, I left the front door unlocked when I ran out to the mall. Just go in and do your thing.”
“Thanks.” Phone call ends and I start gathering up my buckets and equipment. I do know college kids and at that very moment didn’t really give another thought to the daughter’s non-answer of the multiple doorbell rings and cop knocking routine.
Once again, the screen door is tugged open, but is now propped with one of my buckets. After gripping the handle of the front door, I then swing it wide. As I typically do whenever I enter a person’s home, I begin my announcement of “Fish Guy has arrived.” However, the only released word is the first one – “Fish” – and that probably came out as a mere mumble.
Why? Because as I stood in the foyer area, the steps leading upstairs sent down the moaning delights of a woman. The daughter is most definitely home. AND – assuming from the rhythmic male-sounding grunts, she is getting plowed by who I can only assume is her boyfriend or, at least, “friend” for that given moment.
Frozen in place, I can only cringe and wince to each groaning, delight-filled sound. Besides the intense skin-slapping beats, the squeaking of the bed springs leaves me assuming that there is quite a game of “bounce” occurring. Also, the bed must be a little too close to the wall. It’s probably in need of repair by now – new drywall altogether? The yelps of joy are getting faster and happy times are rapidly approaching for both individuals. In turn, I shut my gaping mouth and slowly back myself out onto the front porch. With nerves slightly frazzled, I am able to quietly pull the door shut behind me.
I just stand there, staring out to the street with the front door at my back and the knowledge of sex-filled bliss still occurring one floor up. What the hell am I going to do now? Pacing around, I come to the conclusion to send out a text to the client: “Door’s actually locked” is shot off. No sports article reading this time as I simply pace about awaiting a response, which of course feels like an eternity.
Panic creeps in as I remember that the door is not actually locked, since I merely pulled it shut. What am I going to do? As I begin game planning how to get the door officially locked, the phone buzzes out a text response: “Just spoke with my daughter and she’s coming to the door now to let you in.”
Damn. I type back, “Thanks.”
As I remain standing there in silence, I can only imagine the daughter replicating a stance on the other side while staring at the unlocked door and then fearing what I know, which is what I actually do know.
The door creeps open and it’s the daughter. She is simply wearing a Five Finger Death Punch concert tee (upstair dude’s attire – it just has to be), while bearing hair that is pointing in every love-tugged direction.
“Hi.” I hold up my hand as if offering peace or something. “Fish guy here.” I force a fake smile, but it’s a friendly one. “Good band.” I point.
Following the direction of my finger, she looks down to the shirt and then blushes and merely nods with wide open eyes.
Yup – she definitely knows that I know. Therefore, I make the next move and perform the act of opening the screen door to officially let myself in.
After slowly backing up to clear some space, she barely whispers out, “Is there anything you need from me?”
Now, I really do feel bad about the awkward situation at hand, but I so want to answer with, “Whatever he got, because it sounded amazing!” Instead though, I kindly respond, “No, I’m good. Are you?” And obviously, I know she’s all good now.
After giving off a half smile along with an odd looking wave, she twirls around to quickly head back up the stairs, which is when I notice a t-shirt is the only article of clothing she managed to throw on.
Not meaning to sneak a peek, I quickly look away to the walls of the house, which I forget are covered with paintings that show “routines” that might have been replicated upstairs just minutes ago. It’s a very sensual house. ANYWAY – we are finally headed our separate ways: Me to the family room which houses the aquarium and her to the bedroom which holds more clothes and her undoubtedly tired (but maybe sleeping) boyfriend.
My cleaning routine unfolds and I’m moving along swiftly because I want to leave this house as soon as I possibly can. With my type of job, I’m left alone a lot to simply do my work. In turn, I get the opportunity to listen to podcasts, music, books, anything. Typically, one ear is filled with the sounds being sent to my bluetooth earpiece and I thoroughly enjoy these times.
I am blitzing through the cleaning and am very pleased with myself – final aquascaping work is being made with my elbow deep in tank water when suddenly . . . I feel eyes. A couple sets of them are burrowing a hole into the back of my head. With the one dry hand, I pop out the single earpiece and slowly turn back around. Sure enough, there they BOTH are . . . sitting on the couch. Dude is awake and he got his concert tee back from his girl’s “quick & cover appearance” from earlier. Of course, she now has on full attire and hair that’s pulled back into one of those scrunchie things. Whether the dynamic duo is dressed or not, I really don’t care at this point, as my internal voice screams: Why don’t you people just stay away from me until I leave?!
Before I can even find my “nice” words, I’m thrown the question, “So – how long have you been doing this?”
Internal voice is having a conniption at this point – Oh my God, they want to converse like nothing has happened? Begrudgingly, I play along with a response to the boyfriend’s interview. “About 14 years,” I blah out.
“Whoa – and you get paid money for it?” he spikes back at me.
“I do.” Internally, I’m not so kind with the two words that I want to enunciate loudly. My eyes focus more and I volley back, “Oh – you like Five Finger Death Punch like her?” I do the pointing action like I did with the daughter earlier.
The boy wonder looks down, then back up with the same blank look. Meanwhile, she gets it, reddens, and embarrassingly looks off to the side.
Disgusted with the IQ-challenged boy sitting before me, I take the show back to basic interview mode, “So, what do you get paid to do?”
Nonchalantly, the guy banters back, “Oh – I don’t work.”
Feeling a joker-like smile crossing my face, I continue with the one-word stumper of a question, “School?”
With a shrug, I receive “Nah – I’m still trying to figure it all out.”
Realizing that I have a not-so-bright wingnut on my hands, it’s now me that wants for this conversation to carry on. Unfortunately, we’re interrupted with “Brent?” as the front door opens.
Really? Where else would I be – certainly not upstairs (ha.) In the direction of the foyer area, I answer, “Uh – I’m in here . . . with the fish tank.”
In what doesn’t appear to be “shopping attire” but instead “workout attire” of a sports bra and leggings, the client enters the room while questioning aloud, “I really thought I left that front door unlocked.” After one of her typical pauses, she states a question in full discovery mode, “Maybe you were opening it the wrong way?”
There is zero allowance for a response from me as the chatter goes on, “But – I’m so glad that Trish was here to let you in.” The mom (Vicky – since names are being learned) hip swivels towards the couch and promptly appears surprised to not just see her innocent daughter, but the couple sitting there. “Oh Tommy . . . when did you get here?”
That question just hung in the air for what felt like forever. In fact, I probably could have finished the tank cleaning and walked out. Instead, with my one arm still damp – and cleaning sponge in hand – I greedily take in the moment and join in on the stare towards the glowing couple. Knowing what I obviously know, the daughter (let’s now call her Trish the Dish) hesitates slightly before answering . . . and it’s a lie, “He just got here, Mom, and the door was locked.”
Oh snap – a double lie – all within the same sentence.
Thinking (poor choice) that he should help with the telling of the tale, Tommy chimes in nervously, “Yes, ma’am. I just got here.”
Internal monologue goes into overdrive: Oh vomit, did he really just use “ma’am”? He should just go ahead and admit to the sexual escapade that he put her daughter through.
The last muttering part of Tommy Boy’s “I just got here” hangs out awkwardly as if his zipper was still down.
With a hip swung out to the side while showing off the slightest sway, Vicky stands before them and casually eyes up the couple. I’m getting the sinking feeling that she now knows, too. Saying “ma’am” just gave it away. Plus, the “Vickster” (sorry, they’re all getting nicknames now) is a very sexual individual herself. From her past escapades of answering the door in a “Stacy’s Mom” towel (remember that earlier picture) to the naked artwork on the house walls (also mentioned earlier), sex is in the air. In fact – since the bed-bouncing was less than an hour ago, the air probably has a lingering sniff to anyone just entering the house and no – it was NOT the fish tank.
At this point, I’m packing up all my stuff, because I have no idea where this is going, but I do know that I would like to go outside immediately.
“Do you need any help?” Tommy wants out, too, as he stands up from the couch and steps towards my buckets.
I flash a hand up to halt any help my way, “Thanks, bud, but I’m good.” It took me two trips to carry everything in, but I can certainly handle it all leaving if it means I can reach the “Get Tanked” van faster. I should have a fridge in that ride with some “getting tanked” beverage.
“Oh Brent – do you really have to go?” Vicky almost pleads.
Alright, that’s weird. I confusingly answer with a question, “But the tank is done?”
“Oh, well yes.” Her type of typical pause. “It just seems,” another beat, “like you just got here.”
“Nope. I’m done.” I’m not beating around the bush – I’m going for it. Okay, maybe not really.
“Well, thank you so much for coming out.” Vicky walks towards me and then offers, “Let me hold the door for you.”
As she brushes by me (and she does), there’s undoubtedly a heavy perfumed scent left behind on my arm, shoulder, back – geez, how much did she brush?
My mind jumbles up from the tic-toc swing of her hips in front of me. With two buckets in one hand and the other bucket and cooler in the other, I walk forward and just push my head upwards where the eyes find it. A Camera. Then . . . another one. I stop.
“Did you forget something?” Noticing my pause, Vicky steps towards me – was that seductively?
Geez – this visit can’t end fast enough. After setting down two of the buckets, I inquire with my favorite directional finger, “Is that a security system? Are those cameras recording anything?”
Looking back over her shoulder to the foyer area, Vicky sees and appears to be on the same page with me. What page she was on just moments before, I have no idea. “Why – they ARE recording!”
I smile – broadly. “Rewind those tapes and you’ll see if that door was locked or not.”
Trish gasps, but her beetle brain of a boy toy doesn’t, “Uh, you’re showing your age, bro.”
I don’t even turn to face him. “Really?” is said incredulously aloud.
“Yeah, there aren’t any tapes anymore . . . it’s all digital now.”
“Thanks Tommy.” It’s my turn to brush past Vicky. “Have fun looking over those digital recordings with the Vickster, here.”
Whoops – that slipped out.
Client giggles – “Vickster – I haven’t heard that since college.”
I’m not going there, so I choose not to turn around for her either. “I’ll see you all next month.”
“You will?” Tommy is still conversing!
“Shut up, Tommy.” Trish hushes in a weak attempt at squelching down her guy’s babble.
Matter of factly, I state, “Well, after the viewing party – maybe not.”
“What viewing party?” he puzzles to me.
“Bye everyone!” I shut the door and nearly break into a full out sprint for the van. Also, the door is still unlocked.
Wikipedia defines safety as “the state of being ‘safe’ (from French sauf), the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event which could be considered non-desirable.” Next, when you add into the equation of safety, the location of a hospital, I can guarantee that the checklist grows even longer.
Within a hospital, there are safety signs everywhere, as there should be. Contracts / agreements / documents / checklists are endlessly written up and followed – again, as there should be. Everything needs to be signed off on, and then double checked before a third checking, and finally a final, final check is stamped with an approval. And yes, as they should most definitely be, especially at a hospital. However, knowing the location of a particular set of keys to unlock the bathroom door with a patient trapped inside – nothing. They have got absolutely nothing on that one.
Since you weren’t with me, let me set the scene. For my job of cleaning fish aquariums, I was on-location at a hospital. If you want to be really specific, it was a rehabilitation and therapy hospital. In turn, these patients were definitely in need of aid and attention, so they would not be going anywhere, anytime too soon. Nevertheless, the hospital had some fish tanks which for my job, I visited monthly to clean.
On this particular day, I was deep into my typical routine, where a certain percentage of water had already been removed from the aquarium. What obviously follows is the refilling process, which was now underway. To transport the water, I had to use the bucket method and was therefore carrying the water to and from the nearby bathroom. There was this hose attachment which connected directly onto the sink’s faucet. The other end would be slowly filling up five gallon sized buckets, as I would continue doing the random duties associated with cleaning a fish tank. Speaking of duty, nobody would usually use the bathroom during these durations of time since it was quite obvious that it was in continued use by “The Fish Guy.” Usually is the key word in the prior sentence.
After starting up another bucket for filling, I exit the bathroom, while leaving its door propped open with a heavy bucket of fish tank cleaning tools. As I head back to the tank area , I notice out of the corner of my eye an elderly woman “walkering” (that’s walking with a walker) her way towards the bathroom. Sensing her confusion with the bucket of obstacles door prop, I spin around holding up my hands and explain, “Ma’am, excuse me, but I’m really sorry, but the bathroom is unavailable right now.”
With a swift kicking motion towards my door prop bucket, she gruffly replies, “I can see that, but I have to go.” My blue bucket of cleaning supplies is shot away from the bathroom. Then, with amazing strength due to the apparent urgency at hand, the door was swung shut sending off a booming sound that could probably be heard throughout the entire hospital. By the way, the location of the aquarium and this particular bathroom are both within the cafeteria area. In turn, not only do I have my blue bucket rolling on its side with cleaning equipment of sponges and tools sprayed out all over the floor, I also have each and everyone’s eyes from the cafeteria tables being directly focused on me. Great. This type of attention is always awesome – not.
Now remember, one of my other buckets still resides inside the bathroom at this moment in time and it’s busy being filled up slowly with water. Quickly, I scan the room of staring (along with some glaring) eyes in desperate search for a hospital employee. After sweeping motions are made over the entire room, I finally spot out two women in hospital work attire and give them a point prior to my hustle over.
Upon arrival, I simply state without an introduction, “We have a situation.”
“You’re damn right you do. Are you going to head back over there and clean that up?” This employee is only concerned about the kicked over bucket and scattered tools.
Realizing the distraction behind me, I wave it off. “That’s nothing.” Trying to refocus them on my words, my hands attempt to tell the story as I narrate, “An elderly woman just went into the bathroom. I tried to explain to her that the bathroom was already in use, but she just wouldn’t listen.” Sensing boredom courtesy of the glazed over looks that I was receiving from both employees, my hands flutter recklessly about as I decide to skip to the end. “Okay, I’m filling a bucket with water in that bathroom.” On the word “that”, I perform an overly dramatic point. Then, to help reach my emphatic conclusion, I go into a teapot pose and end with “and the spigot is running.”
What felt like an eternity of a pause made, my teapot pose starts to waver. Finally, the other employee speaks and I hear, “Can’t help you.” At this point, I believe I’m invisible to hospital “help” number two. I choose to do the ignoring and go back to the one that was at least concerned over my blue bucket spillage. “Can’t someone unlock the door?”
“We don’t have a key.” Again, this comes from hospital “help” number two.
“Really?” I shoot off into her direction along with a touch of sarcasm. Okay, a strong touch.
I’ve now gotten the attention of hospital “help” number one again. There’s some odd neck move maneuver performed (not as good as my teapot pose though) as she adds, “Yeah, when you lock the bathroom, it’s locked.”
Genius. I glare into the neck twisty female’s eyes and state, “So, what happens if the person in the locked bathroom pulls the emergency cord next to the toilet?”
Silence. Seriously, I got silence, because they had no clue. None.
“Uh, you guys better work on that one.” I leave the dynamic duo and march back to the bathroom. Ironically enough, just as I was about to give the door a hard rapping police knock, it opens.
The elderly woman walkers herself out and barks at me, “It’s all yours. You better take care of that bucket of yours. It’s going to overflow and make a mess in there.”
I kick into “kill them with kindness” mode and smile out, “Thank you, ma’am.” Ma’am probably meant something other than . . . ma’am.
With several quick motions, I grab my empty blue bucket from the floor, push the door open wider to prop it, and flick off the faucet. The bucket is filled to the brim with water. Then, just as I was feeling a sense of relief, I was punched in the nose with a pugnacious smell of “duty” or, who’s kidding anyone, it was a repulsive, fresh shit smell. I actually had to step out and take in a breath of cafeteria air.
Pulling myself together, I now see that the old woman with her walker is almost seated at a nearby table. I could have sworn that I saw a smirk. Nevertheless, the inevitable has to occur. I turn back to the bathroom and give it a scan. In the beginning of this tale, I explained that these people were in need. Well, by the sight laid out before me, this bathroom was now in need of help. It looked like urine was all over the floor while the toilet itself was speckled with brown marks. Luckily, the sink and my white bucket were far enough away from the explosion that I believe nothing contaminated it or truly “touched” it. This was my final bucket needed to fill up the tank aquarium anyway. Thank God.
Focused, I grab my bucket, detach the hose from the spigot, and then suddenly realize something. After unleashing that mess in the bathroom, that woman didn’t even wash her hands at the end of the production. With my foot, I push away the blue bucket door stop and allow the door to shut behind me. I’m now staring out into the cafeteria and see the woman eating her sandwich which is being held with those disgusting, uncleansed hands.
I head over to the table, “Excuse me,” pause, pause, “Ma’am?”
Her mouth is full, so she just looks up and chews.
As I feel the rest of the eyes from the table shift towards me, I continue, “I just wanted to let you know that the hose attachment has been removed from the sink. So, you’ll be able to wash your hands now.” A big smile smears across my face.
Those same table eyes that were drilling through me, all slowly turn to the “woman.” They know, they all now know.
Feeling a little vindication, I spin around and head back to the tank area. Aquarium is officially done and it looks good. I wrap things up and begin to head out. However, along the way, I feel more eyes watching me. Ahhh – the dynamic duo. My work is not done.
Giving off another broad smile, I wave and then point to the door, “It’s unlocked now. Good thing, because that bathroom needs a cleaning itself.”
My hands do some of the explaining and give off a wave under my nose. “Whew – and it wasn’t me, ladies. Good luck with that!”
It was Sunday morning and my mother, sister and I were all in the kitchen for breakfast. My chair sat closest to the top of the stairway from the family room, so I could easily turn to my left and see the happenings of this room. Only five downward steps away lay Beau Brummel or while I was growing up with this black poodle of a dog, Bosie. Standing over him was my dad, who was sadly shaking his head. Bosie was not doing well and was apparently due a return trip to the vet on Monday for something my sister and I were not aware of. Nevertheless, we were simply told (warned) on the previous night (Saturday)that he was very, very sick and it definitely showed this Sunday AM.
Picture of Beau Brummel
While growing up, the first routine goal of my Sunday morning regimen was to stay home from church. My dad’s a minister, therefore I’m the son of a preacher man. Cool song, but that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s church every week. No matter how many times or how loud I played the Twisted Sister’s song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I still found myself pouting in a pew on Sunday morning. “Thanks be to God.” Not really.
I was lucky though . . . actually, my dad would jump all over me for that and correct me, so let’s start that paragraph over. I was blessed though, because the church we went to was typically over between 11am to 11:30am. However, end time all depended on the sermon durations, kool-aid drinkings, and/or baby dunkings. Normally, I got home in time for the ever important 1 o’clock kick-off time of my Beloved Birds. Yes, I was blessed to have my church wrap up their cult callings in time for my pigskin yearnings.
At this point, I really need to mention the fact that my dad was indeed a minister, but just not at this church . . . nor at any church. However, he’s legit – very legit actually. He was schooled enough in religion to earn his doctorate. But, at this time of his career, he moved beyond individual churches and was chief dog of the pastoral care department in the biggest hospital of D-ware – kind of funny saying something is the biggest in the smallest state.
Nevertheless, my dad’s job at the hospital was to chat it up with the living dead. I know that I’m trying to joke about a very serious subject, but that’s the only way I know how to deal with something of this solemn-tude (made up word). Within this arena, my dad is clearly the man that I will never be. How he can hold someone’s hand while assuring them the afterlife that they both just prayed for, now awaits them at the light at the end of the hospital hallway is beyond me. And to think that while growing up, I would greet him at the door with my lame ass issues of playing baseball, dating chicks, and how annoying my little sister was.
“Hey son, I just watched seven people die today as I assured them that God awaits them at the gates of heaven. Meanwhile, you stand here griping to me about some 16 year old girl who won’t give you the time of day? How about you go Stridex your face for the umpteenth time today and quit taking long showers . . . we know what you’re doing in there.”
Deep down, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he yearned to say; I mean, the man grew up in Detroit. We visited there for one summer vacation. One. That’s all we needed to see. The interesting part of the trip was visiting a home where several of his friends were gathering to meet up with him. Wives, kids, the old gang. Unfortunately, they sent us kids outside to play. In this case, I had to toss around the football with a couple weak armed Michigan want-to-bes. After about 15 minutes of watching them miss and then watching their return throws go everywhere but to me, I headed inside for what I told was a “break.”
Not thinking too much of it, I just walked in. Being summer, it was only the screen door that I needed to open. Being just a screen door, nobody heard the entry made by the kid (me). Loud conversation continued with f-bombs, bullshits, and god damns. Feeling initially shocked, a grin slowly crept across my face as I realized the owner of some of these creative dishings. It was my father – the Rev, as his friends liked to call him. Suddenly, my mom appeared in the foyer and realized what I had just witnessed. I was proud, but she hustled me outside again to the boys of Michigan – neither one became a Wolverine or Spartan.
Alright, so now you know that it wasn’t my dad that I was disrespecting at the front of the church every week. Instead, it was some other dude (or in some cases/stories, a dudette) that was on stage . . . er, at the podium or pulpit – take your pick. I mention stage, because during the church’s annual Christmas Pageant, people would always say that I could do it because of my dad. Are they saying my dad is acting up there? Hmmmm.
Actually, for one Christmas Eve show, I forgot my lines. Went blank. Congregation stared. Instantly, I hated Christmas. Bring on New Year’s. During this forgetful mishap, I knew what was supposed to happen next, but didn’t have the words to get there. In turn, I randomly waved the kid on and pointed for him to continue. Who knows – maybe the audience thought it was the other kid, but I’m guessing that my wide eyed dumb look gave myself away. I was also very open about screwing things up afterwards. FYI – anyone who really knows me; realizes that I moved past my disdain to Christmas. In fact, when people ask me about my religion, I tell them that I believe in Santa – love the guy.
That leads us to questioning God. “Wait – what about Beau Brummell?” Okay, I’ll get back to the dog lying at the bottom of the steps, but I don’t write about these religious tangents too much, so I’m running (typing) with it. Back in the same church that I went blank on Christmas Eve on its stage, I questioned the existence of God with my Youth Group. Now, for these groups, this is probably a common topic that could creep up, especially at this teenage age. But remember who my dad was – which meant, I was a P.K. (Preacher’s Kid). Holy Shit said the church ministers . . . internally, of course.
That was quite a time. Everyone had a different story or tale or happening to prove the existence of God. Basically, what it came down to, they scared me into believing because when my parents die, they will go to heaven. “Don’t you want to go where your parents will be?” Uh, thanks. Where do I sign up for the “I believe in God club”? I’m sorry, but the stories, tales, and happenings were lame. But that junk about going where my parents are going or not, that scared the crap out of me. I chanted out what I was supposed to, got baptised, and became a member of the church.
Funny side note – We had a lock-in that Saturday night prior to the big baptism day and church member day. A lock-in. With teenagers. They let us wander around and a small group of us began playing strip poker. I was winning when they caught us all. If they told me that God had created the breasts that I had just seen, my faith would have become so much . . . stronger. Notice how I didn’t write the easy joke out of “harder.” All class here.
Back to the dying dog. I loved that dog. My mom had him prior to my little sister, me, and my dad. That dog allowed us into its life. In turn, I only got to know when he was old. Dogs as puppies are awesome and that’s when I think they build their loyalty the most. Nobody messed with my mom when Bosie was nearby. Toy poodle with a dude. He owned the La-Z-Boy Chair in the family room. Nobody else could sit there at the end – his chair. We had to put a towel on it though because he was slower and slower reaching outside in time. In fact, back in the day, he would walk near the back door and bark in order to instruct us to let him go outside for his business. Towards the end, he would just head over in that direction. If you didn’t join him fast enough to open the door, he’d piss right there on the carpet. I loved that dog.
Back to the original scene of this short – dog dying at the bottom of the steps, dad standing over him shaking his head and repeating, “he’s going”, my mom and sister start crying, and me – sitting there wondering if we would be going to church or not. Today was a big one – it was freaking Easter. Bet that holiday never had that adjective before. Anyway – we ended up staying home from church because of the loss of our dog, Beau “Bosie” Brummell. I loved that f’in dog.