‘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.