Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Dishwasher, 2 (Jobs v. Life)

Comic comes from Natalie Dee.
Jobs v Life is essays about all the jobs I've had, in chronological order.  So far there's been paperboy,  and McDonald's... click here for an explanation and table of contents.

When I left off telling about my job a a dishwasher at Chenequa Country Club -- the third job I ever had in my life -- I was here, talking about

cruising, which as I realize it has nothing at all to do with Chenequa Country Club but you're stuck with the me that's stuck on this story, and cruising it is.  Cruising was something we did about every three weeks, driving around on Highway 100, smoking and pretending we were cool and not bored and seeing girls and wondering what it would be like to talk to them, and cruising was Godawfulboring right up until the one night it was not, the last night we ever went cruising, and what made cruising not boring that night was that on that one night, instead of just cruising around, stopping at the stoplights, getting some food, and then going home, on that one night, instead, things took a wild, random turn for the bizarrely worse when at a stoplight, a guy got out of a car and ran over to our car and reached in through the front, open, passenger-seat window and grabbed my friend Fred and began punching him as hard and fast in the face as he could.

That is how one of the rare nights on which something happened began: we'd been cruising, on Highway 100, and then that took place, and we all began yelling.

I have to make a correction to the story, though, as since last time I have realized that it was not Fred who was being punched, it was my friend Bob.

Bob and Fred were best friends, both on the track team, both lived near each other for a while, and they hung out together.  I was a hanger-on to their duo, and that continued with both Bob and Fred working as waiters at Chenequa Country Club before I began as a dishwasher there.  The fact that we would all work together made it seem to me like it might be kind of cool to work there only it wasn't at all.

Bob was in the passenger seat, as I recall, and I was in the back seat behind the driver, with the driver being my older brother Bill, and Bob in the front passenger seat. 

I realized, after last time, that I was wrong on the placement of that front-seat passenger because it was only after going back and re-reading it to be being this segment that I remembered the critical factor, which was how this whole thing had started, which was that Fred, who was prone to doing things like this, had flipped off the guys in the other car.

We didn't know that as Bill started driving, doing so as soon as he could, which was both almost immediately and a lot longer than you want it to be when you are under attack, and while we waited for the light to change and the cars in front of us to move Bob was trying to roll up the window while also being punched in the face and finally we were moving, trying to get out of the stop-and-go cruising traffic on Highway 100 and away from the guys who were suddenly chasing us.

We didn't know why they had attacked Bob, or us, or whether they'd meant to attack just Bob or what was going on at all; all we knew was that we were being chased, and it was for real.  We got off of Highway 100 and into the side streets that ran through all the subdivisions and small strip malls around West Allis and Brookfield, Wisconsin, and in the dark of that night we were being pursued by an unknown number of guys in a car for no apparent reason, and they were not giving up.

As we drove, we were all shouting instructions to Bill about what to do and where to go; I suppose we were trying to lose them, but we weren't doing a very effective job of it, because when you actually go through something like that, it's way harder to lose someone than you immediately think, even in a bunch of residential streets.  Or maybe especially in a bunch of residential streets, where there are stop lights and other cars and it's not all that late and so while you are driving to save your life you also are driving, at least a little, somewhat responsibly, in that Bill would pause or at least slow down for stop signs, something they never do in the movies.

This went on for about forty years, or ten minutes, depending on whether you want to know how it felt or how long it actually took.  For about 10 minutes or so we sped as much as we could through quiet residential streets, with these guys after us, and it was during that time that Fred confessed that he had flipped the guys off at the stoplight, prompting us all to start yelling at him about why he would do that, while he yelled back his defense, being that he didn't know and he thought it would be funny.

I thought these guys were going to kill us.

I had only been in, at that point, about three fights in my entire life, if you don't count constantly fighting with my brothers which I don't because when we fought we had rules, like You can't hit each other in the face (a rule my older brother Bill would, not long after this event, break, along with my nose, when he punched me in the face when I wasn't even looking at him, resulting in a life-long bend in my nose), so when we fought as brothers, even those times we picked up weapons, which was sometimes, we almost never did any real harm to each other.

The three fights I had been in were two of the usual kinds of fights, in grade school, where nothing much happens.  One had been against Mark Hanley, a kid whose parents were friends with my parents, but who I never cared much for.  I don't remember why I fought Mark Hanley, other than that I didn't much care for him and I had (have, but it's easier to control at age 43 than at age 10 or 12) a terrible temper.  The fight with Mark Hanley took place on a baseball diamond and involved only a few punches and maybe some wrestling.  I don't remember it well but I remember that I didn't get badly hurt at all and neither did he, and Mark and I after that remained wary acquaintances until high school where I never recall talking to him ever again.  Maybe he moved.

Another fight was with Dean Larsen, in 5th grade, and I got in trouble for it, because Dean Larsen was making fun of me wearing glasses and an eye patch.  When I think back about Dean Larsen, I remember him as being taller and stronger than everyone in the 5th grade, and the rumor was that he'd been held back, but even if he had been held back, it couldn't account for how I remember Dean, because I remember him as being grown-up sized, double my height, and that can't be, right?  I'm sure I've inflated how large he was to make up for how badly that fight went, when I charged Dean Larsen for making fun of me and tried to punch him and he easily got me in a headlock and tackled me and pulled my glasses off and gave me a facewash until a teacher broke it up and I got sent to the principal's office for starting a fight.

After 5th grade, in our district, everyone changed schools and went to junior high for 6th-8th grades at Hartland North, and I don't recall seeing Dean there, so maybe I've completely blanked him from my mind after that.

The only other fight was one I got into when I was about 17; my uncle, Mark, was staying with us at the time, as my grandmother had recently died and Mark was only about 20 years old.  Mark and I had gone out on one Friday night to a "teen bar," where we could shoot pool and dance and smoke and he could meet girls and I could hope to meet girls, and there was a guy there who was picking a fight with me and finally I said I would fight him, although I can't imagine what I was thinking when I agreed to that.

I left, with Mark, and he left, with his friends, and a bunch of people who knew what was going on left, too, and we met on the sidewalk outside the teen bar, which was called "Jellybeans," and which held a weekly lip-synch contest where once I had come in second by doing a lipsynch to Adam Ant's Strip.

(I did not strip all the way down; I had a pair of shorts under my jeans.)

(You didn't get any prizes for being second, though.)

Outside, me and this guy faced each other, about three inches apart, each daring the other to hit first.  We had a belief, back then, that if you hit first you could be arrested, whereas if you hit second you could never be in trouble at all.   I know now that that rule is not exactly accurate, but that's what we thought back then, so many fights started the way this one did:

Him:  Go ahead.  Hit me.

Me:  No.  You hit me.  [I was desperately praying that he would not hit me because by then I had calmed down and realized that there wasn't any chance, really, that I would come out of this in any shape I wanted to be in.]

OTHERS:  Hit him.
This went on for a few minutes, until this happened:

Him:  Hit me.

You probably think you can guess what happened next, and if you guessed "I turned around and said to my uncle, Did you see that? I hit him!" only to turn back and get pasted in the face myself and fall to the ground," you guessed correctly.

Two punches, one from each, and I was down, but that fight was not over because he kicked me, again and again, forcing me to cover my face because he was trying to kick it, and I stood up only to have him trip me and knock me down again and start kicking me and I got up again only to have him punch me in the head and I went down again and he started kicking me again...

...I have to point out that as I understood the Rules of Fights, one does not kick.  This really seemed unfair to me.  Also, painful.

...and after a few minutes of that, my uncle somehow pulled me out and kind of pulled rank -- he was a year or two older than everyone else -- and it stopped and they left and he helped me get into the car and we drove home, leaving me to wonder to this day why he waited until the third round of kicks to stop the bout.

All of that is to say that while I had been in a few fights in my life, they had never gone well, and in the most serious one, I am pretty sure I'd have been hospitalized by Kick Guy if not for my uncle finally deciding to help me out of that one, and thus, as we drove through neighborhood after neighborhood and could not shake these guys, I was 100% positive that I was going to die this way, so I was quietly awaiting my fate when we hatched a desperate plan.

We had, in the car with us, a bottle of Schnapps.

Don't judge us.  I know that teenage drinking is kind of wrong and that drinking and driving is wrong, but first off, Bill was driving and he was not drinking, and secondly, this was back roundabout in 1988 and while drinking and driving is always wrong and I get that -- I was mowed into by a drunk driver a few years later and broke my neck -- back then drinking and driving was wrong on the level of, say, jaywalking, or not shoveling your driveway.  Here is an actual thing that happened to me when I was 20:

We had been at a party, and we had been drinking, as we were wont to do at parties.  Around about 1 or 2 a.m. when we ran out of alcohol and the party wound down and the people like me who did not have girlfriends to make out with had to go home because everyone was making out with their girlfriends started leaving, we had to decide who was going to drive.

I was chosen to drive on the basis of having had the least to drink: our choices were Fred, who could barely stand up, Bob, who could stand up but not much more, and me, plus my younger brother Matt who also, I believe, was stoned. 

So I got the car keys and the responsibility of driving, and I drove carefully and did pretty well for the five or so miles home, a trip that involved going through downtown Hartland and within a block or two of the police station before hitting the long straight road that led to our subdivision.

We were on that road, and apparently I was speeding, because I got pulled over by the local cop who knew us the best, Officer Begin (his name was pronounced Bay-gen, in case you are wondering, which you probably weren't.  If you weren't, I apologize for wasting your time, but it seemed more important when I wrote it that you know how to pronounce his name even though, I assure you, the pronunciation of his name does not factor into this story at all.)

Officer Begin pulled me over just one block away from the street I lived on, and our house was only three blocks up that street, so we were 1/3 of a mile from home when I got pulled over, and this is how seriously drinking and driving was not taken back then: I wasn't worried about drinking and driving, I was worried about underage drinking, and speeding.

Officer Begin came up to the car and looked us over.  He knew me, and he knew our family, mostly because of Bill, who was constantly in low-grade trouble, and sometimes in middle- or high-grade trouble.

"Where you going, Briane?" he asked me quietly.

I mumbled something about going home, aware that I was kind of slurring my words.

"You tired?" Officer Begin asked.

Fred, in the backseat, was laughing and paying no attention to the fact that the cop was asking me questions.  I agreed I was tired.

"Have you been drinking tonight?" the cop asked all of us.

We all assured him that we had not, all except Fred, who was laughing about something else now.

Officer Begin sighed and said to me: "Just go straight home, okay?"

And he walked back to his car and turned off the lights and left.  We drove home.

So we had a bottle of Schnapps in the car with us, because that was what kids did then, and our plan, as we tried to shake the guys who were chasing us, was this:  We would throw that bottle at their car.

We didn't know what it would do, to throw the bottle at them.  It was pretty much the only thing we could think to do because we were 20 miles from home and lost in the subdivisions and needed to end this and get on the freeway and go home but we didn't want them following us to our houses, so as we rounded a corner and the car gained on us, these guys who had been chasing us now for about 20 minutes, Bob leaned out the window and held up  the bottle of Schnapps -- it was one of those heavy, thick flask-sized bottles, built like a glass brick -- and he threw it.

We heard the bottle smash against their car, and out the back window we could see that he'd hit the front of the car and hit it good, and what happened next was the only reason that plan worked.

The driver of the other car stopped his car cold, slamming on the brakes, and opened his door, and began running after us! 

We had been about 20 yards away when Bob threw the bottle and this guy gets out and starts running after us, and we all realized immediately that this was it, this was our break, and began hollering for Bill to floor it and he did, taking off like a shot as the guy continued to try to chase us on foot for nearly a block but we of course left him behind, and Bill took a turn and another turn and then he was alone in an area we didn't recognize.

"Turn off the headlights," we told him, and he did that.  We assumed the guy had gotten back into his car and was looking for us, but we were far enough ahead, we figured, that we could continue to sneak around, and that was what we did for about 15 more minutes, driving as quickly as we could with our lights off, all of us silent; the feeling was like in one of those submarine movies where the entire crew sits motionless, sweating, in the green glow, waiting to see if they have been discovered.

We weren't.  We made it out of that neighborhood, got our bearings, and got on the highway, and headed home.  We took backroads through our town to make sure nobody was following us, because we were smart that way.

And only that way.

PS: I realize that this has nothing whatsoever to do with dishwashing.  Next time I will talk about the actual job, but maybe the point is that work, jobs, have so little to do with what life is all about that I cannot directly think about a job like dishwashing, and so instead my brain gets redirected to the good parts.

1 comment:

Andrew Leon said...

That was the good part? The only thing even close to that that ever happened to me was this one time we were following some people to Dallas and our driver started following the wrong car (it was at night), and I told her she wasn't following the correct car anymore, but she didn't listen to me, and we followed this other car all the way to their house. So, yeah, we followed this car for 30-40 minutes, at least, and, then, they pulled into a driveway, we slowed down, realized it was the wrong people and pulled away. I've always wondered what those people thought was going on.