For Love of Money (Part 1)

26 Jul

It’s recently been pointed out to me that I’ve been overwriting the shit out of this blog (thanks, Chris!). That’s a point well taken, but I have my reasons. I have had a lot of interesting, humiliating, and just balls-out bizarre things happen to me in my time on this planet that I need to share. Additionally, there are an almost infinite number of things that vex and/or piss me off. The good news: for those two reasons, I’m unlikely to run out of topics to rant about. The bad news: I am a seriously longwinded motherfucker. [Author’s Note: my copy of Microsoft Word now recognizes “motherfucker” as a correctly spelled word even though I’m about 299% sure it was highlighting it in red when I first started using the program. Apparently I’ve used the word so much that Word gave up and decided to let me have that one. Ponder that for a moment: I was able to wear down spellcheck into complete submission through the sheer will of my vulgarity. Score one for the humans before the inevitable robot apocalypse (or “robocalypse” if you’re a fan of portmanteaus).] As you can tell by this intro, this is going to be another War and Peace-like epic. In fact, this is going to be my first ever two-parter. I’m going to try to end on a cliffhanger, so prepare to have your mind blown by some amazing Hitchcockian suspense. In fact, consider this the pre-suspense before the real suspense of the cliffhanger. Are you ready for this? I can tell by the way you’re rolling your eyes that you are.

When it comes to stories of things that happened to me, they are typically miserable experiences that I either (a) didn’t know were going to be awful when they began or (b) situations where I knew it would be awful going in, yet did it anyway just for the story. Do you have any idea how many things I’ve done simply to have an awesome story to tell? Do you appreciate that? DO YOU?? I hope so because I do it for you, gentle reader, I do it for you. This tale, however, falls into category (a).

Allow me to set the scene: it was the mid-90s. Grunge was dying a slow death at the wee, falsetto-voiced hands of the boy bands. The internet was currently known as, “That thing that takes 3-hours to download a single nude chick pic from an ‘80s-era Juggs magazine provided no one picks up the phone and disconnects me.” Waterworld was poised to smash box office records around the globe and be christened THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE – a title it holds to this very day. The movie features Kevin Costner – with gills. GILLS, bitches. That shit just flat out owns. There I was: a fresh-faced, cocksure 21-year-old who had just given up the glitz and glamour of my job as stock boy at the local grocery store. I know, I know – how could I walk away from that? I’ll simply say this: life in the fast lane isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: the fast cars, the women, the 10% employee discount – it was all so empty. It was time for me to move on. I searched for a new job in the finest place I knew: the classified section of The Baltimore Sun. It was truly the Craig’s List of its era. I perused the listings looking for the perfect opportunity, something suitable for my massive skill set of being able to both stock shelves AND bag groceries. There in the middle of the page, shining like a distant and beckoning oasis, I saw it:

WAREHOUSE POSITIONS. MUST HAVE FORKLIFT EXPERIENCE. STARTING PAY $10/HOUR. NO ALBANIANS, PLEASE.

Okay, maybe it didn’t mention anything about Albanians, but the rest was there: $10 for one hour of work. Un-fucking-believable. Never had I ever made that much money for doing anything. I quickly did the math and, within a few short hours, my calculations told me that’s $400 a week. A WEEK! This was too good to be true. I calmed myself, took a deep breath, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and called.

The phone rang. Twice. Three times. Four. Finally, just when all hope seemed lost, a click followed by a raspy voice, “Yeah?” I estimated that voice had been mercilessly beaten down by at least 60 coffin nails a day for 30+ years. “I…I’m calling about the job?” (How’s that for confidence?) He cleared his throat and tried on what I imagined was his “happy voice” once he realized I wasn’t shaking him down for money. His name was Sal. He asked me a few questions about my work experience, but tellingly, nothing about forklift expertise (RED FLAG). After hearing that I’d worked at a grocery store for 4 years he declared, “You sound like manager material (RED FLAG). Any experience?” This was all happening so fast. I wavered in my response, but ultimately decided to tell him the truth: no, I had no managerial experience, but I could steer the shit out of a forklift. His reply, “Don’t matter. I can tell you got what it takes (RED FLAG). Be here 9:00 Monday and we’ll get you started.”

Score! I was so stoked! The first place I called and I had the job. Not only that, but I was offered an even better job than the one for which I had hoped to apply! Nothing unusual about that…right? Of course not. Clearly this was simply amazing luck along with the massive amount of charm and charisma I was able to exude over the phone. Beaming with pride, excitement, and a laundry list of shit I was going to spend my first $400 paycheck on, I called my girlfriend. She assured me this was a scam. I assured her that she best shut her bitch-ass mouth. Sorry, I didn’t actually tell her that. I just told her that she was stupid and she ought to get her ass back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich. Okay, I didn’t tell her that either. I believe my actual unedited quote upon hearing her cynicism was, “Nuh-uh.” Hardcore, right? Totally torched her ass. Confident that this was not a scam, I couldn’t wait to prove her wrong. She’d know shit was real when we were enjoying the finest steaks Sizzler could sell to a man earning $10 an hour. Chris Parnell said it best: “It’s all about the Hamiltons, baby.”

Monday morning came and I was ready like a goddamned boss. I put on a fresh suit (with tweed jacket – natch) and my brand new pair of suede loafers. This job was mine. He said be there at 9:00, I rolled my ’86 Honda Prelude onto the lot at 8:45. Early and dressed for success, I pictured myself walking up to the front door in slow motion while “You’re the Best Around” from The Karate Kid played and shit exploded in the background. They don’t even make floor wax smoother than that.

It’s probably at this point that I should mention that this particular establishment was located in a strip mall in Golden Ring, Maryland (let’s call it “Mullet Heaven” for those not familiar with the area). The “warehouse” was ridiculously small, more like a storage unit than a place of work. No matter, less for me, the manager, to be concerned about. The door was open. A few pallets stacked with small, nondescript boxes lined the concrete floor. My smile faltered, but then there it was in the corner: the forklift. It too was Lilliputian, but it was there, goddamn it. Sweet vindication! I knew it wasn’t a scam. I emitted a small sigh of relief.

I saw a man, 50s, seated behind a desk puffing away on a Marlboro that was nearly all ash. He looked like a disheveled Jack Lemmon from Glengarry Glen Ross. I approached him. “Sal?” I asked cautiously. A look of, “Who the fuck are you?” bloomed on his face. “I’m here for the job.” His face softened and he stood up to greet me. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me that to be a manager meant learning every aspect of the job. How Zen. Still, this seemed odd as we were the only two people in this very small space. How much could there really be to learn? Then he walked in. Sal and I stood up as he ambled over to us. Sal gestured to him: “This here’s Kevin.” Cheap, wrinkled suit, slicked back hair, John Waters ‘stache – the guy oozed salesman from his very pores. He stuck out his hand and I lightly shook his sweaty palm. “Kevin’s the best. He’s going to take you on his sales calls today, show you the ropes.”

At this point, I’m still in denial. As we stroll to his car (a canary-yellow Suzuki Samurai), I’m picturing scheduled meetings in boardrooms and sales presentations. I’d soon find out how off-base such thoughts were. I continued on towards my car. “Where you going, guy?” he asked. “I thought I’d follow you,” I naively offered. He said that’s not how it works; that I’d ride with him and he’d bring me back at the end of the day. I walked to the passenger side, scared without knowing why. This was my last chance to bail. I had to choose: get in or get the hell out of there. What should I do…?

I totally got in. Man, I suck at cliffhangers.

Next week: the thrilling conclusion of, “You did that for money? Seriously?”

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One Response to “For Love of Money (Part 1)”

  1. Michael Brennan October 18, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Thanks, man! I guess I was in the zone that day.

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