Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Parched

My father all but abandoned me to run a construction site with nearly a hundred employees. At the time we had a crew of ten laborers, twenty framers, thirty vinyl siders, and twenty or more craftsmen doing a variety of other miscellaneous tasks. It was both exhilarating and overwhelming.

It was the first time in my life that I was called "Boss." Suddenly my friends and erstwhile coworkers looked at me different, some with suspicion, some fawning like schoolgirls with a crush. Never have I felt so alone as I did then. My office was a stream of people with a variety of sad stories, begging for advances or time off. I hired a secretary to help with the payroll, which was a desperate situation every week, struggling to get paid by the general contractor for completed work in order to cover the paychecks we wrote. Even she began to get cozy, once bringing her daughter into work for me to meet. She was a poor single mother, abandoned by some quick draw McGraw to raise his child without any support.

Being an RA in college was similar in many aspects. Whenever I stopped into a dorm room to say hello, the conversations were normally terse, especially if the faint aroma of pot lingered in the air. Or the opposite, where my every utterance was met with gales of laughter, as if I were Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy rolled into one.

The corner room at the end of my hall was a suite, which was a common area containing a television, refridgerator and couches, surrounded by four bedrooms and a bathroom. Basically these were the party palaces, where the din of loud music and voices erupted on weekends.

I caught people walking to and from the suite with gargantuan beer cups several times on the first occasion, so I pulled their leader into my room the next day.

"Mark, I couldn't help but notice that you guys had a keg party last night."

He looked at me sheepishly. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Man, didn't you hear anything I said at our meeting?" He looked down at the floor. "I don't care if you are partying or not, but sneaking a keg into your room and then parading in the hallways with thirsty-two ouncer cups is being a little obvious, don't you think?"

"Yeah, well, I tried to talk the guys out of it, but they won't listen."

"Listen, stop with the keg parties and stick with a coolers and half cases. You're going to get caught and I'm going to be in a spot."

"Ok."

But the next week it was the same thing.

I walked into the party and stood like Clint Eastwood in a gunfight. Somebody killed the music and everyone turned to stare at me, their smiles slowly melting from their faces. Waiting.

I felt like the terminator as possible next-things-to-say scrolled through my mind. I wanted to do a good job while balancing the peace, but this group wasn't going to play along. I was forced to make a choice.

"It's been a really long day people," I said slowly, "and I could really use a beer."

11 comments:

Mrs.T said...

Well, I'd appreciate that more if I drank beer maybe. It sounded very manly at the end.. talking about your long day and needing a beer.

This is great, I like the going back and forth you do.

mr. schprock said...

I'm sure you said the best possible thing.

My question is: how can you be an RA with this bunch without turning into Captain Queeg?

jenbeauty said...

Delicate balance that.

Scott said...

T - The wife keeps my manhood locked in a box anymore, so I'm left to remember when.

Schprock - You got me with my own literary reference. I don't know what you mean, but I recognize that I went down a rocky slope here.

Jen - 'Zactly

Mr. T said...

Captain Queeg from "The Caine Mutiny"

I think what Mr. Schprock is trying to say... is how can you RA these guys without being a drill sargent... without eventually becoming the "enemy".

Its a hard role, similar to being a parent... you try to be the "friend" too much and the child will not respect your authority.

Scott said...

Thanks T for enlightening me. True enough. I didn't ever have to become a total enemy, not with those guys. They brought themselves down by bringing a keg into the back end of the school library. Others on the floor got cocky and crossed the line with me, but no real harm ever came of it. People are just stupid, that's what it boils down to. We aren't able to see a good thing for what it is, and we find out too late usually.

Master of None said...

I'm sure you were an idol from that point on. I attended a strict Baptist University, so getting away with beer in the dorm was even better. Beer's great taste multiplied exponentially back in the days when I wasn't supposed to have it.

Angelle said...

I kinda liked all my RAs when I was in college, so I don't get this antagonistic relationship here.

With that said, I was a very good kid, so maybe that helped. Some did not get along w/ their RAs at all. Kinda sad.

Angelle said...

FYI -

Scott,

I made a reading list for beginners. You may want to check it out when you get a chance.

Beth said...

Ah, the fine line between being the boss and being the friend. It doesn't seem to ever work. Be the boss and have friendships elsewhere was my motto, long ago.

Mr. T said...

I sometimes run into that at work now.. its hard to not to be friends with my employees only because I rose from their ranks. I was them and now their struggles. It certainly makes being boss a little stressful.