Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Party Pass

In order to work for the Ricks boys, I had to gain admission into the carpenter's union, which had a great many advantages. The most obvious was the wage, which blew Davis Bacon out of the water. The one I took advantage of, was a fund that my employers had to pay into, a dollar for each hour I worked that could only be collected on for medical emergencies, or college. I don't remember how much had accumulated, but it was enough to pay for my tuition for the year and a half I needed to complete my schooling that I started and failed out of at Washington State.

For me, a person who had become addicted to working hard and fast, long time union members were a dunk in glacier water. These sloths placed all their emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble, doing the minimum amount of work to actually qualify as work in a court of law, and never missed a break, no matter how behind the job was.

One guy in particular, I'll call him ordinary Joe, came on board in the same capacity as myself. He was small and soft, and the only detail for which I can remember him was his bountiful, capacious lunchbox. Having him around was like packing a hundred pound flounder on my back; getting work done was a bad dream of a long hallway where the end keeps stretching.

"Break time," he would say.

"Joe, we just got started, can't we take a break after we've actually done some work?"

"Scott, you got it all wrong," he said like Foghorn Leghorn, "You have to learn to relax."

"I'll relax tonight over a cold one, ok? We've got work to do right now."

"You don't seem to get it," he chided, "You are in the carpenters union, no?"

"Yeah, yeah, but that isn't a license to fuck off."

"Well, you're either in the union or you're out."

"I'm out alright? Now get up and move your ass!" It was times like these that I felt close kinship to my father.

I left that all behind to go back to school, but money was a big problem. I had enough for tuition, but nothing for room and board. My dad and new step-mother Diana offered that I come stay with them, and somebody, either one of them or her sons would take me back and forth every day. I had no alternative, and begrudgingly accepted.

And what a nightmare it turned out to be.

She had three sons, each ironically named for the saints, Michael, Matthew and Mark. We lived in a small town thirty miles from Potsdam College, where the boys had grown up all their lives. The town, which shall remain anonymous, was a blight, and all it's residents were dark and sardonic, and the longer I stayed there the more I needed to escape lest I be swallowed whole and spit out a pile of bones.

The boys all had girlfriends, but in the loosest definition of the word, that they called their bitches, sluts, cunts, pigs, and whores. Girls in town all had degrading monikers, like Easy Edith, or Hand Jobala. The boys themselves were the stars of the town, with reputations built on the subjugation of women and through fisticuffs with their peers. My first semester was a series of days spent in dread anticipation of returning to the pressure cooker, where one day it would be me and my father against the devils of this town.

In my second semester, I applied for unemployment, which paid enough to purchase a meal pass at the school cafeteria. To pay for my room, I applied for and was accepted as a resident adviser, which is basically a cop installed on every dormitory floor on campus, a person who is always shunned and feared, and represents the school authority. My basic job was to make sure kids didn't drink or smoke pot, two of my favorite pastimes, causing me a severe moral dilemma. I've never been a hypocrite, and I wasn't about to start, but a case could be made that I took a job and should have done it as I promised to, but I counter that nothing I did was going to stop it, and would only serve to slap a few wrists and make me into the bad guy.

I called my first floor meeting in a lounge on a landing between our floor and the girls floor above us. My chargees were scattered about the floor, some paying rapt attention, some being the ass kissers, while others the schmoozers, and others scrutinized the patterns in the walls and carpet, completely indifferent.

"Ok, this is going to be short and sweet. I'm just a guy like everyone here, and I'm not going to pretend that behind closed doors, half of you won't be smoking a joint or doing upside down tap hits from a keg in an iced filled tub in your bathrooms."

I might as well have been a drill sergeant for all the attention I was commanding now.

"My director says that I need to have this kind of meeting every week, but this is the first and only meeting we are going to have. I don't think any of you needs a parent looking over your shoulder, but if you need me for any reason, you know where to find me, and the door is always open. So, here are the only rules that you need concern yourself with. If and when you smoke pot, open your windows and put a towel under the door. If I smell it from the hall, that means my director can smell it, and I will write you up."

Laughter, head scratching, looks of awe.

"Do not carry beer in the hallways, nor should you carry any evidence thereof, like the telltale plastic beer cup, even it is empty. Sneak it into the room. Don't put me in an awkward position, and I'll look the other way. Capiche?"

Everyone nodded absently, trying to absorb this unexpected turn.

"This is a good thing, so don't fuck it up. Meeting adjourned."


Mr. T said...

Why do I get the feeling this leads into another story... I know somewhere one of those guys got pissed off at you for something totally unrelated and reported you to spite.
Its the cliche story of when we try to be a good guy and give people slack. Someone always comes along to screw it up because they are jealous or put off. Not that I'm saying any of your stories of cliche.. but in my mind that how I see this playing out. I hope I'm wrong though. :)

I would have loved to be on your floor though.. my RA in college was a suckass to the director so was always on our case. I don't think he had one day go by where someone didn't prank him.

Scott said...

T - I appreciate the fact that you would tell me if the story were cliche, but it isn't quite that simple. It does fall apart, but almost everyone there was a second or third year student, with RAs such as you describe, and knew which side of the bread was buttered so to speak.

mr. schprock said...

Hey, Scott, I just read this and your previous post. When I was in my twenties, I quit school and worked a few years as a painter. I spent a lot of time on construction sites. One year I worked for a real nut job just like Raimey. Not getting fired was the ultimate complement. One time he almost beat the shit out of me for something he thought he heard me say. Another time I watched him stuff a Snickers bar into a kid's mouth for the amusement of the rest of the crew. No one stuck with him very long except his lieutenant, who was a fellow AA member and former jailbird like himself.

Good stuff, Scott, as always.

Mrs.T said...

Reading this story while being forced to watch Barney was confusing.. maybe its just having to hear it in the background, but it put a twist on what I read. Either way I never had to live in a dorm, but I hope you weren't taken advantage of.

Tee said...

I really admire your personality. You have a good work ethic and seem like a fair and reasonable kind of guy.

My husband works as a welder and he has a very good work ethic. He gets annoyed and frustrated with coworkers like "ordinary Joe", too.

trinamick said...

Thank goodness I went to college online. I didn't stay in a dorm. What a life I missed out on!

Scott said...

Schprock - Your boss sounds a lot like Captain Ahab. Raimey wasn't all that bad, although what I've written is true, he was fully redeemable in many ways. He was just too heavy on the sauce. And he was amazing to watch at his craft, the best.

Mrs T - Don't worry, everything worked out fine in the end. I got a free room for the year, and three college credits for my efforts, and gallons of free beer.

Tee - Thanks for that. My work ethic stands up a little better when someone is watching closely, I have to admit.

Trin - Ah, but you don't know what you missed out on either. College was the highlight of my young life, an escape and a new beginning.

jenbeauty said...

I party with our RA and usually bought the beer. All was good on our floor.

Diana said...

My brother did this when he was in college. He could probably relate. :)

Angelle said...

An interesting post, Scott. I wish I could relate to the main character better. I've never worked as a carpenter or joined a union before, and sometimes I don't always understand what it's like.

Anyways, I do like the snippet about him going back to school and dealing w/ the "saintly" named brothers. LOL. That sucks.

I really love the way you describe the school life and how hard it is to make ends meet and get enough moeny to pay for school. I think it's one of the biggest problems for many college kids.

Braleigh said...

I am continually astounded by your ability to capture a moment or a period of time from your life and describe it so well and so thoroughly. It's an amazing ability.