Because the Road to Nowhere Leads to Me

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Fire It Up — My Managing a House of Crack

Smoke Face1When I accepted the position of Office Manager at a local waste oil company, I honestly didn’t know anything about running it but it didn’t take long to discover just how dirty the business really was. My office was nothing more than a notepad, desk and 3-drawer filing cabinet filled with crumpled pieces of loose paperwork that the workers had scribbled on and shoved aside. The owner had inherited the business from his father and grew it from the back of a truck with an oil drum to a multimillion dollar facility filled with some family members and a group of his closest friends. He was a spoiled manchild that had grown up with rolls of cash in his pockets and was accustomed to getting whatever he wanted. He showed off his collection of big boy toys before introducing me to his mistress along with his wife and kids. Outside of the family, I was introduced to the rogues gallery of various business associates; many of whom had been corrupted and placed personal gain above any sense of morality. If there was ever a snake in the grass, this was a definitive pit of vipers.

It became obvious that the owner wanted me to run the company so he didn’t have to anymore. One of our first orders of business was to have me added to the company account. I was going to negotiate the prices for our services, the value of the used oil that we sold to refineries and handle the company paychecks. After our trip to the bank, I was given carte blanche to purchase a new computer and whatever else I wanted to personalize the office to meet my needs. After bringing my workspace into this century, I was given a crash course in OSHA regulations, which rules had to be strictly adhered to, which could be bent and which could be broken. But following the rules wasn’t nearly as difficult as trying to lead a den of thieves. The men I worked with were redneck pirates born and bred, just as likely to stab a man in the back as shake his hand. Most of them came from troubled backgrounds that involved any number of crimes that ranged from drunk and disorderly conduct to robberies, charges of violence and drugs. At least two of the employees were addicted to Crack Cocaine but they were kept on the payroll due to their relationship with the owner. I was writing paychecks every Friday ranging anywhere from $2000 to $3000 on average and those men would be completely broke by Monday morning. One of them had a moped that the owner had bought for him and the other walked to work. Knowing that that those two were smoking an excess of $4000 each weekend completely confounded me. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would ever put themselves in that position, to give up everything for a taste of that pasty white rock. But then I remembered my old friends from my own hard partying days. None of us had picked up a bottle, popped a pill or fired up a smoke with the intention of addiction but it happened anyway. I’m sure we all thought we could handle it just as my co-workers had and just like with everyone else, the addictions proved otherwise. I wondered if granted access to that much money when I was surrounded by the beautiful people at their beautiful parties if I would have fared any better.

Take This Job and Shove It — My Promised Promotion

Warrant DRFSR

I had been training as the new Assistant Manager of the restaurant for months and it had not been an easy transition. I was making far less money than I had been as a delivery driver and even with Heather’s income from The Fresh Market where she worked in the bakery, we were still living from week to week and struggling to make ends meet.

The restaurant had just installed a new computerized system that kept track of practically everything and with my being the only one with any real computer experience, it seemed that most of the employees, including the Manager, looked to me for answers on how to navigate the new technology.

The installation was a shake and bake operation where the system developer sent in a quick setup team that offered basic instructions before vanishing with only a technical support number left behind. I preferred to explore the operating system to find what I needed before dialing the lifeline and it impressed my co-workers. The only other person that had any computer experience at that time was the newly appointed Manager, who frequently enjoyed the use of his WebTV at home. Before that, all records were kept in log books and random sheets of paper stacked and stored around the office.

After everyone became comfortable with the new system, I developed a rotating schedule that not only gave our employees the full time hours they were looking for but offered each of them a full weekend off twice a month. I tried to explain how it would benefit all of us but the idea was quickly dismissed by the Manager. Joe was a great guy, real salt of the earth and as good as they come but he did not like change, especially that which involved new technology and decided the old tradition of manually writing out a schedule for all employees each week was the way to go.

By the end of my training period, I had the restaurant running like a well-oiled machine. Even the owner had complimented me on how far I had come… before introducing me to the new Operations Manager; the very same position that had been dangled before my eyes before I accepted the role of Assistant Manager.

Tony, the new Operations Manager, was a New York Italian that spent the majority of his time staring at women and making lascivious comments. I was in my late 20’s and to watch a man in his early 50’s with a porn star mustache and glossy bald head talk of sticking his tongue between the thighs of some sweet young thing was cringe worthy. It became absolutely disgusting when he stuck his tongue out and lapped at the air in an attempt to show me how he would handle the situation. I couldn’t understand why the owner would hire an oily old pervert but Tony was put in charge over all of us and it was his duty to discuss my promotion after the training period ended.

The two of us went into the office to talk privately. Just as the owner had done, Tony also complimented my work as I sat there thanking him while anxiously awaiting the good news. After all the accolades and praise, I was expecting something big from the previously promised “substantial bump in pay”. No longer would Heather and I have to choose between paying the rent or buying groceries. No longer would we be receiving phone calls from collection agencies or final notices on past due bills. Our financial worries were over… or so I thought. My reward after all that work and effort, months of training and teaching others was only worth an extra $0.50 in their eyes.

“What is that, some kind of introductory rate for completing training? How long before I get the real raise?”

Tony told me that was it. He said that $7.50 an hour was the best they could offer and I refused to believe it with the owner’s teenage son driving around in a brand new Mercedes-Benz. The cycle of thoughts made me furious and it was in that moment that I knew I had to get out of there. What a fool I must have been to ever think that a man who gave us fruit baskets as Christmas bonuses would ever offer fair wages for a job well done.

The meeting ended and I began looking for another job shortly thereafter. I received word from a friend of mine that a local waste oil company was looking for an Office Manager. I told him about my reservations still having a strong distaste of office politics in my mouth but he assured me that would not be the case. I agreed to meet with the owner and took the job before turning in my two week notice at the restaurant.

Tony was displeased with the news. I could see it all over his face while he bit down on and held his slimy tongue. He came back the next day and called me into the office again. He had spoken with the owner and they had decided to offer me a yearly salary of $24,000.00. It was nearly $10,000.00 more each year than that joke of a number they originally gave me and it may have been enough if that had been the original offer but it was a day late and a dollar short.

“I’ve already been offered more than that to start with the new company and its all first shift, Monday through Friday with weekends off.”

Tony lost his temper and turned bright red before shoving a stack of loose paperwork off of the desk to scatter around the room. “How can you manage an office when you can’t even keep this one clean?!” he snapped before storming out. Two, maybe three months later, Tony was found dead. From what I heard, he had a particularly hard night at the restaurant, went home and had a heart attack in his recliner. I felt bad for those who knew and loved him but in all honesty, with the amount of stress he was under, it didn’t come as a surprise. The restaurant went out of business shrtly thereafter and I remember thinking that I got out of there just in time.

Days Go By — My Ex-Girlfriend Moves Back In

Vegas1

You
Still a whisper on my lips
A feeling at my fingertips
That’s pulling at my skin

You
Leave me when I’m at my worst
Feeling as if I’ve been cursed
Bitter cold within

Days go by
And still I think of you
Days when I couldn’t live my life without you
Dirty Vegas, “Days Go By”

It is not very often that we get the opportunity to rekindle a flame after it has been burned to ash. After all of the women I had been with, Jessica was the only one that had come back into my life to share a moment of intimacy before disappearing again. And then there was Gina, whom I suppose could be counted on some deeply sadistic level for the repeated break-up make-up cycle that was the death rattle of our relationship.

But then there was Heather, who had been my most recent girlfriend and even though everything was going well for us as a couple, I decided it was time to end that relationship. The two of us stayed in touch however with frequent phone calls that would sometimes last well into the night and almost always ended on a somber note when one of us had to go. It was that moment where neither of us wanted to hang up the phone that I realized my mistake of letting her go. The conversations shifted and what started out as mundane “How was your day? How have you been? What have you been up to?” evolved into something deeper as we began to discuss the undeniable feelings that were still there between us.

I wish I could remember the words I used to ask her to move back in with me but I can’t. There is just the sense of joy I felt after she said yes, hopped on a bus the next day and came home to me.

I knew the mistakes I had made in the past, the poor decisions, the selfish motivations and unforgivable actions that ultimately left me standing alone at the end of a trail of tears. But more importantly, I knew how to recognize the warning signs and how to avoid them. At least that is what I believed. In my heart and mind, I knew that this time had to be different; it had to work after all of the others didn’t and I was committed to making that happen; I was committed to her.

Randy immediately made plans to move out. He admitted to feeling like a third wheel and had met someone in Las Vegas that offered him a place to stay. He kept his answers intentionally vague saying that they had been talking for a while and he felt that he could trust them to do him right. A name was never offered nor anything else aside from the ambiguous “they” or “them” but given his interest in hermaphrodites, I knew that whatever secrets he guarded or details he decided to divulge were completely up to him. He seemed certain of his decision though and that is all I really needed to know. With a firm handshake and manly hug, he was out the door and I never spoke with or saw him again. I wonder now, more than a decade later, if he ever found what he was looking for. I hope he did and want to believe that he is still in Vegas making every day an adventure.

Lies, Greed & Misery — My Promotion to Management

Dish1I had been working as a delivery driver for a while when one of the restaurant managers left for another job. The assistant manager was immediately promoted and the restaurant’s owner began searching for someone to fill the newly vacated position.

I had watched the management team working tirelessly to keep the machine running. I saw how they came in before sunrise to get the establishment ready and stayed late into the night only to drag themselves out of bed and repeat the process a few hours later. There was even one time where the assistant manager had decided to spend the night in the restaurant because it was easier than driving home.

Why would anyone subject themselves to such abuse? I had asked myself the question a number of times and thought that maybe the answer was salary based but neither the assistant or the manager seemed to be living in the lap of luxury, not even comfortably most of the time. So it must have been some form of consensual madness that had taken them and now the restaurant’s owner was attempting to tempt me into the insanity.

I wanted nothing to do with it and I let him know it immediately. “But just give me a moment before you say no.” I listened to his words, his reasons why I should leave the open road and lock myself away inside a box for 50, 60 or 70 hours per week. I should have listened to my first instinct but his talk of making me a General Manager in charge of overseeing the operations of not only one but all of his restaurants with a starting salary of $50,000 per year gave me reason to pause.

“Of course you have to go through a training period” he added, “but after that, you will receive a significant bump in pay.”

I should have held my ground. I should have remembered how exhausted the management team was. And that one half of that team had just left to hopefully find a better life elsewhere. Still I thought about my status as a delivery driver with the plastic name tag pinned to my red shirt like a newest member of the Star Trek away team that was predestined to die. As much as I enjoyed getting paid to drive fast in my Rx-7, I knew that it was never meant to be a lifelong career choice, at least not one that I would settle for and the consensual insanity overtook my reasoning. God help me; I accepted that Devil’s offer.

Night Rider — My Working as a Delivery Driver

City Lights

I get that feeling running through my veins
You know it drives me insane
In the car, slam the door, turn the key
And I’ll be free on that highway tonight
Dokken, “Nightrider”

There is something intoxicating about being behind the wheel of a well-tuned machine with the tight cornering control of the steering wheel in your hands and the seat cradling your body when the accelerator is pressed to the floor.

I realized that after I had walked out on my job as a repo man, there had been one aspect of it that I had really enjoyed and that was the freedom of being behind the wheel of my Rx-7. I had worked a number of desk jobs in variations of 9 to 5 Hells with fluorescent lighting and after never really giving the idea of being a delivery driver much thought, I realized it was what I wanted.

I took a job at one of the more expensive restaurants in town betting that people willing to pay the higher prices would offer better tips. The manager scheduled my first night on a Friday and out of the three drivers that were scheduled to work the shift, I was the only one that showed up. To make matters worse, the city was being drenched by a massive rainstorm and I didn’t know the street names nearly as well as I needed to.

Despite the difficulties, I accepted the challenge and began my shift. I shot from one delivery to the next with the rain coming down in sheets. By the third or fourth location, my clothes were soaked and the cold began setting in with shivers. The main streets were crowded with other vehicles and streaks of light while the roads less traveled became black with glossy reflection.

Still as crazy as it all may have seemed, I was enjoying the night. I was right about the tips and quickly learned that a quick smile or witty banter made for a bigger payday from many of the women that greeted me. Later I would meet a regular that ordered from us at least once or twice a week. She would always order a medium rare ribeye and ask for me by name. She was almost always three sheets in the wind when I arrived, sometimes mostly dressed, sometimes not. Her relentless flirting made it obvious that she wanted more than that steak but in all honesty, I really wasn’t interested after surviving my previous party life. I would often stay and keep her company for a moment however because she seemed lonely and I didn’t see any harm in talking.

There was another delivery to a local industrial company. It was a fairly large order for $250.00 worth of food and the supervisor asked me to drive my Rx-7 through the plant. I had heavy machinery and factory workers on all sides as I navigated through tight areas and weaved through the maze of metal until reaching the conference room door. I unloaded the order on the table and walked out with a $50.00 tip along with a fond memory that I will never forget.

As I continued working the job, I met a number of people that would become friends. Donald was another driver and we had a friendly rivalry going where we joked about our both being the best workers the company had. I would ask how it felt to always be in second place and he would snap back with the promise of letting me know when he wasn’t in first. He was funny and one of the luckiest guys I had ever met. He put a few quarters into a slot machine once and walked out with an extra $300.00 in his pocket. He was also incredibly lucky when it came to concert tickets and I lost count of how many he won from radio station contests but it did put us front row at a KISS show.

The streets became well known and my speeds increased until my delivery times were shaved down to nearly nothing. I really was the fastest driver the company had but I’m betting that Donald would argue that point even today. What started out with a questionable beginning had turned into one of the most enjoyable work experiences that I ever had.

Seek & Destroy — My Worst Day as a Repo Man

lonelyroad2Scanning the scene in the city tonight
We’re looking for you to start up a fight
There’s an evil feeling in our brains but it’s nothing new
You know it drives us insane
Metallica, Seek & Destroy

It had been a long summer of ghosts with the faces of those I met through work haunting my memory. Most weren’t bad people; just the victims of poor decision making or circumstance and I was the boogeyman that came to remind them exactly how dire their situation was.

Randy and I were headed down I-26 east towards Charleston in search of some backwater town that mirrored countless others that littered the South Carolina low country. It was a poor town filled with poor people and the scene had become all too common for me. We had been sent there by our employer with a name, workplace and basic description of the car that we were to repossess.

We found the target parked at the grocery store where the owner was working and I parked my Rx-7 behind it while Randy went inside to search for her. After he disappeared, a young blonde woman in her early twenties could be seen moving towards my location. She seemed nervous as she rushed between cars and hurried across the parking lot just short of running. I had seen the tactic before, the sneaking out in hopes of getting to the vehicle before we caught her. We had a few people give us the slip in the beginning but after months on the job with our collecting two or three cars per day, we had pretty much seen it all or so I thought.

She approached and with a panicked tone asked me to please move my car so she could get out of there. I denied her request explaining that it was my partner in the store looking for her and she already knew why we were there. She began crying. It wasn’t uncontrollable bawling or hysterics that some people resorted to upon our arrival but pressed lips with silent tears streaming down her cheeks. She looked around weighing her options and and then there was that moment where we all eventually realize it is the end of the line and there is no escape.

Randy appeared a few moments later and we offered to take her anywhere she needed to go. That’s when the bargaining started. She suggested that we didn’t need to take her car, that instead the three of us could go somewhere private and work out a deal. She would give us anything we wanted if we would just look the other way and let her keep the car.Randy and I looked at each other to gauge the other’s reaction to the offer. It would be a lie if I said it wasn’t tempting but principles prevailed and we turned her down.

Randy got in the car with her while she drove to her parents’ house and I followed from behind. When we got there, a few of the family members came outside to meet us. I recognized the hatred in their eyes as they stared at us with disapproval. Their daughter fought with a baby seat that had been latched down into the back seat and wrestled it through the driver side door before we took our leave.

Randy later told me that the young woman continued to prostitute herself while they were alone in the car together. She suggested that with my not knowing the area that the two of them could escape down one of the back roads and have some fun for a while before he let her go and had me come pick him up somewhere. As Randy relayed the story to me, all I could think about was the baby seat. I wondered what her story was, how she came to that point in her life and how desperate she must have been to hold onto what little she had left.

I was tired of taking from people that didn’t have much to start with and for me it was the final straw. I had as much as I could handle and wasted no time telling Randy that it was my final day working for the repo company. He wasn’t happy with the news and did his best to change my mind using a very logical argument. He made good points and was absolutely right but the decision had been made. I also knew that with the month being nearly over, I needed to find something else to pay the dues before the boogeyman came knocking at my door.

Twilight Zone — A New Roommate Moves In

What is it that makes us want to surrender our personal space to someone else? Sometimes it is as simple as a relationship where closeness takes priority. Other times it is required to share in the responsibility of making ends meet. And sometimes it is the fear of being alone that prompts us to seek out the company of others. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Every pro and con should be weighed and despite our best efforts, rarely do new roommates work out as we had hoped.

Heather was in the process of moving out of our apartment and a chain of events led to Randy moving in. I really don’t remember if I was looking for a new roommate or if his needing a place to stay was enough for me to take pity on him and extend the invite. The two of us had been working together for months as repo men, shared a lot of the same interests and always got along well. That should have been enough but as much as I thought I knew Randy, there was much that remained a mystery. After he moved in, I found out more about him than I ever wanted to know.

The first problem we faced was his feet, more specifically the odor surrounding them. He had never removed his shoes while we were travelling together and the first time the smell of a sweaty gym locker permeated the apartment, I knew that something had to be done. Randy was good about keeping his feet clean but there was no hope for his shoes. He washed them repeatedly and after that failed, set them outside in the apartment breezeway. We thought we had found a solution to the problem until one of our neighbors tracked down the smell and came knocking at our door asking that the shoes be removed.

Then there was his unusual collection of porn. I enjoy adult entertainment but like the guy who likes getting his fudge packed by his girlfriend and her strap on or the woman that covers herself with peanut butter before calling the dog into the room to lap it off, some things that happen behind closed doors should be locked away forever. I was at my computer desk when I noticed that the printer was out of paper. As I reached for the ream, a loose stack of printed pages fell onto the floor. Being the days before porn was so portable, I thought it was just a collection of attractive women that Randy had found on the internet and decided to print out for later use but upon closer inspection, I discovered that every single one of them had a penis. I had heard of hermaphrodites but just like felching, scatting, snowballing or necrophilia, there are some words that should come with a warning label before Googling. This was one of those moments where I knew that nothing good could possibly come from my asking Randy about his collection and the and the pages were put back where I found them.

Foot odor and chicks with dicks aside, Randy really wasn’t that bad as a roommate. He was a quiet guy, cleaned up after himself and always had his half of the rent ready at the first of the month. It was a welcomed change after surviving a few ex-girlfriends and one ex-wife.

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