Hey, Zeus of Suburbia

July 5, 2007 at 3:33 am (Cussed Dumbers, Drunk and disorderly)

A while back, a friend who writes for Portland Metblogs asked me to offer behavioral advice regarding suburbanites who venture downtown for events like Rose Festival and July 4th. Check out the link, then come on back to hear about my day.

Yep, the Fourth of July came and went, and guess who was working? It’s not uncommon. In 1984 I drove an ice cream scooter during the summer, and worked Fort Vancouver until the cops ran me off. Wheeling through a field in a Cushman cart with a malt liquor buzz and a crazy-eyed smile, with shit blowing up around and under me every few seconds. I still twitch when I think about it. It was my best day ever as a Popsicle Pusher.

I have to walk three-quarters of a mile on Sundays and holidays to catch the bus. It felt like dodging bullets with all the fireworks going off. The ninety degree weather was pleasant in the shade of the overpass, but the drunken gray-haired matron and the hip-hop Cletus who was convinced I had a cigarette made it difficult to enjoy. The bus was air-conditioned, thankfully. Drunken Matron kept a running monologue, and several others chatted on their cell phones. The din was such that when my phone rang I couldn’t hear to converse. My fellow riders sounded like a bunch of besotted pirates, only not as amusing.

I had a trainee, it was his third day. Forty-five minutes into my shift, a presumed Greshamite came up to me. He was stocky, about fifty and wearing a teal do-rag. He recited a poem about how ugly I was, then waited for me to laugh politely.

I didn’t.

I said, “All righty then” and turned my attention to the fiftyish lady in the purple halter top with the silicone grapefruits poking out. Mister Do-Rag harrumphs, and gives a dirty look to the bellhop in the Nehru jacket who walked in.

“You’re ugly too,” he says, and punches the bellhop in the face. In the vernacular of the day, it was on. A couple of shoves, use of a glass door to thwack Mr D-R, and the fight was over. It’s a good thing Mister Do-Rag was drunk; he’d forgotten about the six-inch sheath knife riding over his back pocket. The bimbo got him out of there, and after police reports were filed, it was back to work.

The trainee left and I was on my own. The other stores had three people working. It was a non-stop parade of idiots and assholes for a while, then the beer must have kicked in, because people started smiling, talking nice, commiserating the fact that I was stuck in that freezing cold air-conditioned store while they were all warm and drunk and sweaty. Oh poor me…

I sold a 12-pack of Milwaukee’s Beast to an obviously inebriated ex-Marine. He wasn’t sloppy or obnoxious. (Hear that, Mister asshole Do-Rag?) He explained that he was a Vietnam vet, and this was always the worst day of the year for him. He flinched as a POP went off outside. I thanked him for doing what he did, so we could have the freedom to make such asses of ourselves.

My boss stopped by to make sure I wasn’t overwhelmed; he stocked and provided conversation while my never-ending line moved through.

“$6.95 for Copenhagen? Are you fucking kidding me? I AIN’T paying that.” Mister I-Drive-a-Truck stomps off. Two minutes later a woman came in, and bought the can of snuff. Either he was attempting to save face, or so intolerable the lady bought it to shut him up.

This year brought fewer incidents, more cash and a soft parade of flesh. A blur of freckles and sunburn has been seared into my subconscious, and I hope it re-emerges come bedtime.

I had to catch a later bus, and it was twenty-five minutes behind schedule. About halfway home, a swirl of red and blue lights flashed in front, and the bus rushed to a stop. A dozen police cars contained the intersection, and a car crashed through the Taco bell drive-thru followed by a fistfight between a cop and a twenty-something Barbie-doll type. So we sat for another half-hour while the driver got off the bus and watched. I would have too, but my feet hurt and I just wanted to go home. An hour and twenty minutes later, my half-hour commute came to an end.

Now it’s approaching dawn, I’m sippin’ root beer while Green Day’s American Idiot jams on the headphones. I am parked in front of the turbo fan, grateful that the kitchen is two rooms away. (Cooking a TV dinner in this weather is not making me popular with the housemates, I’m sure.) The day finished with a full satisfied feeling. I’d not phoned it in, and liked my fellow man more after work than before, opposite the usual.

However, tomorrow is another day, and the summer festivals are just beginning to get rolling. Pray for me…

Better yet, wake me up when September ends…

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