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Gone Fishing

Once upon a time I was asked to leave school and not come back.  There, I said it.  It’s something I hate to bring up.  Not only is it embarrassing but I would hate for someone to think that I’m somehow proud of myself for reaching that level of troublemaking.  Sure, I joke all the time about how I once did this or that, and while it’s fun in its way it’s almost a punishment to myself.  Like I want people to realize I’m not trying to hide from my past, or blend in with the good, honest folk.  Many people don’t believe it.  They say, “I can’t see it.  You just seem like a nice guy.” Well this is how it went down.  Keep in mind I was a teenager, which is to say I was confused, angry, lost, bored, frustrated, hopeless… you know.  We’ve all been there to some extent.

I’m going to skip ahead a bit here.  There’s no reason why readers should have to sit through the story of my life from the beginning, though as with any story the beginning shapes the end.  My senior year.  That’s where this story begins.  I was struggling (remember, I struggle).  My problems in school have never been a secret.  Sitting in a desk all day and listening to someone talk.  For those of you who can do it, I envy you.  It drives me nuts.  By the twelfth year of it I had had enough.  Problems at home and depression had taken their toll on me.  I discovered skipping school. 

Now it wasn’t like I had never skipped a class before.  Many times before I had decided to avoid the boredom and went searching for some entertainment.  This year however it seemed like the only option.  I couldn’t sit there anymore.  I’d fight with my family all night and spend my free time smoking and drinking with friends.  When I tried to sit quietly and listen to the teacher… I can’t really explain it.  I wanted to scream and flip desks.  Drama was becoming my drug of choice.  I needed the screaming and lying and debauchery.  Turmoil fit my mood. 

So I started missing classes.  At first just one or two here and there, always carefully chosen so I could have a longer lunch, or a shorter day.  In the first few weeks of senior year however it escalated.  I started missing classes regularly.  Sometimes I would even forget what class I had and when told to “get to class” I literally didn’t know where that was.  I had to go to the office and get my schedule again almost a month into the semester. 

This did not go unnoticed.  I was talked to by my parents, the guidance counselor, and the principal.  Would you be surprised to hear that I didn’t listen?  I didn’t have it in me to listen.  Not right then, and not for a while yet.  The principal told me I had attended thirty-three percent of my classes.  Not good.  Really not good considering I had called myself in sick or had my friends in the office mark me present many times.  I was told that if I was absent anymore I was out of school.  Though I made some effort at that point it was hopeless.  I was hooked on skipping.  I could no longer sit through a class. 

So began an interesting time for me around school.  The principal was after me.  Literally.  He was chasing me.  I’d see him in the hallway trying to flag me down.  I’d pretend not to see him and the chase was on.  I’d turn a corner and as soon as I was out of his sight I’d break into a sprint.  Eluding him became a game to me.  Friends would help by stopping him to ask random and frivolous questions.  If I felt he would try to corner me during a class I wouldn’t go to it.  Any notes I received to go to the office were ignored, though I did use them as an excuse to break free from my classroom prison.  It was a losing battle and I knew that.  It’s something I chose not to think about. 

Then one weekend in early December, nearly the end of the semester, myself and my two buddies were feeling down.  Things weren’t good for us.  That our problems were largely of our own creation didn’t matter.  The fact is we were pretty miserable.  We knew a reckoning was coming.  The world wouldn’t abide our disrespect for long.  We decided a vacation was in order.  Just an escape from our dingy little world.  In the span of a couple of hours it was decided that we would set course for Cleveland where my friends older brother had an apartment.  When you’re a kid anything other than home seems cool I guess.  Plus that guy was known to drink upwards of twenty beers in a sitting, which gave him legendary status by our ranking system.  We set out immediately.

In our defense, our admittedly weak defense, we made an effort to inform our families.  We didn’t want anyone thinking we had died or something.  One of the guys  just boldly told his family, “I’m going, that’s it.” He was told he wasn’t welcome back.  Another tried to make up a story about spending the night at a friend’s house.  Unfortunately he made that call from Cleveland and was busted by the caller i.d..  Watching him trying to lie his way out of that was a highlight of our night. “Hey Mom, I’m fine…What? I told you were I was going….I don’t know why it’s a strange number… I’m not lying!… Mom! Wait… Mom! I’m in Cleveland!… No I can’t come home!… Because I didn’t drive!  Whatever! I’m eighteen. You can’t call the cops!” Poor guy.  He wasn’t welcome home either.  I chose to keep it simple and to the point, with just a hint of humor.  On the counter I had left a piece of notebook paper with “Gone Fishing” written on it.  Just enough so they knew I hadn’t been kidnapped.  I’m not proud of myself but it was kinda funny.

We stayed in that apartment for several days.  We wanted no part of what awaited us back home.  We even discussed getting jobs and settling in.  Eventually we wore out our welcome.  It was time to head back and pay the piper.  Our first stop upon arrival was the school.  We burst into the gym during volleyball class, quite pleased with ourselves and our adventurous ways.  Everyone wanted to know where we had been.   This was before social networking, hell before even before we had cell phones.  No one knew where we were.  We started bragging about our trip and sudden departure.  The story telling didn’t last long.  It was interrupted when the gym door opened and the principal walked in, looking straight at us.  Word traveled fast I guess.  Perhaps we should have made our entrance a little quieter.  He didn’t play any games this time.  We were given no chance to escape.  He pointed and his voice boomed, “You guys are out of here!”  He didn’t answer our questions or allow us to argue.  He ignored our insults.  We were marched to the front doors and quite literally expelled into a wintry afternoon. 

I can’t really explain how it feels to suddenly not be welcome.  Whether at home or at school.  Try to imagine.  Snow falling and there’s nowhere to go.  Your cold and there’s no available warmth.  Tired with no bed.  It’s a terrible feeling when the world casts you out.  We hit bottom that day.  The world was done with us.  At least our tiny little worlds.  I could tell you about sleeping in a cold car in the parking lot of my workplace hoping I woke in time for my 6:30am shift.  I could tell you about walking icy railroad tracks at three in the morning because we heard a rumor that a girl might let us sleep in her basement.  Or trying to camp in a field where we just couldn’t get warm no matter how big a fire we made.  But those things aren’t important.  Well, not to this story anyway.  This story is about how I ended up expelled from school.  I think we’ve basically covered it. 

If there was anything else to say it might be this.  The way I was feeling at that point in time was valid.  It was very real to me.  I was trying to find my way and failing.  Adults need to be very wise when dealing with troubled teens.  There is a paradox.  You can’t force them anymore, they’re not kids.  But trying to be overly sympathetic only enables them to make bad choices.  You can’t be too hard or soft with them.  Instead you have to wisely choose when to lean on them and when to bend to them.  Let them mess up but quietly be guiding.  Most of all love them, no matter what.  That’s how I see it at least.  If I didn’t learn something from this mess then what good was it?  But I don’t have kids yet, and I’m sure somewhere there is a parent just shaking their head thinking, “He’ll see…”


I struggle…

I have another pizza delivery story.  Evidently pizza delivery is fertile ground when it comes to memorable moments in my life.  Who would have thought?  I guess when you get a bunch hungover twenty-somethings together and pay them minimum wage to create and deliver food hilarity ensues.  Well it’s funny to me, so whatever.  Prepare for a brief glimpse into the mind of an idiot.

I had to deliver an order to a trailer park.  The same trailer park I had delivered to hundreds of times before.  People in trailer parks really seem to like pizza.  Is it ok to call them trailer parks?  Trailer community maybe?  I pulled into the trailer community and began trying to figure out which lot was which.  If you’ve ever done this, you know.  It sucks.  You pull in and the first trailer you see is 249 and your like, “Ok, so 248, 247, wait… 109.  What the hell? Ok, so here’s 109 and I need 17… so if I go this way its going down.  Wait, the other side of the street is going up.  Um, that’s the 300’s  soooo.  What the hell is going on!?  Are you serious!?  Who organized this place?  How dare you!?”  I apologize.  Evidently I’m still a little angry.  I’ve lost hours of my life in places like that. 

So after passing the trailer three times I finally located it and rather than go around the block again I stopped, and figured I’d walk back to it, maybe four trailers behind me.  Ugh.  This is embarrassing.  I jumped out of my car, grabbed the warmer-bag, and slammed the door behind me.  I started walking but glanced at the ticket and saw that they had ordered a 2-liter.  A quick glance into my window showed no sign of a Coke, so I put the warmer-bag, containing two large pizzas and a cheese bread, onto the top of my car so I could dig around under my seat.  It took a moment of pawing through months worth of trash to come to the conclusion that I had not brought the drink.  Not to worry however, there was a gas station right at the entrance to the trailer park, excuse me, trailer community.  In an effort to salvage my tip I hopped into the car, which was still running, and took off.  At that moment I glanced in my rear view mirror just in time to see the door to the trailer open and a guy step onto the porch, cash in hand.  Evidently he had noticed me as I passed his home repeatedly with my delivery sign shining in the darkness. 

So I’d been spotted.  I bet you think I went back and apologized, explained my error, and returned in a few minutes with his drink.  Nope, I floored it.  I panicked I guess.  It was a gut response.  I don’t know.  But I did, and as I navigated the twists and turns of the neighborhood I tried to think of how I was going to explain my actions to the customer.  If you’ve read previous posts you’ll know that it was time for a conversation with myself, and yes I do say these out loud.  Well I kind of mumble. 

 “Ok man, nice.  You just take off, you’re so stupid.  The guys probably calling the store right now.”

“It’ll be fine.  I’ll just say I didn’t see him.  I’ll have to explain about forgetting his Coke, but he’ll be ok.”

“If he called the guys at the store are going to be giving you shit for weeks.”

“Yep. Oh well.  What am I gonna do about that now?  It’s done.”

“You’re a moron.”

At about this time I was pulling out of the neighborhood and onto the highway.  As I accelerated up to fifty-five I heard a strange noise from my roof.  I glanced in my mirror just in time to see my warmer bag, stuffed with pizza boxes, go flipping down the road.  Cars swerved to avoid being struck. Yep.  That’s right.  I had left the pizza on the roof.

So a rational human would stop and get the bag, go back to the store, explain the series of events that lead to this unfortunate happening and get his night back on track, but I’m just not that guy.  I kept driving.  My mind was racing as I tried to figure out an excuse, or better yet a believable lie, to explain what had happened.  But there was no way to fix this.  The voices in my head went silent.  It was pretty much just white noise.  And I just kept driving. 

Eventually I pulled into the parking lot of my restaurant and parked.  It was time to make a decision.  I was pretty well screwed.  I kept thinking about that guy seeing me drive past his window over and over, and then seeing me get out and put the pizza on the car only to jump in and take off with his dinner still up there.  Finally I narrowed my options down to going back for my pizza-bag, or committing suicide.  It was a toss-up for a minute but I decided to go back. 

A few minutes later I rounded a bend in the road, holding my breath. I expected to see the bag shredded on the shoulder, cheese and sauce smeared obscenely on the concrete like some kind of delicious breed of animal hit by a semi.  But there was nothing.  No sign that anything had happened.  I wondered if I was going crazy.  Had I completely lost it?  I wonder things like this sometimes.  I fully believe that my mind has the potential to completely come unraveled some day.  Hopefully not.  But what had happened to my warmer bag?  There was nothing to do but head back to the store. 

I walked in the back door with no excuses.  I’d decided to just tell the truth and try to laugh about it.  Sometimes that is all you can do.  I figured I’d have to pay for the bag at least, and I might be fired.  I was greeted by my missing bag sitting on a prep table.  It still contained the pizza boxes and had held up pretty well.  Just some scrapes.  Evidently one of the cars behind me had stopped and brought it back to us.  How lucky for me that so many people had been witness to my bumbling that evening.  I had some explaining to do.

I told everyone what had happened.  It wasn’t easy.  “Well I’ve been gone so long because I forgot a drink, ran from a customer, drove around with pizzas on my car before dropping them in the road… and then I kind of just drove around for awhile.”  There was a variety of reactions.  My least favorite of which was a look of disdain.  A look that says, “Is there something wrong with you?” But mostly people laughed.  My only real punishment was having to re-deliver the food.  So the customer that witnessed me embarrassing myself earlier got a chance to meet me in person.  He didn’t ask me any questions.  His friends just gathered around the door to get a look at me.  I stared at my shoes and prayed for our interaction to end.  Believe it or not he gave me a small tip.  I think he pitied me.  I obviously wasn’t a smart man.


Nature Calling

 

Even as I pulled out of the parking lot I knew I was in trouble.  With three deliveries I would be on the road for about a half hour.  I doubted I had that much time.  The cramping in my gut told me I didn’t.  But I had a job to do, and these people needed hot pizza.  The bathroom would just have to wait.

I shot out onto the main street through town, weaving through the slower traffic.  Winter had long ago settled in and remnants of a recent snow still littered the streets.  My heater was cranked to full blast, my radio was pumping sports talk.  I passed my house and briefly considered running in, but with three deliveries in the car there was no way. I tightened my grip on the wheel, grit my teeth and tried to focus on the radio.

The first delivery took less than five minutes.  I pulled into the driveway under a steel grey sky and handed a nice looking family their dinner.  I was glad for a decent tip, but more glad to be standing upright.  My stomach was really hurting now and being bent in half with a seat-belt digging into my gut was not suiting me. 

As I headed out to my second house things were looking bad.  I started thinking about my options in an emergency type situation.  What businesses could I stop in?  Nothing was on the way.  I didn’t see asking a customer if I could use their bathroom as a possibility.  I couldn’t even imagine.  But when your faced with the alternative… I started considering the remote areas nearby.  Perhaps I could find a nice patch of woods?  It’s good enough for bears. 

The second delivery made it on time.  In my mind the people who received it said to each other, “Did that guy seem sick to you? Or was he just a jerk?”, “No there was something wrong with him, and he walked like he had a stick up his ass.”

I started towards the third stop.  I was almost done and had decided to tough it out.  I shot down country roads at over sixty miles per hour.  My body had progressed past the stage of discomfort and I had started to sweat and get emotional.  Every second seemed like an hour.  I started a conversation with myself which is a habit I have when things are getting bad.

“Oooh I’m not gonna make it.”

“Yes you will, you can do it, stop thinking about it!”

I tried all the tricks, bouncing, deep breathing, strategic flexing, and of course begging my body like it was some sort of third-party who was cruelly torturing me. “Why are you doing this! Please stop! If you just wait ten minutes I’ll give you anything you want!”  But my guts kept twisting, and the pressure in my abdomen was getting unbearable. 

I entered the upscale neighborhood like the cops were after me.  I kept one eye on the addresses and one eye on the road.  The last thing I needed was an accident.  “Yes officer, I saw everything, he was bouncing up and down and panting like a dog.  He was sweating horribly and having a conversation with himself.  I don’t know what he was on but something was wrong, that’s for sure.”

Finally I saw it.  A large beautiful home up on a hill.  I whipped into the driveway, slammed on the breaks and threw it in park.  In one motion I opened the door and leapt out, pizza bag in hand.  Believe it or not things took a turn for the worse.  I had parked on a steep incline which also happened to be covered in ice.  My feet shot backwards and I had to grab onto my driver’s side door to keep from falling and sliding all the way to the bottom of the driveway.  Now I found myself hanging from my door, feet scrambling ineffectively on the ice.  My efforts didn’t help me get myself upright but instead served to dislodge my car from its precarious position and start it sliding backwards and turning sideways.  Now I was actually in danger of my car sliding over top of me if I fell.  Lucky my buttocks were squeezed so tight. I think it gave me the power I needed to launch myself back into the car, where it only took a minute to get my myself upright and into the seat.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my keys. 

I pulled out of the driveway, and then back in.  This time I made sure to pull all the way up to where the driveway became horizontal.  I approached the front door trembling with embarrassment and pain.  My face was shiny with sweat.  I prayed that they hadn’t seen my little show out front.  I got lucky.  I had to ring the bell to get someone.  At least something went right, but I don’t want to think about the state of that pizza by the time they got the box open.

My little adventure on the ice is actually what saved me.  For a brief second I gave my body a flash of danger and it’s adrenaline fueled response seemed to shut down my less important waste disposal system.  At least I made it back to the store.  Plus it really seemed to make my coworkers day when I blew through the back door and sprinted to the bathroom.  Their laughing was only further fueled by my impromptu biological symphony.  Luckily we were all close friends.  But let’s be honest, I could have done without it.


A light-hearted tequila tale

My first post kinda bummed me out. If it bummed out any one who should happen to stumble upon it I apologize. On the other hand its your own fault. These are pivotal moments in  my life I’m writing about after all. Sometimes a pivot is a bummer. Sometimes it’s joyous. Sometimes it pulls you over in the ghetto’s of Cleveland and tells you to leave the neighborhood because your going to almost certainly be murdered, but that’s a story for another time. On a more light-hearted note I once got really drunk on tequila.

I worked at a pizza place for a long time (I told you I was a underachiever). Eventually our owner got tired of raking in the tens of dollars and decided to sell the store. It was a bittersweet day at the restaurant. On the one hand there would be no more impromptu, late night, after bar, pizza parties (yeah that’s right, try that out on the ladies, never fails), on the other we would not have to dig into the register on a daily basis to pay off random people who came in threatening to shut off this or that, or repossess our spatulas. I almost want to make that sentence even longer. Look at it… it’s huge. Where was I? Ok. So our former owner decided to throw a goodbye/hello party. Like most formal events in my town it would be held at the local bowling alley. There’s something about thick smoke and lane oil that really sets the tone for any occasion. It’s true, even baby stuff.

The night started like most any awesome night at the bowling alley. I show up with eighty pounds of gear and scoff at the poor bastards picking through the fruity plastic ball selection. “Oh whats that? Your fingers don’t fit? The thumb hole is cutting you? That’s why I spent $250 on this! (points to awesome bowling ball #1) That’s right I brought three balls. Yes I need all of them!” On a side note I don’t really think I’m cool because I have a ton of bowling gear. I just like to pretend. I do love bowling though.

Now, it was early in the evening and I was tightly focused on taking money from my co-workers. You’d think they would be hesitant to bet the guy pulling a small trailer full of bowling balls around but they’re not exactly geniuses. They also love betting. Also they’re dumb. I was well on my way to a cool thirty bucks when our former owner arrived. He made the rounds, acknowledging us personally one at a time with a grin, handshake, or bro-hug. Then he uttered the phrase that set all our lives on a course which would not end soon, or easily. “Drinks are on me. Have fun. Get whatever you want.” I have to admit I felt a moment of panic. I had thoughts such as, “does this man not realize who he’s dealing with?” and, “why does he want us all to die?”. After all, this was a group of 19-22 year old college drop-outs. We had to go to community college because we drank too much in high school. Then we dropped out of community college because we drank too much to make 2:00 classes. Presently we made pizzas and drank every night. The only reason we stopped drinking normally was because we ran out of money. Now the old boss hands over a credit card and basically challenges us to do our worst. I think he realized his mistake when the waitress started bringing out three pitchers at a time so she would have time to help her other customers.

The night progressed in approximately the following manner:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

8-9: Beer and bowling. Much fun had by all.

9-10: Beer and less bowling. An insane amount of fun being had.

10-11: Beer. The bowling is degenerated to the point where it can no longer technically be called bowling. The fun level has reached its peak and is now on the decline.

11-12: Shots! Shots are instituted to try to salvage the declining fun level. Occasionally someone stumbles in the direction of the pins and drops a ball in whatever lane is readily available.

12-1: Triple shots! Of tequila! We now consider the bartender a close friend and he breaks out giant shot glasses for us. The fun has passed into some psychotic, otherworldly level where it’s just no longer safe. I literally love everyone I see and have to tell them about it in a most sincere and passionate manner. There is no bowling because I’ve forgotten what a bowling alley is.

1: The time has come to make our way home. We all try to figure out how to take off shoes and zip jackets. It takes a while. I regret bringing so much crap. One of my friends bends down for his shoes and just keeps going. He ends up face-down with his nose in one of the shoes. We all laugh. He stays in that position for about two minutes. We laugh harder. I gag a little…

Luckily I was able to catch a ride with one of our under-age employees who we had made close the restaurant. I’m not sure how everyone else got home. I’d rather not know honestly. I’m not really going to comment on the ride itself because I have no idea how it went. For all I know Santa gave me a ride on a magical buffalo. I do know I didn’t want to puke. I was later told that after arriving in the driveway of my rented shack I opened the door, got out, shut the door, and wandered off into the darkness. No goodbye, no thanks, not even a nod. In my defense I think I just forgot.

On most nights of binge drinking this is where I get inside, start to cook something, and then pass out with it still in the microwave or sitting in a pot on the stove. Unfortunately tonight I had reached a level of brain-damaged drunkenness which wouldn’t even allow the usual dysfunctions to take place.

I’d mentioned I rented a shack and that was very true. It was a 600 square foot house built in a small clearing in the woods. Those woods were directly behind the local grocery store allowing me all the modern comforts but with a real “Friday the 13th” feel.

 The first problem I ran into was the light was burned out by the back door. It was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Also I was too wasted to recognize my own hand so I was screwed either way. The second problem was keys are small, and keyholes are small. Trying to match one small thing with another was pretty much rocket science right then and the process was a failure. I threw the keys down in frustration. I wasn’t feeling very well so I sat on a broken chair that was sitting outside. This chair only had three functional legs and had been out in the elements for a couple of years. I managed to balance on it for a minute or two before collapsing into the dirt. As I lay there trying to figure out why the universe was mean the puking started. I retched loudly and spewed out an amazing amount of liquid. I remember thinking, “why does all this puke taste like tequila? It’s mostly beer. I wonder if people know that drinking tequila makes all your puke taste like tequila.” Then I laughed. Then I puked more.

It occurred to me as I lay there heaving that this was not a good look for me and I was making a ruckus. What if the neighbors looked out and spotted me like this?(I missed the fact that it was pitch black) Don’t ask me how I’d retained enough pride to care about appearances but I had. Blearily I looked around the yard for a hiding spot. Besides crawling into the forest my only option was the far side of the propane tank. I crawled and stumbled my way over there and lay on my back, looking up at the sky. As I lay there I went through a range of emotions. I’d laugh, I’d giggle, I’d cry a little. Eventually I just lay there humming tunelessly. That’s how I fell asleep.

I woke a short time later shivering uncontrollably. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and I was being rained on in forty degree temperatures. It was time to make a more serious effort towards entering the house. I crawled back towards the house and after a short search found my keys. I also found tequilla scented patches of wetness. With vomit slick hands I managed to get the key in the door which shows just how much my nap had done to rejuvenate me. Upon entering I immediately lay down again. This time on the carpet right in front of my dogs cages. They were barking and generally going insane after being locked up all night long.  I proceeded to have one of those classic drunken conversations no one should ever have to hear; but seeing as how you’ve read this far your getting it whether you like it or not. It went something like this.

Dogs: BarkBarkbarkBarkBBAARRKK!!!

Me: IIII know! I know… I sssucckkk! I suck you guys and your always soooo nice and I’m a baaaddd daddddy!

Dogs: bark!!!BaaaaRRRK!!whineBark!!!

Me: I can’t help you. I can’t help me. I can’t help you or meeee eeeiitherrr. I’m sorry ok? I just love you, but I can’t help you… I’m broke. I’m broken.

Dogs:barkbarkbarkbarkhowwwwwlhoowwwwwwwl!

Me: I’m sick. I’m sick. I’m sick. I’ll make it up to you. I will. But shut up now. Shut your mouths. Your killing me. I’m dying…..I’m dead. I’m dead soon.

I slept a minute or two more.

My phone rang.

Me: uhhh, hellllooo?

Girlfriend: (banging party music in background) Baybeee? I’m wasted. Can you come get me?

Me: HAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Girlfriend: what’s wrong? Are you ok?

Me: ….I was outside…I..puked… I can’t help you. I can’t help myself. I gotta go.

Girlfriend: shit. I’m coming.

She found me naked on the bathroom floor staring blindly into space. My corpselike appearance caused her to scream a little but she quickly discovered I was still amongst the living and set about nursing me. I made a full recovery.

 My co-workers all had similar stories. One of them fell down the stairs into his basement and slept where he lay. Another slept on his parents front porch. We all had a good time though. And I learned something. Tequila is a jerk. It makes friends with you and then starts being a little rude and then is like, “hey, what’s that in the gutter?” CURB-STOMP! I haven’t touched the stuff since. I’ve also quit binge drinking. Except for one time. But that’s another tale.