Being promoted from Receiving Clerk to Dispatcher in the lettuce cooler meant that I moved from the dusty back lot to the truck-fumed loading dock area. My snot changed from hard and brown to black and tar-like. Ahhhh, promotions...
My new duties were: to check in and out the truck drivers, to talk to the shippers regarding inventory management, to give directions to truck drivers, to maintain the physical inventory count, and to interpret the scrawlings of the guy who replaced me (and who had the pleasant habit of transposing numbers). Imagine a small formerly white now brown-white interiored office in a trailer with a coffee machine constantly running, printers pumping out bills of lading, 4-5 dinosauric computers buzzing, and 3 guys smoking constantly during shifts that could last as long as 16 hours. It was the only time I used cocaine in my life as a tool for survival. I mean, really: after 12 hours of coffee, smokes and stress one would either fold up into a fetal ball of acid stomach knot exhaustion and shiver, or do a line, close up the books and pray for sleep as soon as possible. It was the only time I used T.V. as a tool for survival. I mean, really: after 12 hours of coffee, smokes, stress, and a line of coke the only way to unwind was to completely disconnect the brain with sitcoms.
The stress level at this place started to turn me into an utter asshole. I started snapping at people on a regular basis like I was a manager or something. Example: truck drivers have this really annoying habit of having to call you for directions like 4 or 5 times before they'll actually arrive at the cooler. I'd start saying things like "LOOK--do YOU have some kind of goddamn DISORDER?! I told you last time 'LEFT at the SECOND stop sign and'... wait a sec., this is the 3rd time you've called me--don't you have a pen, or is it that you're illiterate?" Sure, they might have been braindead, but I am not an asshole. My bad, not theirs, but is was the SAME shit EVERY day again and again--it was like they were only hearing the next step in the directions and then tuning everything else out. It started to work at me.
The loaders would frequent the office to get their coffee so I ended up getting to know a lot of them. There were basically 4 topics that they would talk about: money, sex, violence and drugs. One might think that these topics would get pretty tired after a while. One would think that after a few decades of it you'd start thinking "what else is there?" Ohhh, but think in terms of combination: like how to use money to obtain drugs with which violent sex could be obtained, or anecdotally like: "I was having sex when her husband came in, so I beat him down and took his money and drugs." Like I said, these guys were what created the legends of Ogres in times of yore and ultimately the only reason I feel safe writing this is that I am so small by comparison that there would be no fun for them in beating me down. A few times I played lowball poker with them and earned two of my nicknames: No-bluff and Slim. Hell of a stressful game: each pot was larger than most of the paychecks I'd get for a week of work at any of the other jobs on the list. If you've never played poker for high stakes, you've really never played poker. You tremble, sweat and get panicky. You get REAL adrenaline rushes! These games were the rare moments in which I had bonding experiences with these guys. See: at the time I was dressing in a gutter punk manner, and had my head half shaved (thus the nickname
Half-Dome). If it weren't for the fact that my father had known them for so long, or that I worked with them, they seemed like the kind of folk who'd love to kick the shit out of me on some given Saturday night should I walk by the bar they were drinking in. Since I worked with them and made it apparent that I wasn't "some red commie faggot punk bitch" they began to accept me into their fold to a small degree of success. Once, a guy asked me:
"Hey what's say you 'n' I shoot across the border this weekend and get us some cheap Tequila and fuck us up some Mexican whores?"
"Thanks man, but I've got a girlfriend back in Monterey."
"Shit Slim! I got me a fiancee here in Yuma!"
"--an' what she don't know sure as hell don't hurt her none!"
"It's not about what she doesn't know, man; love is sacred to me and even if she never found out I'd still have fucked with the purity of our love in me."
The guy cocked his head like a dog that just heard something high pitched, went "pshhh" and turned to the other guys in the office with an expression on his face that was like: "did any of you understand what he just said?"
Not to belabor the point, but one time I am cleaning out a sub-office at the end of the season--getting it ready to be locked up for 6 months or so and I get this call:
"Hi, is Rick there?" The female voice is thick with a southern drawl, and sounds vaguely dumb--but this is likely just a bias of mine.
"Naw--we've switched offices for the rest of the seas----"
"This is Laurie--" she draws her name out making it sound like a sweet syrup "--his masseuse, and I just got inta town and wanted ta see if he wanted a ma-ssage."
"...Okay, I could give you the number at the other office if you like..."
"Mmm, okay." So I give her the number and she cuts me off as I am trying to
say I got work to get back to. "You a dispatcher there?"
"You like ma-ssage?"
"Yeah." See: all my life I have given and received massage, and I have a deep respect for it. One of my first girlfriends was a masseuse and she taught me a lot about it. Massage is incredible: you can feel the physical presence of the stress and pain of life embodied in musculature AND THEN, with your own 2 hands, you get to cure it. It's the classic laying-on-of-hands to heal--a sacred thing. So much beauty there in that holiness... So when she followed that up with:
"What about blowjobs, you like Blowjobs?" I was jolted so hard it was like I thought I was climbing a mountain, just to have someone say "come up for air!", and me discover that I was really underwater. I was stunned.
"Uhhh, yeah... of course"
"Goooood, coz I give real good blowjobs--you got a big dick? I bet you do--you sound like you do. I do everythang--you like ta put it in a lady's backside?"
"Uhhh, yeah..." I was starting to regain my feet, but was simply answering because she asked.
"I'm in room 19 at the Big Country Inn--come by tonight after you get offa work."
"Uhhh... not sure I'll be able to make it... you, uhm, want me to give Rick the message?"
"Sure, but I hope I see you! Bye!"
I went over to the office and had the satisfaction of yelling "Hey Rick--a whore named Laurie called for you while I was in the other office. Room 19, Big Country Inn." Rick fancied himself a ladies man, so there WAS a measure of malicious humor in this.
Ended up leaving this place because, in order to retain my humanity and individuality, I had to keep myself unfocused so that my natural ability to adapt wouldn't kick in... unfortunately this led to a lot of boneheaded mistakes on my part. I am lucky that I recognized this and left the place, because if I hadn't I would be a real motherfucker by this point.
REVSCRJ is a writer/musician living in Monterey, California. Constantly on the verge of homelessness, he hopes that you enjoy his work or else his life has been in vain. Contact REVSCRJ at firstname.lastname@example.org to lodge complaints, notify of lawsuits, or receive spiritual advice.