Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Cleanserve Incident Part II The Misfits Redux

It's raining hard, which means the apartments I cleaned out a few weeks ago are flooded again. I need to finish that story or else it will haunt me like a pimple that won't pop. Part One is Here

Where did I leave off? I...oh, yeah...I was describing how Cleanpro (I like that name better) called Work a day labor hall because they needed workers. And, since all the workers had been dispatched from the hall, work a day called the local homeless shelter. And thus a few parolees showed up at the hall and were sent to the state university library to rescue it. I could stop right there and you'd know this didn't turn out well. These guys didn't go to the labor hall looking for work. They were at the homeless shelter trying to avoid work and they saw an opportunity to make some hustle money. They have bills to pay, court fees, child support, medical bills. If you're poor it just means that you have exhausted your savings, but you still owe a ton of money just like everyone else...especially if your last act as a free man was to steal a car.

So, these fellas go to the library and start moving books and tearing up carpet and vacuuming the floor. Trash gets thrown out the door into a dumpster. And during this labor one of them saw some laptop computers and other possibly valuable items. When you are earning $7.25 an hour and your bills run around $25 an hour then you are always on the lookout for ways to make up the difference. Here was his opportunity. So, I figure he slipped some computers in a box of trash and dragged it out with the rest. Then he allegedly called his girlfriend to come around and he hid the loot in the bushes until she arrived. And piece by piece he started to make some real money. The way I see it the guy was so deep in debt that he was going back to jail if he didn't steal something. Right? It's not like he's supporting some luxurious lifestyle. He's at a homeless shelter and if he doesn't produce some cash at his next court appearance then he will get cuffed. Or maybe he's Robin Hood and he was going to donate the computers to an elementary school. Hey, it's possible!

So, the Cleanpro foreman sensed something was off and he followed the guy out and caught him with computers in the car. Allegedly, there were punches thrown, but who cares? The damage was done because in that moment every Work a Day employee in soggy pants became a suspect. See, the Cleanpro dude had no idea where these guys came from. He thought they were labor hall regulars like most of the guys who were hired. So, while he's kicking this homeless thief in the stomach for looting the library, the reputations of all honest but diseased laborers like myself is plummeting. I know what a catholic priest must feel like when he hears of a cardinal butt fucking little boys. It doesn't matter that he has no sexual feeling toward boys but he is now a suspect. And then he starts wondering if he should be a suspect. Does he like boys? Naw. Should he like boys? If every other priest is getting preteen boy ass on a regular basis then maybe...maybe there's something he's missing. Naw, it's just not his thing...but he knows he's half guilty in the eyes of his parishioners. All he needs to do is get caught helping a boy put his socks on and there will be an inquiry. He's fucked. When I heard the story of the computer theft I realized I would now be a suspect, guilty by association.

This is all to justify my trepidation when old Tiffany called with her offer of a gig with Cleanpro. We all know I need the work and the money but I'm walking into a situation with many thorns. Not only is the work best suited for strapping twenty year old kids but I'm going to have the boss looking at me like a thief. And, honestly, I do need to steal something to make some money on the gig. But I took it and showed up at the damn hall to pick up three guys who were fresh from the prison yard.

One fella was happily living in a tent in the woods near the old air force base. It had a wood stove and was near the brewery so that meant he could go raid the dumpster for bottles of beer that had the label on crooked. He had a feral cat for a pet and was nursing numerous ailments and drug dependencies while trading food stamps for money at seventy-five cents on the dollar. He went to the shelter because his tent had "completely fucking flooded."
(That description sounds fictional but I'm not making it up. For some reason I get along with these kinds of people. They are hunter gatherers, totally unfit for modern civilization and I despise modern civilization.)
The other guy was younger and had acne and a horrible disposition. He looked at everybody like they had just spit in his face. I asked him what his name was and he gave me a stare so filled with rage I didn't say much to him again. He was at the shelter because that's where the police dropped him off.
Another guy was with us (this sounds made up too) who was a former mixed martial artists. He had literally been kicked in the head so many times that one of his eyes wasn't straight anymore. He was bald and had bulging muscles. I think he actually had an apartment. He and the tent dweller traded recipes for morphine and prescription drugs while the acne dude would offer a groan or a non-sequitur like "Once my dad bought me a rifle."
All this while I drove to Dover. I should point out that the guy who lived in the tent smelled so fucking bad that I had to drive with the windows down for two days after he left. He was wearing ski pants that were incredibly greasy. I hate cigarette smoke but when he asked me if he could smoke I said, "I insist."

So, we were sent from Portsmouth to Dover. A 20 minute drive. Why? So we could pick up Cleanpro t-shirts and get directions to a place in Hampton.
"You're going to Portsmouth," said the lady who gave us directions.
The directions obviously said Hampton but I foolishly didn't ask for clarification. I should know that everything related to Work A Day is a cluster fuck. It's just not how business should be done, hiring homeless people through a fucking day labor hall staffed by half homeless people. I was asleep and sick when Tiffany called me. It's all a disaster. For instance, the simple act of getting about 7 guys the right size t-shirt proved to be a hysterical comedy of errors.
The acne faced dude could not grasp that we were getting a uniform and just threw the t-shirt on the ground. Two or three guys never got their shirt or lost them. Everyone complained they were too small. It was ludicrous to think we were going to do any fruitful labor. I immediately put my sweater over my shirt and as I looked around I thought, "These are the kids who didn't get in line when the bell rang at the end of recess. And I'm the kid who got in line but didn't really believe in it."

A historical aside: One winter day in 1976 I did NOT get in line when the recess bell rang. It was first grade and I remember watching everyone run across the playground toward the line and I thought, "No. Not me. Not this time." I turned the opposite direction and slipped over a snow bank until the whole class had gone inside. Then I ran away from school and took a walking tour of Portsmouth. I was 5 years old. Basically, I had released myself under my own recognizance. I intended to go back eventually.
As a former elementary school teacher, I can tell you that this is pretty much the worst thing a kid can do. When I was a teacher I was frantic with the kids all assembled right in front of me. If one of them simply vanished during recess, knowing the number of perverts and priests in the world, I would've had a complete breakdown. My teacher at the time, Mr. C., kept his cool and placed the class in the hands of another teacher and quickly borrowed a car to hunt me down. He found me in the cellar bulkhead of my house and he took me back to school. I didn't run away again.
I think this story is covered more in depth in Memorabilia.

So, the four of us, the kickboxer, the acne dude, the tent dweller and myself all left Dover for Hampton. I recently watched a John Huston flick with Marilyn Monroe called "The Misfits" It was written by Monroe's husband playwright Arthur Miller and had Clark Gable in one of his last roles. It's Marilyn's last role too and judging by the loopy performances I think they were all popping pills and boozing in the Nevada deserts. Gable died within a few days of the wrap. He said that working with Monroe damn near gave him a heart attack. Well, it DID give him a heart attack and killed him. But if a woman is going to kill you it might as well be Marilyn Monroe and not some crack whore you meet in the porn theater. OR does it matter?

Monroe died a year after it was released. Montgomery Clift died a few years later. I'm shocked to see that the nearly forgettable tow truck driver who is Gable's lovelorn friend is actually Eli Wallach from Sergio Leone's Good Bad & Ugly. He's shorter than Monroe and can dance and he talks with a Jersey accent. Amazing!

I saw it as a vanity flick...which is basically right since everyone concerned was vain as hell. One day there will be the same thing for Tom Cruise and Ewan McGregor and Demi Moore. Age catches us all.

It's not a spectacular movie but I think Monroe does show some skin in it and that's always nice. Anyway, the misfits in that movie, including a punch drunk bull rider (Clift), don't even compare to the clown car that rolled up to the wrong address in Hampton. It was absolutely pouring. The guys were bumming cigarettes from strangers, knocking on doors, chasing pets. It was like a field trip from a mental institution but there was no chaperon. Another car showed up driven by a guy with black teeth.
"We here. This is this address. Far as I'm concerned we on the job."
But we weren't and we were getting wet and wasting time. No one wanted to call the hall and no one wanted to call the customer. When the guys started comparing prison tattoos I finally dialed a number on the directions sheet and found out the right address. It took some work to get everyone assembled in the car again. I should've asked everyone to pick a safety partner. Insane.
"Motherfucker!" I yelled as I pounded the car roof. "Drive from fucking Portsmouth to Dover and back to Hampton to the wrong fucking address! God Damn it mother cunt!"
No one blinked or paused in their conversations. That probably wasn't even the worst outburst they'd seen that day. I was so pissed because frivolous driving is like my worst pet peeve. Like God put petroleum on earth so I could go get a fucking t-shirt that I hide with a sweater?? And then pointlessly tour North Hampton in the rain in a car that smelled like foot rot??? Oh, I was so pissed.
"I'm going to punch Tiffany in her fucking face," I screamed, even though I love Tiffany.
"She's nice," said the kickboxer. "Big old tits."
"On the heavy side but you see her ass?"
"Damn. Them sexy shoes."
"Real pretty face. How old is she?"
"You ever seen something like this," asked the tent dweller as he revealed a horrible rash on his arm.

So, we finally arrived at the apartment buildings in Portsmouth, hardly ten minutes from my house like two hours after I had left and I had not made one penny yet. This alone is enough to make me want to loot food from the refrigerators of these flooded families. Fuck them. They think they got it bad? I'm working for food money and I'm starving with a car full of lunatics and we're going all over God's green earth searching for their shitty basement apartments! And every one of them is on fucking welfare while I starve to death. You know...I have to stop now because my doctor told me not to do anything that gets my blood pressure up. I just wrote a whole paragraph about Jeffrey Dahmer that I had to delete because it was too insane. It scared me. This wasn't supposed to be an epic. So, stay tuned for the ending of this disastrous tale...the part where we misfits actually have to do some work. I'll give you a taste,

We're standing in 2 inches of water around a queen sized bed.
"Ok, everyone grab a corner. Hey! Hey! Come back here! Fuck it. Lift!"
A pile of kids clothes tumble into a milky puddle on the concrete
"Quick! Pick those clothes up! WATCH THE ELECTRONICS!"

P.S. I forgot to mention that the address of the real apartments was the exact same as the address on the directions except for the zip code. So we ended up in the wrong town but at the right number and street. Furthermore, two of the guys in the car knew exactly where the apartments were to begin with so we never needed the directions in the first place. Now, why would that piss me off?
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.