Times are tough, at least here in Oregon. They used to be worse, though. The state of Oregon used to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
I once went to apply for a job as a custodian at a porno booth house on a Friday and was told they’d already had 1,500 applicants since the job opened, which was Wednesday.
Jizz mopper. Porno booth house. 1,500 applicants in 2 days. They got like 150,000 people in this town.
Must be twenty years ago by now. Statistics show things have gotten better. But, still, it depends on the town. Or the market, really. If the jobs aren’t in a place, despite how great it is to live there, the opportunities aren’t going to be there.
It’s like, no matter how much you work out and spend on your appearance, if you’re looking for a date in Homer, Alaska….
Eugene’s a nice place to live. I’ve mopped my share of porno booths, cut my share of dog toenails, cleaned up enough old person’s gravity-defying feces, and I’ve made it work. Bussed tables. Washed dishes. Cleaned up more feces.
Dog puke. Feces.
No worse than when things were at their worse, though, I suspect. Which I remember quite vividly, in fact. And have a story to tell about it.
Ironically, I was doing the best I ever was in my life, financially. It was about 1995. Dog/old person/drunk customer feces was only a wistful glint my eye at the time. The dotcom bubble hadn’t burst yet, and I was at one of the scant few tech companies in town.
No one else seemed to know what a computer was back then. Or how to keep one from becoming necrotic with malware and viruses. It was great.
My girlfriend and I were walking into the Safeway one afternoon, and I remember I was a little ahead of her, and the second the sliding doors opened I behold over the loudspeaker a girl’s voice: “Cody, can you come to the register? There’s a guy up here WITH A BOMB AND HE’S GOING TO BLOW US UP IF WE DON’T GIVE HIM OUR MONEY!!!!”
I stopped, mid-stride, and damned if all I hadn’t to see was scuzzy guy in trenchcoat standing by himself at the register for my protective instincts to kick in. I turned back to my girlfriend, who was about 20 feet behind me, and told her to run. “Get out of here! Get back to the car!” I said. And what did she do? The same thing she did every time I ever suggested she should do something other than maybe what she not necessarily would decide to do on her own in that moment, but didn’t realize she hadn’t decided that she may or may not have wanted to do yet and would be more inclined to do if it were, in fact, the exact opposite of the thing I was actually suggesting to her.
She fucking argued with me.
“What? I’m not gonna run,” she said. “What are you talking about?”
“Just run! Go! Get back to the car!”
“No. Why would I run? That’s dumb.”
“Somebody’s got a bomb right inside at the register!”
“What? What are you talking about? I’m not running.”
“Just go! Just go!”
“A bomb? That’s dumb. Why would there be a bomb?”
So, caught up in the approaching inertia of both her will, heft and stupidity, between running for my life and pretending like I have no idea what’s going on, I chose to walk directly into a potential hostage situation involving one or several explosive devices. I just sort of casually sidestepped the register and shopped myself into the corner like I needed some new eyelash curlers or mongoose-hair wig or something, and when I moved out of the path of the doorway, that’s when my girlfriend walked in.
And I heard her say, right as she did: “Holy shit! He’s got a fucking bomb! The guy in there’s got a fucking bomb!” and then proceeded to run through the parking lot, going from car to car, banging on windows, shouting: “A fucking bomb! There’s a bomb in there!! A FUCKING BOMB!!” with as much pee-your-pants gusto as she possibly could so that everyone who saw her would remember her yelling just as much as, if not more than, there being a fucking bomb in the store.
And I thought, “I’m dead. That’s it. I’m dead.”
There was no more faking it at that point. I literally took off running, looking for a place to hide. Everywhere was officially on-limits. Didn’t matter. My only thought was, ‘Don’t go where the money is. Don’t go where the money is.’ It’s like a pack of velociraptors are loose in the butcher shop, and where do you want to go? Away from the meat locker. Velociraptors with opposable fingers and hands that can open door knobs. Of course.
Breath fogging up the windows and shit.
So I see two doors, one that says, ‘Employees Only’, and another that says, ‘Storage’. I chose ‘Storage’ and ran up the stairs and found myself up in the rafters. There were lights and wood beams and a pipe organ up there, of course, and I remember running by it, thinking, ‘Who plays this, the Phantom of the Safeway?’
Not gonna lie. For the next two minutes I divided my attention between waiting to feel the concussion of a fucking bomb go off under my feet to imagining what the Phantom of the Safeway would possibly look like.
Well, like the Phantom of the Opera, sure. But dressed as a Safeway employee? Too obvious. Like a Safeway employee from about 95 years ago? Suspenders and bow tie, rolled-up sleeves. Pomade coif. That was more like it. But then he needed a mustache—big, thick, handlebar one—and I just couldn’t imagine him being able to grow one out of that face, so then I started to picture him dressed like George S. Patton for some reason, helmet and all—jodhpurs, saber—but with everything else around his organ like Liberace was slated to play there every night. Dressed like George S. Patton.
With the face of 1920s Phantom of the Opera Safeway employee.
And that’s when I was finally able to see the mustache.
The bomb guy shouted something at the cashier, or the manager, and it brought me back to reality. I figure for the amount of dynamite the guy possibly had strapped to him, there could only be a blast radius of no more than 100 feet around his soon-to-be-headless corpse. So, I just had to locate that. The jittery screaming and confused, frightened pleas and placations made it easy enough. As long as there were no gas mains or power boxes anywhere near, the whole thing was going to be contained, more or less, so I slowly made my way back closer to where I could see and, at the same time, wouldn’t take any shrapnel or get any brains in the backside of my Jeri-Curled, Samuel L. Jackson wig.
Which I actually wasn’t wearing at the time.
A day later, after the guy surrendered peacefully to the police who finally showed up and I was able to come out of the rafters, and my girlfriend gave me shit for having “abandoned” her, the newspaper ran a story on it. It turned out the guy just needed money for his wife’s gallbladder operation. The dynamite sticks were all full of peppercorns.
Which I found the most interesting part. Taking all that time, and spending all that money on spices, just so your dynamite passes that first wave of audio inspection.
That’s thought. That’s effort.
It was because things were so tight everywhere, though. They’re better now, like I said. But no matter how good they are, they always get worse, economically speaking. Look at a graph of, say, unemployment in America over the last 50 years. It rises, it falls. It repeats.
It always repeats.
And the president in office when it hits its lowest always takes credit for it. Like what’s-his-name. Orange kickball with the pomade coif. You know who I’m talking about.
I’m just glad it’s now when it comes down, and not fifty years ago. Because: porno booth house.
I mean to clean up.
Because if it didn’t, and this was 95 years ago, it’d be way worse. Town with about a hundred people. Lone main street running through it. Possibly a soda shop. I’d have nothing to do, of course, but sit there every day at the counter.
People would talk to me, sometimes.
“Oh, look everyone, it’s Fat Hymie. Here’s a phosphate for you, Fat Hymie.” They’d give me phosphates. Call me Fat Hymie. “Fat Hymie sure loves those phosphates. Hey, Fat Hymie, you sure love those phosphates, don’t ya?”
“Fat Hymie’ll do anything for a phosphate. Hey, Fat Hymie, how ‘bout a song?”
“I don’t know any songs.”
“What’ll you do for another phosphate, Fat Hymie?”
“We usually give him three phosphates a day, but he never has enough money for ‘em. Isn’t that right, Fat Hymie? He’ll sit there all day. He’s got nowhere else to go. Do you, Fat Hymie?”
The janitor would walk up. “Fat Hymie, why you let those boys talk to you that way?”
“I dunno. ‘Cause they’re my friends.”
“They’re not your friends! They talk about you all kinds of nasty after you leave! Why you let ‘em make fun of you like that? Fat Hymie, you gotta stand up for yourself.”
“Fat Hymie, if you pull down your pants and show about three more inches of your butt crack, I’ll buy you a phosphate.”
And then, three generations later, substitute a broken PC for a phosphate and someone’s disgusting office chair for a red-topped twirly stool, and you pretty much got the same thing.
“So, what do you think is wrong with it, Hymie?”
“Is it booting up okay?”
“Are you getting the blue screen?”
“Do you think you need to reinstall the OS?”
“Think it’s because of all the porno I’ve been downloading?”
“Hey, Hymie, got any other jobs today?”
“No? Why not?”
“Hymie, come here and show me how to hack into the boss’s computer.”
“Hymie, we’re gonna order a pizza, what do you want on it?”
“Nothing? You on a diet?”
“Well, why not?”
“Hey, Hymie, how’s that girlfriend of yours doing? Still obnoxious?”
“Hymie, if I give you 50 bucks, will you show me how to get porn on my computer that won’t give me any viruses?”
And so on. Until the economy tanks. Or the porno booth houses and incontinent, memory-afflicted old people need me to wipe their feces off the walls and ceiling.
I forget now which comes first.