Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Turn of the Wheel

Well, here it is; New Year's Day - 2006. Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you all a wonderful, safe, happy and prosperous new year!

Last night I tended bar for a New Year's Eve party. After I had arrived and began to set up for the night, each of the bosses (there are three) ran up to me seperately, each in a state of abject panic, and announced that the other bartender (a new guy) wasn't here yet, and that they couldn't get ahold of him, and that I had to set up two stations. I said, "Sure boss, no problem..". This seemed to freak them out even worse, I suppose because to them, I wasn't displaying the proper level of panic and unrest. What they forget is that for every single job other than this party that takes place once per year, I have to set up two stations as a matter of course - the cocktail bar, and the regular bar. Many times, I also set up a cordial bar. This was a simple task that wouldn't really be all that much to do at all. The next thing that I got was a peppering of questions regarding the relative difficulty of making various drinks, and whether someone could learn to make them on the spot. When I enquired into the reason for this line of questioning, I was told that if worse came to worse, one of the bosses would be tending bar beside me... great.

Half an hour later, the other bartender came walking in, with three bosses surrounding him, matching him step for step, and each of them squawking at him how he gave them a heart attack, and how worried they were, blah-blah-blah, yammer-yammer-yammer... I took one look, made eye-contact with the new guy, and we both cracked up simultaneously!! Apparently, he had gotten a flat tire, in the rain, and he wasn't able to call on his cell-phone because either his battery was low, or he was in a bad coverage area. He changed the tire in a tuxedo and still got to work looking presentable, and not really all that late. I think he made a good show of it, personally.

As it turned out, I had most of his stuff set up, and gave him a quick rundown of what was already done and what needed to be done, and we got everything set up and ready to roll with half-an-hour to spare and absolutely no duplication of effort.

The bosses calmed down, at least with regard to us, and began haunting the DJs, asking them every two minutes (literally, folks.. you could time it to the second!) whether they would be set up on time until one of the DJs had a melt down and screamed at the boss, saying: "HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!! YES!! YES!! WE'LL BE SET UP ON TIME!! WILL YOU QUIT COMING IN HERE AND ASKING US EVERY FUCKING TWO MINUTES!! GO FIND SOMETHING TO DO!! IF YOU SAY ONE MORE WORD TO US... ONE MORE.... WE'RE PACKING UP AND LEAVING... AND THEN YOU'LL REALLY BE FUCKED, WON'T YOU!!" The entire room full of wait-staff, roadies and bar-staff went totally silent at that. The boss turned and walked out of the room, and true to his word, the DJ was set up and ready to go with time to spare. Valium, anyone??

When the party got started, we were literally jumping through our asses!! I have never made so many drinks, or run out of booze, ice, juice, glasses, and everything else as many times in a single shift as we did last night!! We were cranking, but we managed to find a rhythm and keep it flowing rather flawlessly throughout the night.

The crowd was different than what we usually encounter. At weddings and such, everybody knows everybody else, and they maintain a certain degree of decorum (well... hmmmmm...) because they know that they will have to deal with one another in the future. This crowd consisted of various small groups, couples, and singles who simply wanted to have someplace to go and ring in the new year. They all had their own personalities and preferences, rather than the group-mind that a wedding, engagement party, company Christmas party, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or Sweet Sixteen party usually has... and it was utter pandemonium! Nobody even tried to stand in a line... rather, they all clustered around the bar and yelled out to us what they wanted. It was total chaos, and it was a blast!

The same boss that was haunting the DJ came up to me and started screaming at me at one point, saying "Will you move fucking faster?!! It would be nice if just once this evening there wasn't a long line at the bar!!"

I completely ignored him, and continued working, not having even a second to spare in order to acknowledge him, answer him, or devote to him at all.. I just let him stand there, glaring at me, and the crowd answered him for me, by yelling; "Get outta here! Leave them alone! Go soak your head! They're doing fine! Fuck off, asshole! Go count your beans! You're a dick!" and so on... he looked around, and for the second time, turned and left without a word. It was pretty funny! He's actually a really good guy, but he was coming out of his friggin' tree last night, and he was crawling up everyone's ass and making a general nuisance out of himself as a result. I understand it, but it didn't make him any less of a pain in the ass at the moment.

We were slinging drinks as fast as we could move, but it was going as smooth as glass, and although I had only met the new guy that night, we managed to move in the cramped space behind the bar without getting into one another's way. We dealt with shortages of whatever we ran out of, a total breakdown of the gas system (the gun that dispenses the sodas, sour mix, tonic, etc., took a shit and went tits-up partway through the night). I sent the other guy for a wrench, and new tanks, and began serving drinks by using the bottled sodas that I had stocked the bar with 'just in case', and when he got back and took over serving, I had the gas system fixed and back up and running in about six minutes! I'm glad that I had the forethought to predict that this might happen and respond to it proactively or we would have been right-fucked!! It worked out well, though, and we kept the drinks flowing smoothly and everybody had a great time. It was a good night.

When I got home, Elysia and I ate a big steaming bowl of home-made beef stew with huge hunks of rough bread slathered with butter (my concoction.. I made it the other night..), and we watched 'The Blob' with Steve McQueen. Partway through the movie, one or the other of us concatenated " - in the crack of my ass!" to something that one of the characters said, and after that the whole thing degenerated into gales of laughter as we both found ways to add this to just about everything that anybody said. It was just what we both enjoy the most; senseless, random, stupid humor!! Afterwards.. at around 3AM, we staggered up to bed and were both asleep within seconds.

I woke up today at around 11AM. My back is killing me, I suppose from carrying all the stuff last night. It's a bleary, bleak, grey wintery day... and it is the very first day of a brand new year! So, as I am sitting here, I am contemplating this blank canvas that is set before me, and wondering what triumphs and horrors this new year will bring.

In my case, this will be the 46th (going on 47th) trip around the sun... I have changed quite a bit since the first time around, and I can't help but wonder who and what I will be this time next year.... or, for that matter, whether I will be at all!!

As far as work is concerned, up until recently, at least, I have felt like an outsider of sorts.. not completely... but in a number of different ways.

I understand this, intellectually; I am a new addition into a group that has worked together for years. They have all worked in this industry from the beginning of their professional careers, to the exclusion of any other career field, many of them have worked together as a team for a number of years, and they each have a somewhat narrow view of things as a result, which is understandable.

Now. Here I come, with a skill-set that is almost completely outside the realm of everybody else's. Nobody knew me from Adam. I am a completely unknown commodity. I have no experience in this industry (at all!), and have worked a widely varied number of capacities in my lifetime. To everyone else, however, I am simply an unknown ingredient added into the mix, and they have no idea how this is going to affect the equilibrium of the group. I think that the owner wanted to instigate some change in the office in order to introduce some fresh ideas and habits, and by hiring me, he achieved that. The thing is that people don't necessarily like change, and he never really asked them how they felt about it; he simply hired me and tossed me into the pool. And, as I said, folks don't like change. Not even change for the good. So... I was met with a mixture of hopefulness, apprehension and resentment, I think. My views are very different in a number of ways, and most likely looked upon as bizarre in many instances. Not only in my professional mindset, but also in my personal views.

For instance, there is a gambling sub-culture in my workplace. Every day the guys roll the dice, bet on sports events, bet on when a particular shipment will arrive, or on which driver will be driving the truck. They bet on who will or will not come into the shop on any given day, on who will choose what food item for lunch, who will lose or gain weight, or on just about anything else under (or over) the sun. Some of the bets are small... a dollar, a gyro. Others are large; There is currently a $500 bet going between the owner and FatCat over who will lose the highest percentage of bodyweight between December 22nd, 2005 and February something (??) of 2006.

Five. Hundred. Dollars!

The owner has been constantly putting plates of heroes, potato salad, doughnuts, brownies, and just about anything else that can be eaten on FatCat's desk in an attempt to undermine his resolve. Its funny, but its also slightly disturbing.

Insofar as this sub-culture is concerned, I am a complete outsider. I never bet or gamble with them at all. This marks me as being weird.

The guys all have this thing about bad-mouthing their wives or girlfriends to one another, or discussing their various sexual practices or preferences. They also hold a common concept that cooperating with one's wife in any way marks one as being 'pussy-whipped'. How much of what they spout is true and accurate and how much of it is utter bullshit (depending upon where the wife is, I'm sure) I have no idea.

I, on the other hand, never have anything bad to say about my wife. I think she is fantastic. Actually, she is my single most favorite human being that I have ever been acquainted with in all of the world in all of my life. I love her, I honor her, and I worship her. She is my very best friend, and to her and only to her I am soul-naked. In my mind, there is she and I, and then there is everyone else. So, bearing this in mind, I never have anything bad to say about her to outsiders. If we have difficulties, or if there are things that she says or does that bother me or outright piss me off... well, that is between her and me, and not a topic of discussion in my workplace or anywhere else. I may share some things of my choosing, but these guys say things that I know would hurt their wives feelings should it ever get back to them. So, this quality also marks me as being different.

Then there is the matter of different qualities of intellect.

The guys that I work with are very smart when they are doing what it is that they do. By which I mean their work, their hobbies and interests, etc. But, we differ in one respect. While they tend to limit the focus of their attention to a rather limited sphere of influence - making money, having fun, etc., I tend to be interested in learning simply for the sake of learning. There isn't much that I don't have an interest in to some degree. When it comes to music, well.. I listen to anything and everything. I like some things more so than others, but I don't shut anything out. The same is true regarding food, literature, and just about anything else. When I say or do something that lets the other guys know that I have, or have had an interest in some topic that they do not, especially if I reveal that I possess knowledge about a topic that they consider to be either geeky or eggheadish, or something that is in their collective estimation either flaky or otherwise esoteric, they react negatively to it, whether it involves an opinion, the knowledge of a fact or facts, or even the use of a particular vocabulary word. In their minds this marks me as being strange, odd, weird, bizarre.. or whatever.... but it hasn't stopped them from approaching me on numerous occasions to settle arguments, mediate wagers, or answer questions. Maybe my knowledge is useful to some degree after all, ay??

Lately, I think that they have come to accept me as being part of the team, one of 'The Boys', my oddness not withstanding. Many of the guys have said things to me that let me know that they valued my contributions, and that they are glad that I am there doing what it is that I do. Not only my co-workers, but customers as well.

Somewhere along the line, we have managed to gel and mesh and learn to work together rather seamlessly into a single cohesive unit. We get the job done, no matter what, and we look out for one another. There is a great deal of ball-breaking, catcalling, ass-grabbing and verbal abuse, but, in the end, we do what the boss pays us to do, even when the odds are against us, and we do it well. There is some degree of satisfaction to be derived from that, I think.

So it appears that I have somehow wormed my way in to the 'insider's track' and have become a vital part of the team. Honestly, I don't really care one way or the other in my heart of hearts. After all, I work primarily to earn a paycheck, and so long as I am doing that, I consider my work efforts to be a personal success... but, being accepted and liked as a part of the group makes life that much easier, and that much more fulfilling. So, it would appear that I have something to be thankful for in that respect.

In terms of my inner-self, I would like to walk a deeper path, spiritually, and also to continue to spend more time doing the various things that I consider a major part of my life; Play music on my bagpipes, cook and bake good food, spend time outside 'faoi an spéir' (under the sky) - working on my garden, training, breathing, and contemplating trees... I want to be able to take as much of the troubles and worries that I can off of my wife's head.. and I would dearly love to be able to find the time to simply sit and breathe now and again.

Regarding other stuff... I have slacked off, fitness-wise, over the past couple of months, caving in to the pressures of the holidays and such, and I desperately need to get back on track in that department. Tommorrow I plan on getting my ass back to the gym, so, that is the first step to be taken there... come hell or high water!

This house looks as though it has been the focus of a detailed search by an inconsiderate group of gangsters or agents... or as though a bomb has gone off... I want to get it straight, and get our living space back to a condition that fosters serenity and peace of mind rather than migraines. The focus of this past year has been almost exclusively on work. As the situation stands, that isn't likely to change much in the coming year, and everything else will necessarily have to take a back seat to getting the bills paid, but I dearly hope that we will be able to find some way to achieve this while still leaving time to enjoy our lives while we are young enough and healthy enough to still be able to enjoy them... I'm not sure how that will work out, but I leave it in the hands of the Lord and the Lady.

In a grander sense, I wonder what the year will bring to us all. I wonder how many of the guys and gals that are in harm's way 'over there' will not come home... and how many will! I wonder what wonderful discoveries will be made, and what tragedies will befall some of us or all of us in this coming year...

The road ahead sits before me, like a great big empty canvas. Today I sit here, contemplating where the road will take me, and what sorts of things I will do and see in this coming year. I am excited, pensive, filled with expectation, wonder, and apprehension... but, I also realize that I am not alone. I have my beautiful wife at my side, always, and a circle of family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintences around me. Out there are a bunch of people whose paths will intersect or join with mine this year; new friends, shared laughter, momentary kindnesses exchanged... plus I have all of you guys to share it all with here on this blog.

Sitting here.. alternately looking out of my window and into my own thoughts, I am thinking that I am in pretty good shape, all in all.

I don't honestly know what this year will bring to me, but as far as I'm concerned.... I'm ready for whatever comes at me... I will find a way to deal with whatever I have to deal with, I suppose, and I will enjoy each and every moment that I can when I'm doing it. So, although I don't know what the year has in store for me, I say,"Bring it On!"


Marcheline said...

I'm with you all the way!

- M said...

Nice article

kcbelles said...

Enjoyable to read, as always, Bear - long one today :) I absolutely love that you don't/won't diss your wife. I hear too many people do it, and this is supposed to be the one, most special person in their lives. Sad. I like how you put it.

Just as an FYI "well, that is between her and me...."