Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Co-workers of Past and Present

Just like so many other moderately irresponsible teenagers and university students, I managed to have more jobs than I can count. Seriously, I just tried to count them and couldn’t. Every time I land on a number, another job comes to mind. I’ve ranged from donut places, dorm halls, golf courses and toy stores to some higher class gigs like call centers, drive-thru’s, deli’s and dish rooms. Honestly, I think the longest I stayed at a job of that caliber was six months. My modus operandi was the classic no-call-no-show or call-in-and-quit. I loved doing it. It was swift and easy. The word callous comes to mind, but I’d say lazy might be more appropriate or perhaps a combo of both. While I didn’t gain much of a work ethic from those brief stints of employment, I did get to meet a lot of different and totally interesting people.

Let me introduce you to four of them.

From the US days:

I’ll start with Don. He was my boss at an upscale neighborhood diner for a few months one summer in college. He had inherited money from his father which he had been living on for years. He claimed to be the best chef in the area among other equally unimpressive and uncontestable feats. Don is memorable for a few reasons though: he constantly smoked joints in and around the kitchen, spoke ill of his wife’s reproductive organs (who was also a boss), openly insulted customers using derogatory phrases and terms and threw the word “f*ck” into nearly every sentence. I worked there with a couple friends for a solid two months, but after realizing that we were being paid from the tip jar which we had worked to fill up, we opted for the bailout. We knocked it up a notch by quitting on the same day. Bam! Two of us pulled the no-show, while the third decided to call and address his frustrations with an offensive message that basically repeated all of Don’s catch phrases. We would always joke “I’m f*cking Don. My wife’s ****** smells like lasagna.” What a class act.

Another summer a few friends and I were feeling particularly charitable (and desperate) decided we would work in a Shriners call center. Life in a call center is a dark world full of guilt, depression, social ineptness, self-loathing and fear that someone will actually answer the telephone. Of course, I didn’t experience any of those things because I quit after three weeks, but one man did: Kurk. The first thing you might notice is that he spells his name with a “U” rather than the traditional “I”. If you met this short, stocky fellow, you would totally understand that the “I” is inappropriate and borderline illegal. I was lucky enough to train under Kurk. He taught me all I needed to know about being a telemarketer and a man. Kurk was a heavy set fellow in his early thirties who claimed to have been somewhat of an accomplished body builder. Sadly by the time we met him, it looked like his years of Shrining had caused his muscles to slowly atrophy. Regardless of his physical condition, Kurk was a world class smoker. In fact, all call center people are. We were given a five minute break every hour and the beeline to the door was astonishing. The office would clear out in less than three seconds. Kurk was always the first or second out for the cig and usually was the last to finish, but oddly, he never actually had any cigarettes. He always bummed them. It never failed. He would sometimes come up with elaborate intros before the request in hopes of throwing us off. I remember he told me that he had started bodybuilding because he wanted to quit smoking, but once he hit his peak, there was no reason not to smoke anymore, and therefore, I should bum him a cigarette. His tagline was “Can I get a cig?” Well, we changed it to “Can I get a Kurk?”

Ricky (fake name) from Wales was an interesting person. First of all, he might still in Korea or coming back soon, so I don’t want to be too rude or anything, but he knows he’s “interesting”. I taught with Ricky at my first school in Korea. He was slightly older and from the start, I noticed that he seemed to be a little into…well…men. But he wasn’t just a plain old gay guy. That wouldn’t be interesting. This guy acted pretty straight most of the time. He had girlfriends (he once claimed to have slept with over 200 woman…while sleeping…in an airplane…bathroom…from Wales to…London.) He worked out at the gym, drank loads of beer and smoked tons of cigarettes. He was a normal dude. Without having to go into details; I’ll just say that on many occasions he asked various male co-workers to go back to his place for drinks. In fact, he asked me that question my first night in Korea. I omitted that bit of info three years ago when I was detailing the arrival. Maybe I’m flattering myself though. Perhaps, that doesn’t sound that gay, but if you consider that he would usually make the suggestion to one person at 4am as everyone was walking home, then you might get a different idea.

One night, five of us were at an old favorite dive called Beverage Lab. We were drinking at a table and amidst the joking; Ben decided to ask a question: “Raise your hand if you didn’t **** a man’s **** in college.” It was quite a show stopper to say the least. I remember trying to collect my thoughts and form some sort of answer, but I was so stunned by the question that I too was only getting crickets. Pat, one of the more blunt members of the group, fired back with an “Uhhh…No!” Ben tried to cover himself with a few “Come on, guys”/“You were never curious” combinations, but they just didn’t stick. I wish I could say that was all, but I would be lying. Towards the end of his tenure at our old school, he started to develop a strange penchant for man-kisses. He would ask for kisses or if he could kiss a man. From that was born, “Do you want to kiss me? Do you?”

Terry from Korea is one of my favorites. This guy had breath that could peel the paint off a car and a job that would make a gimp feel lucky. Terry’s job was the “ass” of my old director. He had to do every horrible task that was asked of him. The highlights included brushing the directors hair, unlocking doors for drunk locked-out teachers, lining children up, dealing with every detail and problem that teachers had with their apartment and, of course, saying the word “Hey!”.

You see, Terry was born with only one eye and where the other should be, is nothing more than an oversized marble. Some speculate that it’s actually gobstobber. Since he can’t see very well and has candy in his eye socket, his ability to learn English has been seriously hindered. The director has gotten away with everything from locking him in a closet and force-feeding him to just spanking him when he doesn’t do as told.

One weekend, the school had a retreat to the mountains. We stayed in a pretty sweet cabin-type thing and cooked food and drank beer and soju. On the way up to the cabin, all the teachers AND Terry rode in a van together. I knew this was a perfect time to teach him some English. You know, a little time away from the boss. Well, I started with the basics and soon we moved to the more advanced stuff. I wanted to teach him another way to say “Let’s go!” His pronunciation was pretty rough, but he got through it and pretty soon he was yelling, “I have an erection!” for all the teachers to hear. He was my favorite student and certainly one of my favorite co-workers.


Sid said...

HA! I am still upset that I never met the infamous Kurk Rose. I still use his name all the time though. I am also a little disappointed that you didn’t mention anyone from PJ's, specifically Ben, Amy, Ernie or skank-stache guy. What a great summer!

The Clam said...

I was trying to remember Ernie, but I think Amy was the oddest.

Rmeis said...

Do you remember Kate, Don and Lauren's daughter?

I felt like I never got to work with you there, they always put Jay and one of us together. I feel like we worked there for a while, I remember we quit right before Halloween!