Six Month Job

by m.s.wardrip

Remembering what I can, I will chronicle the time I took a six month job, 
out-of-state, in a midwest American city with a population of over one million. I worked for a telecommunications company installing systems.
Videez

March 1986, arriving at the job site after a night in a nearby hotel, I was accepted by the Supervisor and his wife, Deb and Dave. He said I was a good man. I think it was the red checkered long sleeve western style shirt with pearl buttons that did it. I went to work early the next morning at 7am. I was issued tools, assigned passwords, numbers, documentation and successfully completed the safety training course. I was educated on what was expected on the job. From the first, I knew this was a good job.

First there was Deb and Dave, then the assistant, Myron. The company guy that would come up from corporate was named the Colonel. We worked in crews of two to everyone in the entire crew. There were about thirty of us on average. Some people were transient workers who only stayed a short while. Others were full time. We paired up in motel rooms or rented apartments with a group of four or more. A few stayed in campers and some moved in with girlfriends or boyfriends. We had several couples who lived and worked together. I had three girlfriends in the time I lived and worked there. One girl, I brought from home. We lived in a small camper in a campground on the outskirts of town. The other two girls worked at the company our crew was installing the new telephone and computer cables and equipment for. They were Becky, Darlene and Marilyn. I liked Pam who lived with James. At first, I lived in an apartment with Rusty, Ken, James, Richard and a guy named Henry lived in his pickup camper in the parking lot. Correction: Henry slept in his pickup camper in the parking lot and the rest of the time he stayed in the apartment with us… not paying rent. We paid rent and let him stay there and use our shower, kitchen, phone and TV. Henry eventually moved his girlfriend in and bought a bunch of groceries for her to cook. He demanded that we all chip in on the groceries. We were all accustomed to eating out and refused to pay for their groceries. They were angry with us. We all moved out… and so did they.

Others on the job were Jim and Regina, two brothers, Brian and Brad, Frank, Dlorah(Harold backwards), Scott, Jay, Tim, Kathy, Juwanda, Louise and Bob. Terry sold pot to everyone. Terry was a professional bowler. Myron was a local farmer. Tim was a trucker with a very long braided pony tail. He called it his conversation piece. I think he was from Tennessee. Brian and Brad were the rad brothers. They partied, drank and smoked more pot than anyone. They drank beer and and sang, “What’s the best tuna? Tuna by the pool.” Everyone was from somewhere, mostly the same state I am from as that’s where the headquarters is located. I remember it was on a large, picturesque horse farm. Deb and Dave were from Lorain, Ohio(Cleveland), Henry from Horse Cave, Kentucky, James from Frenchburg, Dlorah from Middleburg, James and Regina were from Hazard, Kentucky. Rusty was from Independence, Kentucky(near Cincinnati) I was four hours Southwest from there at my home and two hours Northeast of there to the job site. Mark(Dlorah’s boyfriend) was from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I also worked with him in New York City and then Framingham, Massachusetts.

The first month was fairly uneventful, then we all started congregating at a local regular’s watering hole called Zeno’s Bar and Grill. Zeno’s played oldies very loud. “Hang on Sloopy”, “The Twist”, “Good Lovin”, “Spooky”, you get the idea. Beer was flowing and bonds were forged, relationships were started and ended at Zeno’s. I used to walk there after work, it was so close, get beer drunk and wobble back to my car, sleep it off and then drive home. I was careful to not get a DUI Driving Under The Influence charge. I succeeded!

As I got to know people, things started happening. We were having drinking/smoking parties at different people’s houses. Many went home on the weekends and I did that a lot too. I just wanted to keep moving. I had a lot of fun on the job and in the off hours, but in real life, I had my share of disasters. Most were my own undoing but some came our of left field and took me by surprise. Like the time I was getting ready to pull out across Broad Street, a four-lane, when a passing motorist flagged me out, that is to say motioned to me that it was ok to pull out. I did pull out… and right into the side of a brand new Corvette Stingray. The pointed nose of my car hit squarely on his right rear passenger side wheel hub, smashing the beauty ring on the chrome mag wheel rim. There was no visible damage to his car, but mine had a smashed nose. Within seconds a policeman pulled up and started asking questions. The guy in the Corvette said he just wanted to leave, no complaints. I told the policeman that someone flagged me out. He said describe the car and I did. He took off in a hurry after it and said, “You guys have a good day.”, and sped away in pursuit of the flagger car. Apparently that is an offense in that city to flag someone out which caused an accident. I don’t know, but I sure felt lucky with just a little damage and no insurance claim. I’m not sure now, if I even had any insurance. That sometimes happened when there was a lack of my payments. Being thirty-five and single was very difficult in that being irresponsible forced me to be responsible.

Soon, I was dating. The first girl picked me up at work by walking up to me in the hall and saying, “I’ve been watching you. I think we might click. Wanna take me to the County Fair tomorrow night? I’m free.”, so I said yes and soon we were eating cotton-candy and riding Ferris Wheels together. It didn’t take long and she said come spend the night. When I showed up at her apartment as per her directions, she giggled and told me to follow her. We went behind a two story house and she climbed up a trellis to the roof and motioned for me to do the same. In my giddy fun date mode, I scrambled up the trellis too. She took us around to the front of the house and we climbed in a window to her apartment. She explained that she was behind on her rent to her two Jewish brothers landlords, who had placed a padlock on her door, barring her admittance until she paid her back rent. Needless to say we spent that night in bliss and quite a few more nights as well. She moved up into a nice brick neighborhood to a townhouse. She moved up in apartment rank and soon she was dating my higher-ranking co-workers. I flew to Daytona Beach once to meet her and we spent a few days there. It was hard to say goodbye at the airport. The reason? I knew I would never see her again. She was a party-girl. I did see her again and drove her and her daughter to Kentucky to party there with my friend. I left her at my friend’s as she was already in his arms kissing and hugging. I hitchhiked drunk and got a ride with a beautiful country-girl blonde who gave me a ride to a friend’s house in the middle of the night. She almost gave me some in the driveway. Almost, but she asked me if she was pretty and when I said yes and kissed her, she said she had to get back home to her husband and family. I thanked her and never saw her again. I never saw Darlene again, either. My friend Kenny, kept her for a month or so. Then, she was off with some other guys. She was divorcing her Cookie Company route driver husband and taking her twelve year old latch-key girl with her. She was not a very good Motherly example and when I pointed that out, she became furious. That was when she started kissing Kenny. Come to think of it, Kenny never did thank me for introducing that girl to him. Well, I hope he had fun. That girl used men to get her way. If she needed her car tuned up, she tuned up the mechanic. If she needed her income boosted, she boosted her financier. If she needed her plumbing fixed, she fixed the plumber. It was just barter. Anymore I say would be judgemental. Let’s just say Darlene was a busy girl.

The funny part is that I was dating two other girls besides Darlene. Becky lived in my hometown and I would drive home most weekends to spend a few days with her. Back on the job, I dated two girls who worked in the same place, different offices on different floors, but they knew each other. Marilyn was a bubbly and plump girl, always laughing, smiling, being a happy, hardworking, single, divorced mother to three rowdy boys. I remember the kids were really into wrestling to the point of being a destructive menacing force in the neighborhood. They bullied other kids and threw rocks at school busses. When our relationship soured, she padlocked my scant belongings in her shed and wouldn’t let me have them until I called the Sheriff to assist me in moving out. She had a beautiful blonde friend I really like too, but we didn’t click. Later, I found out the friend was married and pregnant with yet another co-worker. She was around forty. He was eighteen and from another state. I wonder how that worked out.

It was a big city. I got mixed up in the bar scene. The suburbs were cool. The downtown clubs were dangerous. I remember walking down some city side street off the main drag and here comes this thirteen or fourteen year old coming at me with a little switchblade knife telling me he’s going to kill me because I don’t belong on his block. I called him a little shitass and told if he came near me I would tear his head off. He stayed back, and I believe I would have hurt him bad if he even tried it. Glad that never happened. They used to ask me in the men’s room if I had any “Scag” (Heroin) I laughed and said, “I’m a stoner/drinker, no powders.” They would still ask. These guys were street junkies who would rob you at the first opportunity. I was wise to them and kept my wits about me even while our drinking by myself. That’s where I met the craziest people. Circus-type crazy, outfits, antics, not to prove anything, no attitudes and no drama, just getting stoned and playing, pretending, acting out fun parts, they were. I wonder how that worked out.

The place we worked was quasi-government think tank. They had developed as a joint team, the glue on the back of postage stamps, Xerox copying, Lasers, the tiles on the space shuttles, Fibre Optics, ways to discard nuclear waste safely, and many more discoveries and achievements. It was a lot of scientists, engineers and technicians that made this institute work. I also wonder how that worked out. Espionage was a topic of which everyone there was aware of. We were all looking at each other wondering if the other was a Russian spy. In fact, one time on the fifth floor as I walked around looking over the job of pulling cables through the floors, a gentleman came right up to me and point blank asked me if I was a spy because I certainly looked mysterious. I told him I wouldn’t know where to start being a spy, that I could barely hold down a minimum wage job. He laughed. There was also a guy I had a beer/lunch with from the maintenance department. We never talked about work. He told me he hated his life and the only good thing that ever happened was the beer/lunch we had. We talked about places he had been when he was young. He liked to travel, but never did, always at home, watching TV. I wonder if he ever did go anywhere.

There was Ken, a co-worker from Michigan. Wayne, I believe was the town’s name. He said in his backyard was a tree they called the Piss Oak because that’s where all the guys urinated when they were drinking beer back there. He said that was a part of the yard you just don’t go around. It smelled pretty bad. He said the old tree died, but when it fell over, they just left it and now, they still piss on it. Someday the old Piss Oak will be gone and nothing left except the stench and no grass. Then again, the good news is, the beer and barbeque is on the other side of the yard.

We had some doozy parties. One time we had a company softball team, boys, girls, and none of us could play very well. We played against the company we worked for and beat them every time. They were beer games where the losing team bought the beer for the party. Those were some good times. I got to hug and kiss all the girls. Mmmmm. We all got smashed and had fun laughing and waking up with hangovers and with a group effort, all made it to work. Yes, the boss partied with us, so it wasn’t so bad. He understood what we went through to get to work. He appreciated our loyalty and said we were one big happy family on the road working and playing together. He was a good coach and boss. We got along good and said our goodbyes at the end of a long and successful project. He even chose me for the next project in the same town, the State University, a massive undertaking of over one hundred buildings.

My pickup truck broke down and I had it towed in. They wanted thousands to fix it. I called the credit union where I borrowed the money to purchase it and told them to come and get it, that I was not going to spend one more penny on that truck. They said, it doesn’t work like that. We’ll auction it an you’ll owe the rest. Twenty years later they sued me for $25,000 and won. It forced me into bankruptcy. No statute of limitations because the lawyers filed it every year unbeknownst to me, no bills, no calls. Blindsided! Wow!

I used to hunt arrowheads in the fields around ther and I actually found some. There was an old ancient Indian Cavern near there that is awesome. We also went to a fishing lake where they swam on one end and fished on the other. Both ends were good places to be. Concessions in the middle. Pretty girls everywhere.

It’s not okay to just say anything, I know, but when it comes to locker room talk, there’s no easy way to say it. We were fresh meat in the meat market, the co-workers and I. We were in demand as sex toys. Everyone was getting laid. Somehow it became camp to seduce the telephone crew. People were doing it in janitor closets at work. Many married people’s cars were in the parking lot until late at night, when they got off early in the afternoon. There were weddings, abortions, breakups and one lasting love affair, the last I heard. I’m guessing it was all the necessary demographics coming together in a huddle. Wives were leaving their husbands for bearded guys with a leather tool pouch and a good beer/pot buzz. Husbands were leaving their wives for tight-jeaned, girls from out of town, with no reputation to uphold and single! We were all in the thirty to forty age range. We were all ready and willing to get it on. I think nature was giving us a second chance at romance, or something like that. I know one thing for certain, life perpetuates itself by reproduction and reproduction is what was taking place, naturally. Clean fun, dirty fun, nature doesn’t care as long as a baby gets born. That’s all Mother Nature is concerned with. Your morality is up to you. My morality was at an all time low and I wallowed in it.

My male roommate, Rusty, asked me one day if I would go on a double date with him and his girlfriend and her girlfriend. I was suspect and then he showed me a picture of his date and she was gorgeous. He said he met her in an office and asked her out. she said only on the condition that he find her a date for her girlfriend so we could double date. I said okay and the girls came to pick us up. Rusty’s date was white and my date was black. I’m white. Rusty took us to a Toughman Contest with a bunch of yelling rednecks in an auditorium. My date was the only black person in the thousands of white people. There were more fights in the audience than in the ring. It got worse when I looked over and saw Rusty with his upper class date, her head in a headlock as he choked her and put noogies on her head. She was furious! Afterwards, Rusty took us to a Country and Western bar. We didn’t fir in very well and when the girl wanted to dance, I told her my feet hurt too bad. she was not happy. She was even not happier when she wanted a goodnight kiss and I shook her hand. It was an awful, uncomfortable date. Rusty and I never saw either one of the girls again.

I bought a tag-a-long camper from a scientist there. He kept it in his driveway at home until I made the last $100 payment on the $700 total price. His lovely wife came out of their nice suburban home to say goodbye to the little “Scotty” camper. She told me of wonderful trips the family had taken. I felt like I was taking her memories with me. I assured her the camper would be put to good use and that there would be many more adventures. She kissed it goodbye and I proudly pulled away with my future home in tow. I pulled it to Kentucky and back to a State Park where I rested comfortably for a couple of days. Back at work I found a little campground just West of town, ran by a little old lady. It was a nice old Victorian brick three story home in the front by Broad Street and behind was the campground. They could accommodate a dozen or so campers. One big bus parked permanently there was a mother and daughter from up North somewhere. The bus was a very expensive Bluebird Motorcoach. My little camper was twelve feet long and about five feet wide. The Bluebird had many rooms and amenities. My little “Scotty” had one room with small everything. I remember how good it felt to hike over to the shower house on a brisk cold morning to get a nice hot shower in a clean little stall. That was luxury to me. The rent was thirty dollars per week, payable at the front door of the house, in cash for a small handwritten receipt. She was always cordial and encouraged us all to keep to ourselves to avoid trouble. I found that odd in that most campgrounds encourage camaraderie and activities among guest campers. Ha! Not here! Keep to yourself! After a month or so, I moved in my little girlfriend from Kentucky who kept me warm on many a cold Winter night. We had electric heat, which kept us toasty and warm. There really was absolutely nothing to do at the campground, not even picnic tables and grills, nothing except a parking space and utility hookup. So we sat in the middle of a freezing field and watched our little color TV. One other memory that stands out. There was a payphone by the road on a pole. Nothing else for a mile in each direction. I stayed there until she left and then moved in with the guys in an apartment in town.

You should know, I ate out Chinese a lot. “Dung Ho” I believe it was on West Broad Street. Moo Goo Gai Pan is what I always had. So good! I can’t cook and so I never have. On the road eating out is just so convenient. Expensive, yes, easy, yes. What else? I joined the company credit union. I had beautiful girls hitting on me at work. They nicknamed me “Silver Fox” for chasing the girls. I got drunk and offered my girlfriend to the corporate supervisor that came to visit and party. That was on a Friday night. Monday morning I was transferred to Chicago, where I went and worked with many of the same crew. They grouped we partiers up and shipped us to Chi-town. It didn’t bother us, we were on an adventure of a lifetime. Chicago had a whole new breed of women. From Chicago, we went to New York City, St. Louis and Nashville.

One or two last memories…

Jim was from Eastern Kentucky as was his plump little girlfriend, Regina, both with Southern accents that could not be mistaken. She didn’t like me much because Jim and I were drinking buddies. Jim was a hard-scrabble, roughneck kind of guy, half Jerry Lee Lewis and half Hank williams Sr. We usually drank at trendy little bars where beer was cheap, but sometimes we’d get a wild hair and buy a bottle of bourbon and go seedy bar hopping. That’s where we got in trouble. I woke up in Jim’s sofa with a broken nose and busted up knuckles. My head hurt. Jim said he and I cleaned out the bar. That is to say, we beat up everyone in the bar and left victorious. He said they respected Kentuckians, now. I don’t even remember going there.

One last hilarious memory… The buildings we pulled miles and miles of electrical telephone cable wire through were massive. Many floors, many offices and many long hallways. One such very long hallway had a marble floor which made for an echoing sound. As I was on my knees feeding a cable down through a manhole in the floor. I heard a lady come out of the Ladies Room behind me. I never saw her, but I heard her every move. In that glass and stone corridor, the sound of high heels was unmistakable. They started off as a normal “Clip, Clop, Clip, Clop” and as I kept working on the cable with her and the long hallway to my back, she was out of sight. All of a sudden she went “Clip, Clop, Clip, Clop… Phutttttttt!!!!” Then she trippled the speed as she went out of hearing range… “Clippity, Cloppity, Clippity, Cloppity!!!” Oh, I just sat their and smiled at her embarrassment. I will never know who she was, but she knows I heard her fart. I was just glad it was her instead of me. “Clip, Clop, Clip, Clop, hahaha!!!”

Yes it was a nice six month job. I made a few home-runs. One thing I learned from this adventure, roll into town with a song, do some work, have some fun, make some friends, leave out of town with a song. Don’t let any moss grow on your feet, don’t do the scag and don’t believe it when they say,
“All three of your girlfriends are outside the door… with guns!”

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