I Don’t Want To Be The Neighborhood Idiot

I live in a Spanish style home in a decent neighborhood.  I feel safe enough at night that I sleep with the bedroom window open.  Sometimes I wake up to a breeze.  Sometimes I wake up to the neighbor’s dog barking.  Sometimes I wake up to the smell of rain.  I love the smell of rain, especially in the morning.  It reminds me of being a kid and sleeping in a house with married parents; a feeling of being whole and safe.
This was one of those rainy mornings.  I gripped the covers tighter and snuggled into the pillow a bit more.  My body became more dense and I sunk into the bed.

The rain called to me.  I stood at the window and watched it fall onto the tree.  I love hearing the rain hit the leaves over and over and I love watching the leaves rise in defiance again and again.  I love the sound of rain gathering on the roof and racing through the gutters toward freedom like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemtion.
I love the sight of the grass being watered by automatic sprinklers.  Wait… What?  Why are the lawn sprinklers coming on if it’s raining?  The automatic timer. That’s just stupid.  Wait.  If I think it’s stupid, what are the neighbor’s going to think?  Great, the neighbors are going to think I’m the idiot neighbor who waters his lawn in the rain and they’ll think that because, right now, I am the idiot neighbor watering his lawn in the rain.

I put my robe on and went to the back door to find a neighbor already staring at me from his yard.  He shook his head and before I could plead my case, he closed his door.  I hate that he’ll have the upper hand in all stare downs until I catch him doing something as stupid or stupider than watering your lawn in the rain.  He probably went outside to turn his off.  Preemptive strike, no doubt.
It’s then that I realize, I have no idea how to turn it off.  Not one clue.  Don’t even know where to begin.  I imagine there’s a big red lever on the side of the house labeled, “PULL THIS LEVER TO TURN OFF SPRINKLERS IN THE RAIN.”  I go look, but there’s no lever.  It was a rookie move on my part, and I’m sure he saw that, too.

I was doing so well in the neighborhood as being the guy with all the answers and remarkable abilities.  I helped the lady next door with some wires, the man across the street with some brush and assembled so many things in the backyard for my kids; I could accomplish any domestic task.  But now, light has been cast on a kink in my armor… sprinkler systems.  I could feel my neighborhood reputation shifting beneath me.
I imagined my neighbors would huddle together the next day, occasionally looking over their shoulders at me with disgust, whispering to each other and I’d only be able to pick up on hurtful words and phrases, “… sprinkler system … Chris … doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing … mountebank … “.

I feel a tiny presence approach.
“What’s going on, dad?” my 6-year-old asks.
“Nothing.  Do you want some breakfast?”
He doesn’t answer, only follows me to the front door.  I open it to look outside.
The neighbor across the street was already looking at me, shaking his head.
My son waves to him and yells, “Hi!” then he looks to me, “Why is the water on, dad?  Dad?  Did you know the water is on?  It’s raining, dad.”
“I know, son.  I know.”

Before I shut the door, I yell my excuse to the neighbor, “I’m renting!  Not my house!  I don’t control this!  The gardener – ”  I shut the door before I finish my sentence.  Why do I care what anyone thinks?  If I want to water my lawn in the rain, I’ll water my lawn in the rain.

“This isn’t our house, dad?”
“It is our house, son.”
“Then why did you say this wasn’t your house?”
“Because it’s not MY house, it’s OUR house.”
“We share it?”
“Yes, son.  We do.”
“Our water is on, dad.”
“I know.  I don’t know how to turn it off.”

We sat and had breakfast.  The sprinklers turned off.  The sun came out.

I heard sprinklers come on again.  I went to the back door.  It was my neighbor’s yard.  Ha!  I don’t know what’s worse, watering your lawn while it’s raining or watering it right after.  He came out and I shook my head at him.  It feels even.  He bent down, fiddled with something behind his bush and turned his sprinklers off. He shook his head right back and smirked, knowing that he’d won.  But wait… look at that!  He tripped on the steps; even had to put one hand on the ground.  Looks like I win. He steps inside his house but left his dignity on the back steps. “Straighten out your pajamas all you want and don’t look back because I saw everything,” is what I thought.

I imagined calling 9-1-1 and reporting the accident.  The fire department would show up at his door, “We heard someone fell.”
“No, it was just a little slip. I’m fine.”
“Well, sir, we heard there was a lot of crying and moaning. Mostly crying by a grown man. Like a six-month-old-baby-girl cry and we’re here to apply this band-aid.”
“I wasn’t crying and I don’t need a band-aid.”
I would show up unannounced, “I saw the whole thing.  He fell, started to cry then laid there until just now when you guys showed up. Could be in shock right now. I’d say it’s pretty serious.  You better take him to the emergency room.”  And away they would go.

I’d have the upper hand forever.

Bathroom Sex

I was on the road performing at a small town comedy club.  The show had just ended and I settled in at the bar to talk to fans and to share road stories with the female comedian that I’d just done the show with.  After a while, I excused myself and headed for the toilet.

I was just about to enter the tiny bathroom when I felt hands on my hips and a strange voice whisper in my ear.
“You’re mine, funny man.”
A strange woman pushed me into the bathroom and started unzipping my pants.
“Hello,” I said.
She locked the door.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“What’s it look like?” she responded.
“Is this how you say hello to all the guys you just meet?”
“You don’t want to know,” she said while assuming a catcher’s position.

Actually, I did want to know.  I have a paranoid brain.  I’m a quasi-germophobe.  Was this her first time doing something like this or was she always this careless?  Was the comedian from last week in her mouth?  She has her front teeth but I don’t remember looking for molars, did she have all of them?  It all happened too fast.  How’s her hygiene?  Should I be on the lookout for a jealous boyfriend/husband?  Who was this person?

She was sexy.  Long hair, pretty face, a size 5 with a full b-cup and a great smile.  I don’t remember seeing her in the audience but I do remember her eyeballing me at the bar after the show.  I didn’t go talk to her then because I had just gone through a break up.  Plus, I had gotten all the STD tests done and I wanted to be worry free for at least 3 months.  You know, clear my head, regroup and find my sense of self.

This sort of thing has happened before and I remembered driving home feeling cheap and easy those other times.  I don’t like that feeling.  My ego felt satisfied but I also felt that I’d lost or that I’d given up.  I’d lost control because it’s exciting to have someone need me so much that they’d do anything, even go so far as to ambush me in a bathroom.

But most importantly, did she was her hands?

I stopped her before I could feel her breath.
“Hey, I can’t do this”
“Huh?  Are you serious?”
“Yeah, sorry. I can’t do this with my girlfriend waiting at the bar.”
“Invite her in.” she joked.
I unlocked the door and summoned the female comedian from the bar.  She came over and I gave her a look that said, “please play along.”  I introduced them, “This is my girlfriend.  Girlfriend, meet lady from the bathroom.”
The comedian put her arm around my waist.
“You’re not trying to have sex with my boyfriend are you?”
“Oh my god, you two are together?  You’re a lucky girl and you’re very funny.”
“Thank you.  Can I have my boyfriend back now?”
She pulled me close, “You’re so irresistible.  Aren’t you, honey?”  then she french kissed my cheek and pinched my ass.  I guess I had that coming.  I had to pay for it somehow.  I can’t get anything from that can I?  The rest of the night I thought about which was better for my phobia, oral pleasure or a tongue on my cheek.  I checked for razor burn and didn’t see any breaks in the skin, so I assumed I was okay.

I imagine that I’d have let that stranger do what she wanted if she’d have whispered something different in my ear as she grabbed my waist.
She’d whisper, “I just washed my hands and haven’t touched anything dirty.  I also have sanitizer in my pocket just in case.”  She’d use her foot to push open the bathroom door, then she’d grab a paper towel and lock it.
“I don’t even know your name,” I’d say.
“My name is on the free clinic paper I have in my back pocket.  Go ahead, read it.  I’m clean.”
“But how do I know what you’ve done between then and now?” I’d ask.
She’d show me a time lapse video of her life from the moment she left the clinic to the moment she pushed me into the bathroom.  “You’re prepared,” I’d say.
She’d respond, “You never know when you’re going to meet a weirdo.”
“Touche.”

Sexually Harassed at 15 Years Old

I got my very first job at McDonald’s when I was 15. I liked it.  I liked the striped shirt, the red tie, the matching trucker hat and the grey slacks.  Many girls worked there, too, which I also liked.  I was constantly harassed… sexually.  I liked that, too… at first.

Early on, a red-haired female employee softly asked me, “Wanna see something?”  I was naive.  Very.  My ignorance of how inappropriate this was going to be was appalling.  Sure, I watched the sexual harassment video during orientation, but I took it literally.  Going by the video, I thought it was harassment only if your boss was unattractive and pointed at his zipper, whilst giving goo-goo eyes.  But this very thin, red-haired vixen was far from unappealing.  She was very pretty, which meant it wasn’t harassment.  It was going to be devilishly consenting.  As far as I was concerned, nothing could be more appropriate.

She nonchalantly led me to the back and asked, “Ready?”  And before I could say, “No.  I’m not,” she lifted up her shirt and beckoned, “Check this out.  It’s my six pack.  You like it?  You want to touch it?  It’s solid.”  I’m drawn to her like a bee to an open flower, but before I can feel her skin, she closed her shirt and said, “We can finish this later and we can touch whatever we want.”  I thought, “No. We can’t.  It was now or never and you blew it.”

That didn’t stop her, though.  It didn’t stop her friends, either.  I worked the grill in the back.  They worked the registers in the front.  When I’d lean over to clean the grill, they’d find reasons to go back there.  They had code phrases to let each other know my ass was front and center:  “Grill clean in back!”, “Sweet meat’s a treat!”, “Chris is bending over!”  I could feel their stare.  When I’d turn around, sometimes they’d applaud.  Sometimes, they just creepily ogled from the fry station, just standing there like Lenny and Sqiggy from the opening of Lavern & Shirley.  Every time I turned to give a disapproving look, they’d shoot kisses in my direction and air-squeeze my butt cheeks.  I didn’t mind that as much as I minded them directing me to turn back around and keep cleaning.  I was literally, “meat on the grill”, as they liked to say and I didn’t like that too much.

I couldn’t tell the manager about this problem.  She was a white lady that referred to me as, “Bean Head Rodriguez”.  What could I tell a racist lady that would say to me, “This is McDonald’s, Bean Head, so don’t go making tacos back there.”  I also  didn’t know that  her comments were racist. I thought they were funny and frankly, I still think they are. Just not the right time or place is all. My only choice was to just smile and play along.

Another employee sensed my unease and offered protection.  She was an Aunt Jemima type.  A bigger black girl with a friendly smile and a hole in the crack of her pants. Yes. A hole.  We called her ‘Shaka-Tonka’.
“Come stand next to me, Chris.  I’ll protect you.  You just keep me company back here at drive-thru and put these Happy Meals together for me.”

I obliged.  It was like I was in prison and finally found protection after so many months of torment in the showers.  When the red head and her friends would look in my direction, Shaka would yell at them.
“You leave this nice young man alone!  Go on!  Get!”
They’d giggle and scurry away to the registers.

I grew to trust my new protector.  We talked and laughed a lot.  Then one day, it got really busy at drive-thru.  Shaka was slammed but I was fast enough that I could still talk and do my job.  Shaka couldn’t keep up, though.  I kept talking and distracting her.  “Be quiet, Chris.  I have to concentrate.”  I kept talking.  Her frustration mounted, “Chris, please do something to help me!  Can you get more Happy Meal toys?”  I kept jabbing, “So, what you’re saying is, you’re slow.  Because, I’m able to do my job – ” She interrupted, “Chris, you better shut up.”  I continued, “I’ll shut up so you can keep being slow?”  She snapped, “Shut up, Chris!  SHUT UP BEFORE I MAKE LOVE TO YOU!!”  I was in shock.  Everything went black after that.  I really don’t remember the rest of that day.  One thing is for sure, I shut my mouth.

I was left with nowhere to run for safety. I was a minnow in an ocean of sharks.

In the days that followed, I thought seriously about quitting.  But what would I say?  I imagined myself walking into the office, “Excuse me, manager lady?  I’m no longer feeling comfortable at work.”  She’d say, “Que paso, Bean Head?  Your chones too tight?”  I’d reply, “I don’t want to have sex with anybody here.”  I imagine that a huge grin would swell across her face, “Well, let’s just see if I can’t change your mind about that,” and she’d lock the door behind me.  With a lump in my throat, I’d muster one last plea, “I recognize those goo-goo eyes from the video and it said you’re not allowed to do this.”  She’d try to calm me by saying, “Close your eyes then, Cabeza de Frijole, and you won’t see a thing.”  Her finger would stitch my lips and she’d command, “Shhhh.  Just let it Mchappen.”

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