the Tonys and Cynthias of Morton Grove had never been anything more than Tonys
or Cynthias. They weren't comfortable being animals or closing their eyes and
picturing themselves walking on a beach or throwing imaginary balls to each other
that would, according to Thad's shouted orders, suddenly be "Heavy!"
or "Light!" They just wanted to serve drinks, beat up a drunk line crasher
or two, have some employee-discounted potato skins, and go home via the White
Hen Pantry to grab a twelve-pack of Hamms or maybe Blatz, drink it in the church
parking lot, if it was snowing, do a few doughnuts and maybe skitch a little,
zig zag back to their parents' house, stumble in the front door, tip over the
aquarium, shout "fuck," get in a fight with their mom about how much
they drink, pass out in the family room watching some movie with Dom Deluise,
probably the one where he's trying to kill himself but Burt Reynolds won't let
him, wait, Burt wanted to kill himself and Dom Deluise won't let him, wake up
to the sound of their father consoling their mother as she cries because she didn't
know her kid says "fuck," say sorry, heat up a waffle, and then go out
with Mitch to fix his truck. They didn't want to pretend they were all different
mechanical parts of a clock.
made up my mind then and there that when I became a full-fledged Dynamics Manager,
I wasn't going to humiliate my troupe.
was going to be hard.
I had to take charge of the club. The rule was that every twenty minutes, something
Big had to happen at The Snuggery. An event. A happening. Part of my job was to
schedule these events like, say, the Wacky Dance contest or the Free Drink Ticket
Hunt. And then I got to hold the portable spotlight for the break dancers, the
fire eaters, the jugglers, the professional lip synchers. Lip synchers
the party didn't die in between these events. Throughout the night, the deejay
was instructed to play certain songs that were cues for all the employees to do
somewhat choreographed, "fun" moves that would really get the crowd
going. For instance, that was the summer of both The Pointer Sisters' and Van
Halen's songs, "Jump." Whenever either of them sang "jump"
in the song, each and every employee in the place had to stop whatever he was
doing and jump up in place. "Jump!" Jump. "Jump!" Jump. Horrible.
Or, say, when the song "Freezeframe" came on, whenever the word "Freezeframe"
was sung, everyone had to freeze in place. "Freeze frame!" Hold it
move. "Freeze frame!" Hold it
move. It was particularly sad to
watch Tovar, the Armenian bus boy, participate in all of this. These special songs
were called Snug Tunes. And I had to make sure everyone who worked there performed
them. I was doomed.
to add to the horror, I did all this wearing the official Snug Outfit: Tuxedo
shirt, unbuttoned at the top but still wearing a wrap-around bow tie, and slick,
water-repellant, multi-zipper pocketed parachute pants.
first, things went along fine. I did my job well and actually believed I liked
doing it. And what's not to like? I could get anyone I wanted in to the club,
drinks were free, food was free, I'd get free tickets to the big summer "SnugFest"
with live bands and big name comedians. I was at the white-hot center of all things
hip and exciting in the world of Chicago nightlife. The problem was, I don't like
most things hip and exciting. That's a big something to realize when you're twenty-one.
And, then, evidently, re-learn every three years or so for the rest of your life.
Most of the alluring shiny objects that this job - and many later jobs - dangled
in front of me are things that most people really want. That's why they're there.
That's why they're offered. But over time, I inevitably realize that these things
repel me. And I never should have been there in the first place.
high school, I joked and cavorted my way into hanging with the cool
kids, only to realize, holy crap. The cool kids are idiots and,
in ten or fifteen years, are going to become sad drunks and, in
many cases, incredibly fat, especially Doug Gurtner. The same happened
a few years ago when, after attaining my goal to write for television
and trying to emulate the people who inspired me, the Carl Reiners
and the James Brookses, I looked around and realized, yeah, I used
to do some cool stuff, but yikes, I've spent the last five months
writing jokes for Ashton Kutcher. (Who's a very nice young man and
I wish him well in his life and career.) So when your heart checks
out, so does your brain. And I started to really, really suck at
my job. Because my job was dumb, the people I worked for were dumb,
the customers were dumb, and I wasted a good five minutes every
day just trying to figure out which zippered pocket I put my car
told my troupe that they only had to do the damn SnugTune routines if any of the
track-marked management crew happened to be in the bar, the doormen being my lookouts.
My troupe loved me for my lax dynamic managing, and I took pride in giving them
some of their pride back. No, Mr. Six-Foot-Seven Bouncer Man, you don't have to
wear the rubber Conehead thing while the poor barmaid plays ring toss on you.
Have a tiny piece of dignity this summer. But, soon enough, I knew word got back
that I was slacking off, because all of a sudden, when I got to work, I could
feel something had shifted. Something was in the air. That heavy sense of impending
unemployment. And once you get that stink on you, all your former buddies who
thanked you for "being cool" with all those forced antics quickly turn
away and shun you, making you, suddenly, persona Snug grata.
last straw, as I recall, was when I mis-scheduled either the Pajama Party Night
or the Love Connection Theme Night. Whichever it was, it didn't sit well with
Scarface and the rest of the drug cartel up in the hot tub. That night, Thad took
me aside, out into the alley behind the kitchen. He looked at me, eyebrows akimbo,
fired, aren't I?" I beat him to the punch. No one should have to go through
the agony of firing a friend. We both knew it was going to happen. I shouldn't
be here. I don't fit in. And I was absolutely fine with that.
True, I was released from an astoundingly soul-sucking job, but then again, the
upshot is I failed. People paid me to do something, I didn't do it well, and I
got fired. And getting fired doesn't feel good. What's more humiliating: Being
forced to wear my SnugOutfit, or being forced to not wear my SnugOutfit? I wasn't
going to miss the place, and yet I didn't feel great leaving. The rest of that
summer, I prepared to leave home for Hollywood, and spent my nights in dingy dive
bars, listening to Sinatra and "Dock of the Bay."
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