I’ll get to the part about Sam, it’s just by way of Robin Hood’s Barn.
First I have to explain how I came to be in Atlanta at all for that weekend. It’s a long story.
I graduated from undergrad in 1987 with a degree in theater. Acting to be precise. And about two weeks before graduation I realized that I SUCKED. Not just a little. I SUCKED BIG TIME!!! So I was out of school, out of work and had nothing on the horizon. So when my friend Julia asked if I’d like to come spend the summer with her in Kansas City I jumped at it. Her parents had moved there the previous spring and Julia didn’t want to spend the summer alone with no friends. So she asked, I said what the fuck, and there I was living in Kansas City, Kansas. Overland Park to be exact.
While I was there I had the worst job I’ve ever had in my life and I hope will ever have. It was called Flyboy where I was working but I just found it listed on the Internet as “jogger.” Basically I stood at the end of a printing press that was pringing newspaper advertisements and as the papers came out of the press I would grab them between my arms and jog them until they were nice and neat. I would then tie them up in to batches of 100 and put them on a pallet. A printing press is a VERY loud machine and so you need ear plugs to keep from going deaf. At the same time you couldn’t have headphones because you DID need to be able to hear incase the press needed to be stopped in the event of an emergency. At one point that summer the temperature was over 110 degrees. There was little AC and the sweat just dripped off me. I lost close to 40 pounds that summer. And the first two weeks the inner part of my arm bled constantly. It was disgusting. I did learn a lot about myself that summer. I learned that I can put up with just about anything if I know it’s not forever. I also learned that there are ways to make things a little bit stress free.
In the world of printing, the goal is to keep the press going as long as possible, printing the papers as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This is all well and good except that means there’s no time to stop and pee, or get a drink, or listen to the quiet. It’s just the endless drone of the machine pulling the paper through each roller as it adds it’s layer of ink and then cooling it and cutting it and then folding it so that I could jog the papers and place them on the flats. Sometimes, I learned, there were ways to have the press “breakdown.” If you happened to toss a tiny ball of paper onto the moving paper before it hit the cooler it would cause the paper to break. This is not an awful thing but it did give you time to take a breather and let you hear some quiet before it all started up again. I was taught to do that almost as soon as I started. I didn’t do it often but sometimes when a girl has to pee, a girl has to pee.
I probably would have only worked about three minutes at this plant if it hadn’t been for the end of my second day. I was in the locker room, back in a corner, changing when a couple of guys came in and began changing on the other side of the lockers. There conversation was light hearted and funny — until — One of the guys says, “How long you think the fat college kid will last?” And the other guy replies, “I give him till the end of the week.” And the original guy said, “He might last till the end of the week but there’s no way he’ll last more than two.” “I’ll bet you 20 bucks he’s gone by next Wednesday.” And they dressed and left and never knew that I’d heard them. And as I left the locker room, I knew that no matter how much this job sucked or how much I hated it, I was going to at least last till the end of the month just to prove them wrong. The day I quit I went up to the guy who had won the 20 bucks and told him I wanted my share. He didn’t know what I was talking about and then I explained that I’d heard the whole conversation and the only reason I’d stayed was so he could win his bet. So now I wanted my share.
I started June 1 and I quit at the end of September. By then I’d become friends with everyone I worked with. Tony the head press guy invited me to dinner with his family at least twice. There was a girl there, who liked me, that went with me to Royals games and to Worlds of Fun. And everyone seemed to like me. I quit because I was staying with my friend Julia’s parents and she’d left to go back to school and now it was just me and them and it was WEIRD!!!
I did do some theatre while I was there. I worked for The Barn Players. I discovered their offices in the local mall and signed up to volunteer. The next thing I knew I was on the crew for Noises Off and I was running the light board for Guys and Dolls. I missed the last performance of Guys and Dolls to leave to go back to Kentucky. I met some wonderful people out there. One of them, Lisa actually came home with me to Kentucky once. We had to stop every five minutes for her to smoke because I wouldn’t let her smoke in my car. The other girl Kathy had the biggest crush on me. The last time I was out there we made out in my car and she begged me to come up to her apartment. I told her that I couldn’t and by the time I left I think she knew what the score was. It was the closest I ever came to losing my virginity.
And the summer ended. On a September day I loaded up my car, and headed back to Kentucky. I’d quit my job, said goodbye to the theatre folk and thanked Julia’s parents for being so wonderful and I was on my way back to Kentucky with no job. I had no idea what was in store for me next.
Another example of Maddog’s leaps of faith.