Chandler, Arizona, United States
There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .
Me and Tim and The Week From Hell
with love from CRS @ 10:06 AM
this entry brought to you by michael jackson, "man in the mirror"
My best friend as a kid until I was around 15 was a guy named Tim. And as we were growing up, Tim and his cousin would go to his rich uncle's house to do chores, and would come home with 200, 300 dollars. "All we did was paint a fence!" he would say. "It was so easy! And we each got 200 dollars!" And when you're 13, 200 dollars is an insane amount of money. To top it off, Tim's uncle would often buy him a game of his choice, and with the 200 dollars he got for the chores, he would come home with three games for us to play. "You've got to come with us one of these days. It was so easy. It was so fun."
It was July of 1994, in El Paso, TX. It was 115 degrees that day, a brutal El Paso summer day, no breeze, just death. Tim had called me telling me his uncle had a job for us, and also, would I like to housesit his mansion with him? Oh my god, he said. This is going to be a crazy amount of money.
There we were, standing in Uncle Rick's front yard. "Do you see that pile of lumber right there? Well, I need you guys to move it to the backyard." He was doing some renovating on the home and would be going on vacation later in the afternoon, so the ton of lumber-- literally a ton, in various lengths-- needed to moved. Today. In the boiling hot summer day.
"Don't worry, Chris," Tim said. "We're going to be getting so much money for this. It's going to be awesome."
The day was brutal. It was horrendous. Tim and I were scrawny teenagers, hardly the kind of working men-- who would probably have gloves, might I add-- who you would want doing this job. We sweat more than I knew the human body could sweat. We sweat so much we ran out of sweat. Eventually his uncle came out with a gallon of water which we immediately downed. "That number needs to be in by 3," he would keep telling us, because that's when the family was leaving.
"Don't worry, this is going to be worth so much," Tim would repeat. It became a mantra. I'd turn to Tim after we dropped a plank of wood.
"How much are we going to get paid?" I'd ask.
"SoI much," he'd answer.
Or one of us would lose our balance from exhaustion and stand there for a moment, trying to right ourselves.
"Its going to be soI worth it," he would say between breaths.
We did manage to get the entire ton of wood moved from the front yard to the backyard and almost exactly at 3 o'clock, insane from exhaustion. The family was packed up and ready to go, and Uncle Rick gave us the instructions. His house was indeed a mansion-- I don't know what exactly defines a mansion and what defines a large house, but whatever the distinction is, the place was enormous and had six or seven rooms total and several bathrooms, although we only had access to the ground floor, which had two guest rooms. We could do whatever we wanted! But we couldn't leave the house after 8 pm because that was when the alarm armed, and he didn't want to give us the code because we might leave and forget to turn it back on. We couldn't go upstairs because he was having the house re-roofed, and the entire upstairs was covered in plastic to keep it out of the elements. But all the food was ours! We had a swimming pool! We could watch any of the tapes we wanted!
After they left and we took a nap on the couch, we woke up exhausted and decided the best thing to do would be to watch his giant screen television. Unfortunately, there was no cable, and if the tv picked up antenna signals, we couldn't figure out how. Perhaps he'd had it turned off knowing he'd be gone for a week? Maybe something about the renovations necessitated it being turned off? Perhaps he had such a complicated set up that we couldn't figure out which combination of remotes would turn it on? We weren't idiots, though, and every teen knows how to figure out how to do simple things like "make TV display images", and try as we might, all we got was snow.
His uncle had referenced a huge collection of videos, but when we looked, it was entirely Barney videos and other things meant for the under four crowd.
"He has a TV up in his bedroom," he said. "Maybe the real movies are up there."
We climbed the stairs and everything was a plastic museum of plastic hallways, with only enough room to walk through sideways. Sure enough, we could spot a whole wall of VHS movies, but try as we might to find a way in, it was impossible without tearing our way through and exposing the room to the elements. There was a giant TV sitting there, and there wasn't a goddamn thing we could do with it.
We tried the pool. Although his house was a mansion, he did not exactly have a regulation size pool, and it didn't go past 4 feet deep. Have you ever tried to have fun in a pool, just two dudes? In a pool, by themselves? Knowing no one is coming? Knowing no one will ever come? And it goes no deeper than your belly button? When the TV was a bust, we thought most of our time would be spent out here, but within a half hour we were just staring at one another. Was this fun? Were we getting anything out of this? We got out of the pool after that initial half hour, and never went back in.
Which left us the computer. There was a brand new top of the line computer in the guest room, some amazing piece of machinery that was, gasp! A Pentium or something. And when I booted it up I was totally unsurprised that it had absolutely nothing on it. I could access the bbses I frequented because I knew how, but chatting with friends while he stared at the screen was unfair to Tim. Tim's Uncle had a prodigy account to access email and absolutely nothing else; the only reason I could access the bbses I frequented was because I knew phone numbers to dial into, but as for accessing the Internet at large, such as it was at the time, there was nothing.
Tim's Uncle had a single cd-rom of the encyclopedia, and 600 megs isn't much of an encyclopedia, and also a cd-rom about every exhibit at the San Diego zoo. These discs obviously came with the computer, and you got the idea he only owned a computer because rich people had computers, because he had done literally nothing with it but check his email. He didn't even have windows installed on it.
I called up my mom. I had bought a copy of Doom a few weeks prior, but it didn't run on our puny 386. She brought the copy of Doom over. Over the week we beat the shit out of Doom. And, I kid you not, we clicked through and read every single entry of the encyclopedia, and every single entry for the disc from the San Diego Zoo.
Our schedule for the week proceeded thusly: We would wake up, cook. The one benefit was that Tim's uncle had a giant kitchen, and it was stocked plentifully, with an entire room the size of my whole kitchen just for storing food, and neither of us were idiots about cooking, so we would cook for ourselves, although there were plenty of frozen meals for us as well. After cooking we went to the computer room and there we would stay, playing Doom until we beat it again, then we would load the educational CDs into the drive and continue from where we left off until we got hungry, then we'd eat, play Doom, and repeat until we were too exhausted, and we went to sleep. For the whole week.
Initially we thought about sleeping in separate beds, but the bed in the other guest bedroom was an uncomfortable twin, whereas the one in the computer room was a nice comfy King. We tried building a wall of pillows to separate us, but that left us with so little room on our individual sides, we just decided that we were comfortable enough with one another to just sleep in the same bed, with nothing between us, please try not to kick me. Then we'd get up and repeat the process, at various points going poop in the hallway bathroom, and that was our entire week. Our entire goddamn miserable week.
Tims Uncle came back on Saturday, and he happily thanked us and told us about the trip and all sorts of shit we didn't care about as we stood there, bleary eyed.
"Uhm, Uncle, we'd uh… We'd like to get paid now?" Tim said as politely as he could.
"Oh! That's right! Here." He reached into his wallet and handed Tim 32 dollars, telling him to split it amongst us.
Sixteen dollars each. Sixteen. Goddamn. Dollars.
I stared at the money on my hand, unbelievingly. My eyes went up to Tims. What the fuck, they were saying.
Tim was a quiet guy, very non confrontational, very little talkback or sass from him. Yet there he stood, slackjawed, and he said "Uncle, I don't understand. This is all you're giving us? Thomas and I once pulled weeds for you and got paid 100 bucks. We painted your fence and got 200. We brought in all that lumber, a whole ton, and we're just getting 16?"
"Well Tim," he said. "You're what, 15 now? You're almost men. It's time to start paying you what real men get paid."
What real men get paid. What Tim's Uncle did was he spent too much on his vacation and his remodeling and his whatever the fuck else, and instead of getting some Mexicans outside of Home Depot to do it, each which would have wanted at least 25 dollars an hour, and over four hours, that would have been two hundred dollars, he got his nephew and his stupid friend to do it. And instead of saying "You're right Tim, I'm a little low on money right now, I'll see your mother next week and give the rest to her then," he just decided to fuck us because he could. Oh, and the house sitting, that goddamn dreary, mind-deadening job where we did nothing but stare at a computer screen listening to the mating calls of the macaque and memorizing every inch of Doom? That was a freebie. We should be happy to have access to a pool and goddamn nothing else, even though the apartment complex we came there from had an actual swimming pool that we could swim in, as opposed to just wading around for a half hour before we got bored!
It's been 25 years since then, and I'm still bitter about it. What an asshole.