Written April 19, 2016
If I asked myself how I felt about a subject, and just wrote, what would come of it? This. So these are deep thoughts as they came to me about a serious subject. The jokes are because I can’t discuss anything like an adult:
My sun-burned unease at my part-time employment was given a fresh rub today, which I will return to at the tail end of this admittedly looping circle of thought. Caffeine is my life raft, as I write, to steer me towards the morning light, and this is my amusing sea shanty to pass the time. Pay it no mind.
These concerns must merely confirm I have a post-modern pulse, I would say, if I were indeed cynical. But I believe this (is anxious too strong?) simmering rather reaffirms my Americanness, beyond baseball and the love for my import. This alternate take is only slightly less acidic.
So let me start with my own Good News, Adam Smith-style, and the Unseen Hand’s recent handiwork, which happily finds me on the three-nights-a-week dole. My Turnbridge moonlighting lets the neighbors and federal bureaucracy know I haven’t fallen down a well, and the work as support staff for the rehab organization for wealthy young men pays enough to bail at the same rate my credit cards flood. All good things! And I have intimately acquainted myself with a gorgeous, 60-mile, Mobil-and-Subway-strewn stretch of I-95 along the Long Island Sound.
I will endeavor to continue to strike this note of goodwill by describing the average New Haven night. Yet before I have even left quaint Mystic in my story, my new best friend (thank you, Melatonin!), it should be noted, has allowed me to contort a sleep schedule that commences around 2:30 pm– unless it doesn’t, and we’re talking closer to five. That’s on me. And the sun.
The best part has to be the drive west, that lasts about an hour and a half (because of my best talent, a dread of being late). By 10:20 pm I’m on the road, fortified into remaining conscious amid the dark with radio broadcasts of a glittering version of the Cubs (currently 10-3), a Spotify account with stretch marks, and the odd podcast about presidents. Tonight’s was about James Buchanan, because you wanted to know.
My day starts at midnight. I ask the departing, disinterested 22-year old staff member of that particular night, “anything to know?” The question feels wooden and impersonal leaving my mouth, like a “brah” or “you fantastic son of a bitch, you” should be tacked on, but I think better of it. Anyway, I’ve learned to proactively ask my three words, although you could bet real money the answer will land on the 22-year old’s own three words: “Nah, peace out.”
With that stirring turnover one of many I have, over time, moderated my initial staff contributions for the night. Now on the clock, my first task, while monitoring the on-site video feeds, is be to dig into a Subway chicken six-inch and that night’s episode of politics-cum-Siskel & Ebert show, With All Due Respect. This scenario is not the goal of any rational employee when interviewing for a new job, and I can’t help but feel the fast-food deli sandwich in question gets washed down with a bit of shame (and Monster Energy Ultra Red).
At most you would witness a young male client lumbering to the bathroom, to take a break from Fallout for cereal or a smoke. It might be a clue that I’m writing this treatise, an equivalent to twiddling my thumbs at now 3:56 on a Tuesday morning. My point is you begin to plan for the gaps, the lull. Because there’s lull, baby! And I realize all empathy suddenly drained from the average reader.
What about the non-gaps, you say? My main task is every hour to check the beds of no more than 17 clients, (2-3 to a room), to make sure the corresponding bodies reside there. It can stand as a joke that I am surrounded by these blissful, medicated slumberers. This, my prime function requires six minutes, tops. I have become very efficient, you see. And thus the better to… Say, have watched all of that YouTube thing yet? You know, that ten minute analysis of who Rey’s parents really are? No? Sweet.
Before Ant-man plays a violin for me, Turnbridge does hold me to other professional expectations. I do some laundry of cleaning rags, the a few dishes, the collect the equivalent trash of a small, under-performing Kinkos, and for a grand finale I sweep a handful of rooms. The first few nights on the job, in January, I didn’t know any better than to be all-proactive, busting through my chores like an Olympic maid. And then two o’clock would strike, and I settled in to entertaining my eyelids by watching the corner stoplights change from the living room window. Now I am a three-month veteran, wise to saving that cleaning stuff from the Dark Time, that murky stretch from 3:30-5:30 am. Because man, if you can make it to six o’clock you’re golden like the slowly rising sun.
I complete my tasks every time. I know because I have outsourced that responsibility from my memory to a stack of yellow Post-Its. Check the dishes. Check the three am rounds. Each new small mark in a box says “I’m productive,” “I’m part of the labor force,” and “This ensures there is Nature Valley bars for breakfast.” I was advised to get a feel for the place, treat the old Victorian girl as mine; and so I think she appreciates when I dust to classical in the pre-dawn, swifter the old floorboards, and survey several high-def monitoring devices. On the whole it’s not unlike guarding a naval vessel harbored in her home port of Virginia, or I would think, being a member of T.A.P.S. The single “this is not a drill” moment came two weeks ago when a kid snuck out to pick up a pizza delivery at the street. It was all like a beautiful, frantic Haley’s comet going out the back door.
The Comet’s mortal safety was never really in question that Saturday night. But that’s why I do it. Well, that and 200 Washingtons a week. Because Capital One and their $500-limit credit cards won’t be the master of me. How long will Turnbridge be in my labor sphere– who’s to say? It’s actually tearing up the All-Time Employed rankings as well speak. Will it overtake the Civilian Circuit Champion, Ashley Furniture, who reigned from mid-2007 to early 2008? The Golden State Warriors just reminded us last week that all records eventually fall.
But when it is all said and done, Turnbridge has afforded me a fantastic opportunity I could never repay. It is the Part-time Island I’ve been searching for since casting about the I’m-Choosing-to-Be-Domestic Sea since December 2014.
But what shimmery delights are just over my islands horizon? Eight miles to west is the siren, General Dynamic-Electric Boat, that eternal tease. I’ve never had such a history with a company that hadn’t said “You’re hired.” This dance had now turned to a mid-decade medley, the newest refrain being a call I received yesterday. If I am another Charlie Brown then boat painting is my newest football. There it is, glossy in the sun. And I realize, rushing forward again, that the stirring of hope and possibility is intrinsically wedded to the act itself.
With this excellent sports metaphor I finished my above thoughts, just before six. And then the fumble. As best as I can tell a new morning staffer should walk through the door. But because this rarely happened it remains a guess. No one knows this, but I have a rule called As Long As You’re Here By 6:30 Then Cool, Because I Just Don’t Want to Do Wake-Ups By Myself. I did wake-ups by myself this morning. But this is poorly defined, as one person out of eleven was out of bed five minutes later. Morning Guy hadn’t shown. Manager Scott was reached by phone– I think he’s pretty much like a manager– and said I could just have the money of both staff members. Is this phone conversation a contract? Round two of wake ups, now 10-15 minutes in, fairly absolutely no better, so I gave the refusals. “I’m up!” Is the chorus from under blankets. Then Good Cop should have made it in, today, fellas, ’cause I’m in the mood to go by the book. It’s funny, I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten such a rush of adrenaline from following established rules before. Normally they wouldn’t get refusals if even twice as much time goes by. It’s akin to failing an entire class, in TurnbridgeWorld.
Shortly after seven the morning guy showed, walking into the apartment with, “My bad, man.” So I will refer to him as Seven for the rest of this retelling. Within five minutes Seven made himself scarce to the downstairs apartment, reappearing later with another staffer I don’t know the name of, who called up the stairs to the still-sleeping clients, “it’s 7:09, if you’re not up in two minutes you’ll get a refusal.” Then I was just confused because the game seems to be made up as it goes along. A bit later, Seven, while looking at the staff tablet, told me simply, “You killed it.” I asked what he meant, but no reply. I still don’t know. The last thing I remember about this jam-packed hour and a half before I left was Seven yelling over a guy on the couch, “Hey Cocaine, come take your meds!”