I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of other characters that were part of the crew that summer.
I made that name up. I have no idea what her name was, but I remember it was one of those two-first-name deals. She was a secretary that would hang out in the garage during her smoke breaks. She liked to hang out with the boys and talk crap about the other people she worked with - in particular that secretary that I had to fix the file cabinets for. (For those of you reading them backwards, this is where you wonder “Who’s this other secretary he’s mentioning? What happened to the filing cabinets?!”)
She was a nice woman, but I really don’t have anything interesting to say about her. Just felt she should get a mention.
Dale was the dogcatcher and would often hang out in the garage. I liked Dale a lot. He was a really funny guy and was always fun to have around. He was middle-aged, tall and thin, bald on top and had glasses. He was always complaining about things but in a funny way.
Dale was going through a divorce at the time. The story Jim told me was that he had been dating this woman, who I think was younger than him, for a while and she would bug him about getting married. Then he finally got married to her and then soon after that she said she wasn’t happy any more and wanted a divorce. And of course wanted her half of everything. I imagine there’s another side to that story but that’s the only side I got to hear, and second-hand at that.
Speaking of divorce, I just finished this book by Donald Trump called Think Big and Kick Ass. I saw it in the store and the cover cracked me up. My friend saw me thumbing through it and got it for me for Christmas. It’s a quick read, and there’s not a whole lot of eye-opening advice in it, but some of the stories Trump tells make me laugh. The reason I bring it up is that he has a chapter called “I Love You, Sign This” all about the importance of getting a prenup. He just drills it into you. Here’s a quote:
In all honesty, it is not pretty. A prenuptial agreement is a horrible instrument. I met Melania, and we fell in love and decided to get married. I said, “Melania, you are so beautiful, I love you so much, and we’re going to have the greatest marriage ever. It’s going to be unbelievable. Listen, just in case it doesn’t work, sign on the dotted line.” It is not exactly the most romantic thing to do, but you really, really need it.
Advice that came much too late for poor Dale.
Dale was buddies with Jim & Shaky but he also knew that they were a little crazy. There was once that Dale asked me where Jim was and I thought Jim had left with the truck somewhere. Then Dale went off on how no one cares about Jim’s stories. Shaky and Mary Beth were there too. I just looked back and realize I had used the name Mary Jean but I like Mary Beth better so I’ll keep that one. After Dale and Mary Beth had left, Shaky was standing around and there came a sneeze from the other room, where they keep the road signs and equipment. Shaky said “f*** you” and I realized that Jim had been in the other room taking a nap the whole time. He never mentioned anything about that incident, and he certainly kept telling his stories, so I think he really was sleeping through it. I felt bad that he might have heard that though, and guilty that I had mistakenly told Dale he was gone.
Dale considered himself a dogcatcher. According to him, he was only supposed to be dealing with dogs but they’d have him handle cats, raccoons, and so on. If that’s true, I think he had a reasonable complaint. I can imagine there’s different types of training that would go into handling other types of animals. The summer I was there, he had a small truck with the words “Animal Control Specialist” on the side. Jim said when that vehicle had been painted, the people had deliberately put that slogan on the side to annoy him.
I had to take a day off for some reason, so I came in on a Saturday to make up for it. I was in charge of washing the trucks and some of the cop cars that day. I showed up to work and one of the garage doors had police “Do Not Cross” tape all across it. The door was shut but it’s set back a couple feet from the edge of the building so there was a little space between the tape and the door. And in that space there was a little cage with a cat in it. I was told the cat had rabies so it makes sense they’d want to warn people - but I think the cops overdid the tape just to make it look funny and sort of pick fun at Dale.
Dale wanted to treat me to a fun day once so he asked the captain if I could come along with him on a trip he had to make to an animal shelter in a nearby city. He didn’t need my help at all, and the captain probably knew that, but he let me go. Dale needed to deliver some dead cats to the shelter. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but I want to say the cats were in a bucket. Perhaps it was just a garbage bag. Regardless, off we went with the cats in the back.
It was a beautiful day and I was glad to be away from the normal routine with Jim & Shaky. It honestly was the most fun day I had on that job, and it was really cool of Dale to do that for me. We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts along the way and Dale bought me a donut. That was quite a treat too because I never used to go to Dunkin Donuts.
I was talking to my mom about that recently and she told me that I had said the cats smelled really bad. I don’t remember it smelling bad, but that certainly sounds reasonable so I’ll go with her recollection of my earlier recollection on this one. When we got to the shelter, he had to put the cats in some big barrel with formaldehyde or some such chemicals in it.
The next summer, I got a job at a Burger King right down the street. So one day I decided I’d walk over during my lunch break and see how everyone was doing. When I got there, Dale was hanging out in the other room by himself. I said hi and asked where Jim & Shaky were. They were out doing work or lunch or something. But the way Dale looked at me, he obviously didn’t remember who the heck I was. That felt a little weird. It was just a year ago and I saw him all the time.
I asked Dale how the street painting was going this summer and he said they were all done. I was shocked. This was late June or early July and the summer I worked there they hadn’t finished it by the time I left at the end of August. I asked about the guy they got to work for them this summer and Dale said he was working out well. He was retarded but a good kid. I feel bad for saying this but I have to be honest… that stung a little. I’m sure it was a combination of better weather and the equipment actually working that allowed them to get the roads done that quickly, but… it didn’t change the fact that a retarded person could do my job better than me.
I told Dale to say hi to Jim and Shaky for me and that was the last I saw of any of them. And with that… I’m finally done with this story. If you actually read through the whole thing, I hope you found it worthwhile.