Here are two quick bursts of chaos from my life.
#1: The Hook Meets A Charm School Graduate….
I’m strolling through the parking garage, my empty cart emitting metallic “tings” as it bounces ever so slightly along the cracked, wet concrete. I had just finished packing luggage into my millionth (at least) mini-van, when Fate steered me in the direction of a twenty-something female straight from an MTV pseudo-reality set attempting to load fifteen pieces into an SUV designed to handle two.
Actually, in this case “Fate” emerged in the form of a Honda Civic driven by a drunken frat boy who nearly clipped my cart, but either way, I found myself rendering assistance to a damsel in distress and that’s where things get interesting.
CHARM SCHOOL GRADUATE: (In a giggly, angelic tone that surpassed known speed limits for humans, even young females.) I can’t seem to get all of this shit in here!My boyfriend took off to find our friends!Now I’m on my own and don’t know what to do!Can you help me out?
Fortunately for me, I speak fluent perky, even the ultra speedy dialect.
THE HOOK: No problem.
One of us had to keep his speech economical. There is only so much air available in a parking garage….
A moment later, her vehicle was packed, with only a mid-size cooler remaining.
THE HOOK: I can get this in here, but it’s going to be a tight fit. The only spot left is this cubbie hole.
In retrospect, I should really have known better…
CSG: That’s okay, I like big things in my hole!
My response was lightning quick and instinctive.
THE HOOK: Where were girls like you when I was sixteen?
(Incidentally, if the wife is reading this: I love you.)
Her response (CSG’s, not the wife’s.) was equally quick and direct.
CSG: Most likely doing porn?
#2: And Now For Something Completely Different…
(And now, the introduction to my second book. Bear in mind, this is a first draft and I am in need of feedback from my trusted readers, whose opinions have always proven invaluable to me.)
When I was a boy, my grandfather was larger than life.
A Polish immigrant, he blocked out the sun whenever he appeared. It took me years to accept that solar eclipses were not an everyday occurrence. He was a bouncer at a bar/hotel in downtown, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and patrons there knew better than to mess with that “Polack who was as big as a mountain”. But there was much more to my grandfather than met the eye. Much more.
He was a Polish resistance fighter during the Second World War. Most resistance cells were nothing more than a group of teenage boys with fire in their eyes and rage in their hearts. Untrained in the art of warfare, they fought hard, but not necessarily smart. As for my grandfather’s cell, their most significant contribution to the war became their last.
The full might of the occupying Nazi regime fell upon them after they kidnapped the daughter of a local politician/collaborator. They were hunted down, herded into the street and one by one, they were shot in the head before their bodies were burned – in full view of an impotent public, of course.
By the grace of an All-mighty whose presence seemed otherwise invisible, my grandfather escaped his compatriot’s fate. He fled Poland and wound up in Germany – talk about leaping from the frying pan into the fire – just as Hitler’s regime crumbled.
I firmly believe the saying, “out of the frying pan and into the fire” originated with my family.
My grandparents met behind the barbed wire of a United Nations internment camp. He was a security officer. She wasn’t. The horrors of war brought them together and they moved to Canada for a new start.
But memories have little to do with geography.
Nietzsche said “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” I often recall this quote when I think of those poor souls who fought so hard for their freedom from Nazi oppression. To those who knew him best, my grandfather was a hard-drinking, angry man whose heart had been stained by dark events that haunted him all the days of his life. Growing up, my mother felt his self-righteous, misplaced anger more than once. My grandfather may have survived the war, but he left the best parts of himself behind with his compatriots in the streets of Poland.
With one notable exception.
He treated me like his little prince, doting on me and buying all the toys I could play with. In fact, I don’t have a single negative childhood memory of my grandfather, but as I grew into a man, the truth slowly emerged.
On his best days, my grandfather was hero.
On his worst, he was a monster.
His greatest gift to me? The ability to read a person simply by studying the lines of their face. His legacy has served me well.
As kids, most boys wanted to be soldiers, police officers or firemen. Growing up, all I wanted to be was a writer – and Doctor Who. (I was a tall, skinny kid who loved to read and watch public television. You do the math.)
However, since I was reasonably sure my parents weren’t Time Lords, I had to set my sights on a future in literature.
Well into middle-age, that future is still being written.
Childhood dreams get tucked away in shoe boxes and buried in closets. We grow up and walk one of two paths: one leads to a career, a final destination, and the other appears to circle endlessly around a job. I chose the latter and entered the Niagara Falls hospitality industry, where I became a bellman.
That’s where the story would usually end, but as far as my life is concerned that simply isn’t the case for two reasons:
1) Most people are steadfast in their belief that a person doesn’t “choose” a job, they settle for one. Those people are idiots. A job, like everything else in our lives, will follow the path you forge. I have mapped a course for myself. It has brought me here.
2) When you’re a bellman, you become part of a cycle:
- People check in.
- People check out.
- They leave an impression – good or bad – on you.
- You move onto the next call.
The story never ends.
I have utilized my grandfather’s legacy every day of my life and nowhere has it proven more valuable than in the halls of a grand hotel where the ability to read a guest’s face can mean the difference between walking way with a tip in your pocket or shouting like a madman in the solitude of the service elevator.