Monday, June 4th, 2012

One thing that always rankles me is when I go to a restaurant and the waiter constantly apologizes to me the whole meal. “Hey, can I get some more water please?” “Here you go, I’m sooorry about that.” Sometimes I’ll only have been seated for a minute, barely opened my menu, and the waiter will come by and say, “I’m sorry for the wait, what can I get you to drink?” No need to apologize for the non-existent “wait” dickhead, I’ve been here two seconds. And on and on. I’ll get a dozen completely unnecessary apologies during the meal. And maybe that makes some stuck-up jerks feel good. Maybe incessant apologies make some people feel like they’re getting their ass extra-kissed. But for me I just cringe; I feel like an overbearing demanding asshole who is requiring an apology for every minor or imaginary transgression. And I’m not like that. I’m easy-going. I tip 20% even if the waiter is a little rude. Even if the waiter forgets about me and I have to go refill my own drink at the service station. No big deal. I say thanks. I try not to be extra-messy. I don’t treat waiters like they’re lesser than me, and I don’t like it when they act like they need to tiptoe around me. But maybe its just habit because they do get a lot of asshole patrons.

Still, next time I have an over-apologizing waiter I’m going to start gruffly replying, “You better be sorry.” and we’ll see how the waiter likes it. Every time. “I’ll get you another spoon right away. Sorry.” “You better be.”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s because when I first became aware of this annoyance was when I first met Gus Clemm.

I was working at McDonald’s for about 9 months, which meant I was an elder McStatesman of the establishment, when new hire Gus Clemm came on board. This big, chubby, unshowered, greasy, nerdy, awkward, glasses-wearing son-of-a-bitch was Gus Clemm. And for some reason they had him working the drive-thru on his first day, which was usually reserved for us long-time employees. (Or maybe it’s because they wanted to get me off the register because I kept stealing from it). The whole time he’s working drive-thru he’s just muttering this steady stream of “sorry’s” for no reason. “Sorry, welcome to McDonald’s sorry about the wait can I take your order? Sorry about that. Sorry, did you want to supersize that? Sorry, sorry, will there be anything else? Sorry, your total will be... let’s see... sorry about that... sorry, $6.23, sorry. I’m sorry please pull around to the first window, sorry.” I couldn’t exaggerate it if I wanted to. Because he was actually saying sorry much more than that. He was sneaking the word “sorry” in between words where it had no business being. He would chant “sorry” during pauses where he was punching in the order. “Sorry, this will just take a second. Sorry... sorry... sorry... sorry... sorry... sorry... ok, that’ll be $17.55, sorry.” It made no sense. He wasn’t apologizing to customers, he was apologizing for his own existence. He instantly disgusted me. When we had a break together that week he made conversation with me. He was from the deep, deep backwoods of Indiana, moonshine country, he lived in a shack with no running water or electricity and walked in bare feet and hunted possums and squirrels and his wardrobe consisted of one dirty pair of overalls with nothing underneath and he fucked his cousin when she was nine and he was twelve. That’s how he acted at least. All I really know for sure though was that he was from Indiana. I knew right away because he was fiercely prideful of Indiana during our first chat. He was so bonered on Indiana that I made a small joke and said, “Indiana? I’ve never heard of it. Is that in Canada somewhere?” And he stood up and said I dare you to say that again. So I didn’t. I said sorry just joking, and he just kept raving full Indiana pride as if Indiana gave a shit. He was incredibly out of place in our upscale suburb. He wasn’t even polished enough to fit in on the white trash fringes of our suburb. One good thing about me is that I am a good listener and people feel comfortable around me. The downside of that is I attract loonies who need someone to talk at and I have a hard time telling them to fuck off. Such was the case with Gus Clemm. We were both 16 and he had just enrolled in my high school, but apparently he had been held back because he was two grades below me. I had to be counted as a friend to Gus Clemm I guess because I didn’t actively avoid him. Gus Clemm knew I smoked weed, because everybody knew, because I was really into smoking weed. I smoked weed on my lunch breaks and my off hours at school. I actually worked my schedule so I had two days a week where I got done with school at noon and would go smoke weed. I called it Sam’s Lab. I’m Sam by the way. Sammy Laurie. I never sold much weed, just to friends mostly, but I sure smoked a lot of weed and it was pretty great. One day at McDonald’s Gus Clemm came up to me very surreptitiously and said, “Psst... can I buy a dimebag from you?” I shit you not, he actually said “psst”. And the whole thing was so goofy. No one bought “dimebags”. That was lingo from an after-school special. You bought a quarter or an eighth at the minimum and anything less than that was like “here pinch a nug out of my sack and get me back later.” And you didn’t act like you were trading nuclear arms secrets when you were selling a little sandwich bag slightly filled with marijuana. So I said, “Its cool, why don’t I just kick you a couple buds?” And he said, “No, no you don’t have to give me anything for free. I’ll pay you for it.” Alright, whatever. So I went to the bathroom and parceled out what I thought a dimebag would look like which I figured was about half an eighth since an eighth was $25 or $30. I came back, here you go. He looks around exaggeratedly and then seeing the coast is clear, turns around and has me drop in it his hand behind his back. I rolled my eyes. Then this fucking dildo is examining it under the counter, scrunching up his face, really sizing it up. And he goes, “This really doesn’t look like a dimebag to me.” Amazed I say, “It’s not enough? You want me to go throw a couple more nugs in there?” “Yeah, you really should.” So I go back to the bathroom and make sure I got plenty in there this time and go back out and we go through the routine of exchanging it in the dumbest way possible and him scouring it to make sure he’s getting his money’s worth. “It’s cool.” He finally says, nodding his head with his eyelids half-lowered in what I’m sure is his approximation of what a drug dealer from t.v. would look and sound like. And he gives me his approximation drug dealer cool handshake and inside my hand is a crumpled up dirty disgusting ten dollar bill. About a week later I’m working when Gus Clemm comes in on his day off. He had been in town a couple months now and had made a few friends which were middle school kids from his block. A couple of these 13 year olds were with him. He was giving off a really strange vibe and had this big fake smile on his face when he told me he needed to talk to me outside. I had a very bad feeling that I was being lured into something. So extra-cautiously I followed him out and kept my distance. He starts off trying to be really sly: “So you know that dimebag I bought from you? Its weird because I bought a dimebag from another friend of mine and I got them mixed up and one of you guys totally ripped me off and sold me fake weed.” And the whole time he’s concealing something in his hand behind his back. I make no effort to be sly and I move a couple steps to my right and peer my head around so I can see what he’s holding. It’s a prison shiv. It’s like a duct taped together handle with some sharp metal fucking prison shiv. Except we’re not in prison, we’re in front of a god damn McDonald’s talking about a god damn dimebag of all things. I say, “Well, I don’t know what I can say to convince you, but the weed I sold you was good, I smoked out of the same bag and got high off of it.” “Yeah? You’re sure?” “Yeah I’m positive. If you really feel like I would rip you off over ten dollars you can just have the ten dollars back.” “No no no, I just wanted to ask you in person and see.” “Alright. Can I go back inside now?” “Yeah. I’m going to go talk to the other guy who sold me the dimebag.” Him and his two younger friends had taken the bus down to have that talk with me since none of them had cars. He was prepared to stab me over ten dollars worth of weed? Gus Clemm wasn’t exactly dumb. He pulled this cute little scam from time to time at the Kroger’s next to our McDonald’s. He’d go in being his fat sloppy self and draw attention. He’d belch loudly, knock shit over, whatever, and then he’d go to the cigarette aisle and grab some packs off the shelf and put them down his shirt. Then he’d walk down the dog food aisle and take the packs out and hide them behind some dog food. Then he’d walk out of the store and invariably get “busted” by the store cop and manager. And he’d go ballistic and make a big scene. He’d get all red and yell and call them names. Meanwhile one of his middle school friends would go down the dog food aisle and pocket all the stowed packs and walk out. Then Gus would let them search him and they wouldn’t find anything on him and they’d let him go. Gus Clemm wasn’t exactly smart though either. One time he had to run from the cops after that scam because he was so lazy him and his middle school friend hung out in the Kroger’s parking lot smoking some of their haul. Gus Clemm, flabby and uncoordinated as he was, somehow got away but his middle school friend started crying when a cop tackled him and he got sent to juvi. Kroger’s started locking up their cigarettes in a display case. The next time I saw Gus Clemm was at school. He ran the full length of our parking lot calling my name so he could catch up to me before I got in my car. He finally got to me and panting he said, “Hey, you remember... how... I was telling you about... that other guy who... sold me the dimebag?” “Yeah?” “Well it wasn’t you who sold me the fake shit, it was him.” I know it wasn’t me you dumbass, I thought. “I totally kicked his ass. Nobody rips me off.” he said angrily enough to make me feel threatened even though I guess I was being exonerated. I wondered if by “kicked his ass” he meant he stabbed him with a prison shiv. He said, “So yeah we should hang out sometime.” “Cool, I’ll see ya.” which by I meant I sure as fuck hope not. But he always seemed to be around. I’d see him at McDonald’s as usual. But then he’d randomly be hanging out with stoners that I hung out with and of course he came to knock around with all the other psychos and creeps around those parts. So one time a couple months later I give him a ride home from McDonald’s. And when we get to his house he says, “Come on, we never hang out.” I say, “It’s late I gotta get home.” “Come on, lets just go to my buddy’s house around the way and smoke some bud.” “Naw, I got a 1st period class tomorrow, I really can’t.” “Come on, dude you’ve been acting like I’m an asshole ever since I got mad at you about that dimebag. I said I was sorry let me smoke you out and lets forget about it.” “Alright just a couple bowls and then I gotta go though.” The kid just made my skin crawl and I thought I could serve a quick penance and then get back to avoiding him. His buddy’s house turned out to be Angeley’s house, this very obese woman in her fifties a couple blocks away. The place was dingy with dirty dishes everywhere and a dirty t.v. that I imagined was never turned off and I was probably right. I instantly had a strong sense that Gus Clemm was screwing this lady and I was probably right. We all sat down on the couch and fired up the bong and got high. We started to load another bowl and I started to get this creepy feeling that this lady was looking at me a lot and smiling a lot. After another couple hits I couldn’t shake the thought that if I pulled my dick out that this lady would suck it. She would totally just lean across Gus Clemm and start sucking my dick. I started to just laugh and laugh like I do sometimes when I’m really high. They started laughing too. Then an amount of time passed and then all of the sudden I couldn’t tell if they had just held hands for a second or if I had just hallucinated it like I do sometimes when I’m really high. I thought about how absolutely vile it would be for her to give me head but at the same time how good it would feel to get my dick sucked. And right then she smiled and winked at me. I skipped my next hit which wasn’t like me and I went to get a drink of water. I picked the least filthy cup I could find; it was a kid’s plastic cup with dinosaurs on it, oh jesus does she have kids in bed in the next room?; and I got the minimum of water I needed from the grimy faucet. The process of getting the water seemed to take an extremely long time to my extremely stoned mind and I thought I would look over at them and they would both be staring at me with jackass grins and say “What the fuck? You’ve been over there for an hour!” But when I looked over they were stoned and looking at the t.v. and only about two minutes had probably passed. Drinking water always seemed to thin the tetrahydrocannabinol in my bloodstream and make me feel less high. I always got C’s in science so that’s probably not the right cause and effect. I had an excellent recovery time from high to sober since I smoked so much. I was very functional when fucked up. I sipped the dino-cup and leaned against the counter. I looked over and Gus Clemm was drinking Jack Daniels from the bottle. The big bottle with the handle on it. And then passed it to her. After her swig she held it out to me and said, “Come sit down, you’re making me nervous.” I said, “Actually we better get going.” Gus Clemm said, “Dude, we just got here!” “I know man, but like I said just a couple bowls and then I had to cruise.” Then there was a stoner minute or two where he didn’t respond right away and we both kind of zoned out for a little bit but then I realized we were watching an infomercial on t.v. and I said, “If you want you can chill here but I gotta jet.” and I tried to not make it sound dickish but I think it did sound dickish. And he goes, “Fuuuuuck. Alright I’m coming jesus fucking christ.” and he got off the couch all pissed and very unstoney and grabbed the bottle of Jack and screwed the lid back on. She said, “Your friend is kinda uppity.” meaning me. He just shrugged and said, “Late.” over his shoulder to her which I’m sure was meant to sound cool but sounded dorky but she probably thought it sounded cool and I was very glad that it was at least that easy to get out of there, but unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the night. He unscrewed the bottle of Jack and started drinking it in the car. “Can you not drink while I’m driving?” “Dude why are you being like that? We’re the only ones out on the road.” “Alright but just put it away if you see somebody please.” He drinks more. “You can’t take me home,” he said as we turned towards his neighborhood. “Why not?” “I’m too fucked up.” “But it’s like one in the morning, everyone will be asleep at your house.” “I know but dude, I’m just too fucked up.” “Ok, we’ll pull over and chill out for like ten minutes.” I had been through this before. Taking a buddy home who was too baked and needed some composure time before running the gauntlet. My therapy was as follows. 1) Pull them over to a safe and quiet spot. 2) Have them drink water and breathe fresh air and try to relax. 3) We would engage in what is known as positive visualization by pussies and I would describe to them in detail the course of action they would follow when returning home. Gus Clemm and I skipped to step 3 since he kept steadily drinking Jack and it was too cold to roll down the window. “You’ll have your key in your hand ready before you get out of the car. You’ll walk up to the door, put the key in the lock and go in quietly but not trying to be too quiet. Just do it like normal. Where’s your room?” “Downstairs.” “Your house is a bilevel right? Is your parents’ room downstairs?” “No it’s up.” “Then your golden! Just close the door and lock it and go downstairs and get in bed.” “What about brushing my teeth?” “Where’s the bathroom?” “Right next to my parent’s room.” “Can’t you just skip brushing for tonight?” “(Heavy sigh) I skipped yesterday.” “All yesterday?” “Yup.” “Gross. Well if you really feel like you need to brush your teeth just go in the bathroom and do it quickly and quietly.” “Dude how can I brush my teeth quietly?” “I don’t know, do it how you usually do it. What’s the big deal? Your parents hear you brushing your teeth it’s not like they’re going to freak out on you or anything.” “Yeah I know but what if my dad comes out and talks to me?” “I don’t know. Just say hi and keep the conversation short or just keep brushing your teeth and that should pretty much preclude conversation.” “(Another heavy sigh) There’s just no way I can go home.” So we chill for another ten minutes after my talk-through walk-through obviously didn’t help much. “Are you cool dude? I’m gonna drop you off now.” “I don’t know...” So I turn the corner onto his street and pull up in front of his house. “Alright man just take it easy, like I said just quick and smooth into the house and into your bed.” He opens the door and just sits there with his hand still on the door handle. “I can’t do it. Aaaah. Do you got any more weed?” “No dude you gotta get going, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He just sits there. So here we are in front of his house with the motor running, with the door open, with the dome light on, and he’s half-out of the car. So much for being smooth. I turn the dome light off. He closes the door and says, “Let’s just drive around for a few more.” “Ugh, fine.” Aggravated I make a u-turn. Down the road a bit he finishes the bottle and chucks it out the window before I can say anything. I hear a whump and I’m pretty sure it hit a parked car because I don’t hear any shattering. “Dude cmon!” He raises his shoulders and makes a sarcastic expression like “soooorrr-ee!” And a little bit later is when he started talking crazy. He just starts rambling and wouldn’t shut up. Mostly just mumbling to himself, I catch bits and pieces of ravings about how he hated it here, and a flamethrower, and “fuck it... fuck it...” Then I stop hearing him mumbling and I look over and he has his head down crying. I figure he’s just really drunk, the kid just drank like half a big bottle of Jack. I told him to please quit crying. “Well tell me something to make me not cry!” he cried. This was a surprise request and all I could come up with was, “Your dad loves you.” Crying so hard he takes a couple tries before he can get it out he blurts, “I wish my daddy loved me more!” very loudly. “Yeah he does dude, don’t say that. Come on. You know he does.” And it wasn’t just an empty consolation from me; I had actually met his dad and he was the sweetest little guy. You could tell he just loved the shit out of his kids including pudgy little Gus Clemm unless he had me totally fooled. But he was crying so hard he wasn’t listening to me so I just let him get it out. Finally he stopped crying but then it was back to the mumbling. I figured he would taper off but he kept right on chugging, building intensity if anything. I’d try saying things to him but he just ignored me and kept up the loony-logue. I didn’t know what else to do and I was tired and pissed off and done with this shit and so I went back to his house. “Alright man we’re back at your house. I really need to go home now.” He just keeps mumblin’ mumblin’. I couldn’t make much out, but it had taken on some religious tones and I was hearing things like, “god can choose justice” and “the seven levels of darkness” and “satan has everything he wants”. So, freaky as it was, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Come on, you gotta go inside.” “DON’T PUSH ME!” he shouted at me and glared at me furious. I put my hands up and gently say, “Sorry. I’m not pushing you. I’m not, I just really need to go home so can you please go inside?” He had snapped out of it. He opened the door but just sat there again with his hand on the handle half in/ half out of the car. I sighed and turned the dome light off. What a pain in the fucking ass. He seemed sober enough at this point to go inside, but he just wanted to talk. So we sat and talked about nothing I can remember. Except the one thing I’ll never forget is he told me that when he was eight years old he used to get a bottle of vodka on a regular basis and go hide under his porch and drink the whole thing over a course of a day. And I don’t know how he would get his hands on a bottle of vodka regularly at that age, and other logistical questions arise, and it definitely sounds like the kind of stupid lie someone would make up for no reason, but having known him I completely believed it, and every time he wanders into my thoughts now I think of a chubby eight year old Gus Clemm sitting under his porch methodically putting an entire bottle of vodka through his eight year old system. He finally got out reluctantly. Holding onto the door handle after he had got out, leaning his head back in to talk a little more, starting to close the door then leaning back in to say some more shit, ugh. Finally, fiiiiiinally, sensing my complete annoyance, he slams the door as hard as he can and lumbers up his walkway. He yelled sarcastically, “you’re a really great friend!” as I got the fuck out of there. I didn’t see him much after that. I avoided him for sure, but he also got fired or quit from McDonald’s, home of the world-famous lard-ass Big Mac. Probably quit. McDonald’s wouldn’t fire a pedophile if he at least showed up half the time. That’s another story though. The one last time I remember running in to Gus Clemm was after one of my short days at school where I got out at noon to go puff herb. I was walking back to my house the back way, past where the poor kids who couldn’t pay for parking lot passes parked their cars. A stoner acquaintance of mine name Sebastian had this beat-the-fuck-up “pick-up” truck that didn’t have any sides or a back to the flatbed. Just a cab and a flatbed and kids used to pile on to go to Subway for lunch. Gus Clemm was lying flat on his back on that flatbed, drunk as shit. I tried to sneak by him but somehow he saw me without even looking in my direction. He said all slow, “Hey Sam.” So I stopped and said hey. Unmoving, lying flat on his back, slowly and deliberately he continued, “Hey Sam, would you do me a favor? Would you do me a favor? I have a gun at my house. How about you take me back to my house and I’ll get the gun and you go ahead and blow my brains out. Would you do that?” “No, I don’t think you should do that.” “Thanks. Thanks for nothing.” And I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I walked home and somehow I knew he was serious. Here’s the epilogue to the story. A couple years after graduation I ran into Sebastian somewhere and he said, “Hey did you hear what happened to Gus Clemm?” “No, what?” “Dude he fucking went down to the Arco to get a pack of cigarettes and the guy carded him, duh because he tried to do it with someone behind him in line.” The whole reason kids walked an extra mile to go to the Arco instead of the Chevron gas station was specifically because the Arco guy wouldn’t card you on cigarettes if you were cool about it. Meaning you waited till the store was empty, you didn’t try to buy them with a bunch of adults standing there and risk getting him in trouble. And of course dumbass Gus Clemm didn’t figure that out. “So he leaves the store all pissed off, waits for the store to get empty and he goes back with a pipe wrench and beat the fucking shit out of the guy and takes some cigarettes. The guy almost died. He was in the hospital for like a month, I can’t believe you didn’t hear anything about it. They caught it all on videotape.” “Yeah I think I might’ve, but I didn’t know it was Gus Clemm that did it.” The motherfucker. That Arco guy was an old man in his late 60’s, nice as hell. Why would you beat an old man with a pipe wrench over a pack of smokes? Not to mention all he had to do was ask him for the cigarettes again and he would’ve given them to him since the store was empty. Gus Clemm was only a couple weeks from being able to buy them legally anyway. “Yeah, he wasn’t 18 yet but just about, and the judge gave him 15 years in prison.”