S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Grandpa Windsong,” Park, surprisingly, gets invited back for a second job interview.
I wrote in my last column (“Personal History”) about applying for a bud tender job. I was more relieved than disappointed when I didn’t get it (I could tell myself I’d tried, anyway), so was surprised to hear from the same store a week later.
They asked for a second interview. I only consented because it wasn’t Karen, the old store manager, on the line, but a younger guy whose voice I didn’t recognize. When I showed up he told me Karen and her crew had been fired en masse and the store was under new management.
So if she’d hired me I’d have been out the door in a week. (Oh, how I longed for scenarios like that in the old unemployment benefit days.) The new boss was a plump, spacey thirty-year-old named Tubby. Or was it Toby?
We sat at a round table in back and it was hard to hear with David Bowie’s Heroes blaring from the speakers and the current bud tender, a skinny, 6’4” transgender guy in a mime outfit and top hat, dancing around the table. (He’d lean in to me, rasp, “I, I will be king, and you, you will be queen!” then spin away.)
Was this some kind of test? Would I lose points for cringing? And how about the old timer next to Tubby? He was wearing overalls and a muddy Deliverance hat (he could have been an extra in the film, maybe even the big-headed kid with the banjo), and when Tubby introduced him as Clem, the team’s General Manager, I felt an explanation was warranted.
Instead he seemed fixated on the pile of papers in front of him. He was sure my application was in there somewhere, but after another flip through he came up empty.
“Well, anyway, sir,” he said, sitting back in his chair, “what’s your favorite pot?”
Now we’re talking, I thought. (My estimation of the dozens of varieties I smoke each year rarely interests anyone.)
“You mean in a general way?” I asked. “The bud I’d take to a desert island with me?”
“Yeah,” said Tubby. “Yeah, I like that,” and scribbled a large “Dessert Island!” on his notepad.
“Gorilla Glue No. 4,” I said. (I might have had to think about it, except Mungo Jerry and I had discussed the same subject days before.) “I believe that—as a stone—it checks the most boxes.”
Clem, who’d been staring grumpily at the floor until then (maybe remembering a young Burt in the rapids), bobbed his head and grunted.
Tubby translated for me. “Clem agrees with you,” he said.
That was something, I guess, but did I really want to work with these characters, anyway? (Customers had arrived, so Alice Cooper was back out front.) Wasn’t my life weird enough already? Hadn’t my fifty jobs in twenty years taught me anything?
Did I really want to work with these characters, anyway? (Customers had arrived, so Alice Cooper was back out front.) Wasn’t my life weird enough already? Hadn’t my fifty jobs in twenty years taught me anything?
Apparently not. Tubby and I chatted about my indoor growing history, then whether I still did dabs, vaporizers or bongs.
“Hey, Tubs,” I said, “these lungs are seventy-four years old. What do you think?”
When he ran out of steam I looked around, asked him if he’d read The Grass Is Greener, the memoir I’d left with Karen, the previous manager.
“Huh?” he said. “No.”
“I’ve got a copy in my car,” I said, jumping up and heading for the door. “I’ll get you one.” (I’d regretted giving it to Karen but she’d been a regular human being. This guy? The life and times of Wilson High were right up his alley.)
He proved my point by calling me back, “Sir!” he said, “You don’t need to do that … I think I read your memoir last night.”
I turned around. “Really?”
“Yeah. There’s that scene where you fuck the skinny French girl, right? And she looks around afterwards, says ‘You live like a wino in a flophouse?’”
Wow. His recall impressed me, then I remembered that was the only anal sex scene in the book.
“Well, you’d know, anyway,” I said, returning to my seat. “There’s a drawing of me on the cover, wearing a pot leaf beard.”
“Oh, I never saw the cover,” said Tubby. “Someone tore it off.”
I looked at Clem, and he flashed me his tiny, baked bean teeth.
“So, anyway,” I said to Tubby, “how’d you like the book?”
“It was so hilarious I read it twice.”
“Twice? In one night!?”
“Yeah,” he beamed. “I may not look like it, but I’m a speed reader.”
“Fast,” grunted Clem.
Or was it “fat”? There was a long silence before Tubby leaned forward, gave me a long, one-stoner-to-another look.
“But hey, sir!” he said. “You wrote a book. That’s pretty cool, right?”
I laughed. “Yeah,” I said, “that’s pretty cool.”
The interview (such as it was) wrapped quickly after that, and Tubby claimed he’d call me later that evening.
Also on The Big Smoke
- In Review: Antlers and “The Quiet Boy”
- Sleep Now in the Fire: Out of Shock, Out of Shame
- The Sound of Metal and the Failure of a Narrative Wrapped in a Failure of Sound
I wasn’t expecting to hear from him but, true to his word, he rang around seven. Said I was one of three finalists for the job (out of fifteen applicants), and once they’d settled on a candidate I’d hear from him. (I figured Alice Cooper was my champion, that he was hoping I’d join him in RuPaul League basketball.)
But Tubby never called again. Hell, he’d probably told all of us the same thing, that we were that close to being selected.
Me? I thought I was simply too old. (Which would explain all the deference and “sirs” during the interview.) Then I went to that store for edibles a week later, discovered the woman they’d hired was crowding seventy herself.
She had big blonde hair and a low-cut rhinestone blouse.
“How can I help ya, honey?” she growled (doing her best roadhouse waitress), then leaned over and flashed me her breasts.
She could have been Clem’s sister, maybe even his girlfriend.
Better not to know.