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I’m gonna let know know right off the bat: I’ve been holding onto this one for a while. There are some stories you tuck into your back pocket, out of sight and out of mind, nestled right next to that expired Trojan Ecstasy from 10th grade. They happen, you acknowledge a mutual silence with all parties, and move on like it never happened. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?
When I was a kid, my dad would say, “Don’t tell your mother” whenever we found ourselves in a pickle together. Loose lips sink ships, and I wasn’t about to get my dad sent to doghouse just because we watched the big game at Hooters instead of Applebee’s. I’ve got a yap like a steel trap, and there’s no honor in spilling the beans.
However, this story is just too good not to share. In this case, the main characters have since retired and I now live 1000 miles away. At the risk of sleeping with the fishes in a pair of cement shoes, I bestow upon you an epic tale from my first internship. Names changed to protect the innocent.
Think back to your first real job. I’m not talking about that lifeguarding gig you scored at the neighborhood pool or that cashier role you had at the local pizzeria. I’m talking slaving away in a cubicle in J Crew Factory Outlet khakis and dress shoes from Kohl’s. The 7-3:30 grind when you bullshit your way through your day with nothing but a few 100 level business courses and mediocre Excel skills at your disposal. The point in your life you begin to understand the horror of a misused Reply All and feverishly count down the hours until you can go home and slide into 6-10 Natty Lights just to “take edge off” on a Tuesday.
In the summer of 2013, Robin Thicke was still relevant and I was knee deep into my first internship. I made a 45 minute drive commute way, all in the name of “gaining experience” and a phat pay check. Truthfully, the pay was modest, but I was just thankful I didn’t have to buy $0.99 Milk and Eggs at the Tobacco Outlet anymore. After the initial shellshock of the real world set in, I slowly developed a rapport with a few chosen coworkers. Some real hardscrabble “old guys” who shared the ways of the world with me over brownbagged lunches and some hushed F-bombs in the breakroom. The kind of guys who wrapped up a bottle of Jack Daniels in old newspaper and left it on my desk the day of my 21st birthday. Real wildcards. Some straight shooters.
Two of these guys, “Dale” and “Barry”, were especially colorful. They were 66 and 65 respectively, right in the twilight of retirement. The type of guys who kept working because they didn’t want to be stuck at home with their wives all day. When I was having a slow afternoon, I could always count on them to kill 90 minutes of my time with some spirited banter right out of the ’70s. They spoke endlessly of the days of hand written invoices, short skirted secretaries, and a simpler time when a man could rip a heater on the factory floor. Both of them bitched about their ball and chain, gleamed over their grown children, and imparted helpful, yet delightfully tacky advice for my own sex life. These guys were the reason I got up and went to work everyday.
One fine November Tuesday, Dale had a twinkle in his eye. I knew something was up because he had a hitch in his giddyup and a shit eating grin as we walked back to the office from our morning production meeting. I asked him straight up what was so funny, and all he said was, “10:45. Barry’s office. Come alone.”
Perplexed, I carried on with my morning. Choking down black, burnt Maxwell House, I pounded out a few pivot tables. At 10:41, I couldn’t take it anymore. I trudged ove to Barry’s office, only to see Dale sitting casually across from Barry. As they made side eyes to each other and stifled their laughter like a few teens sharing a joint for the first time, I instinctively closed to door behind me and took a seat with open ears and sweat on my brow.
Breaking the silence, Barry cleared his throat. Twirling a pencil in his hand, he said, “So… on Thursday, we’re going — Downtown. We want you to join us.” Catching his pause, I inquired what was so special about Downtown. Dale piped up, and assured me that “Downtown” meant we would be attending a Gentleman’s club, and I was to be the designated driver.
You ever have one of those moments as a kid when you lose a little piece of your innocence? Maybe you saw a woman drunkenly flash an entire public beach before noon on the 4th of July. Maybe you found a questionable movie on Cinemax one late night as your parents slept. Regardless, you knew introspectively at that time that you had lost a few points in the modesty department and there was no looking back.
Needless to say, Wednesday felt like a blur, and when Thursday rolled around, I let my anticipation take over. At exactly 3:30, Dale stepped into my cube in a Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt that was already unbuttoned to a questionable level. Right at that moment, my boss walked by and asked what we were up to.
Fumbling over my words, I choked out, “Oh, Dale. We, uh. Downtown. … Dale and I are getting dinner. Downtown tonight. With Barry too.” Satisfied, she patted Dale on the shoulder and thanked him for being such a great role model to me. Soon after, Barry tossed me his keys and we were off.
As the sweet subtle sounds of XM Radio’s The Bridge drifted through Barry’s GMC Acadia, I loosened up as my passengers recollected through past visits to strip clubs across the tri-state area. Time flew by, and soon Dale insisted we stop to grab refreshments at the local gas station. With an 18 pack of Coors Light in tow, we finally made it Downtown.
Keep in mind, it’s 5:15 on a weeknight. The sun is still up, and I’m walking into a titty bar dead sober with two guys old enough to be my grandpas. That innocence I mentioned earlier? Whatever was left fell on the floor in a crumpled pile, not unlike the bustier of the shot girl who greeted us inside the club.
As we settled into well worn faux leather chairs by the main stage, I took a deep breath. As I watched Barry motorboat a redhead named Kristy and Dale get slapped on the jaw by her partner Lacie, I had a sudden moment of clarity. Smiling to myself, I felt ease wash over me on an awesome wave. Seated by me were two old dogs, trying their damndest to show off a few time honored tricks. The gals at the club were eating it up, and to his benevolence, Barry had a habit of tucking $5 bills into my shirt collar. Like house money, baby.
We carried on, discussed the talent in the room, and spoke freely like a trio of high rollers as they crushed their beers and I sipped a Red Bull. It was awesome, and for just a little while I felt like a Big Shot. I was sober as a priest, yet I was buzzing off Barry and Dale enjoying their moment. A little reprieve from their daily grind. They had earned this.
Speaking of Dale, when it was all said and done he ended up dropping $360 on private dances with a nice gal named Shenae. Unfazed, he vowed to ask her out on his next visit as we meandered out of the club at approximately 8:30. I’m not sure if he acted on that promise, but I sure as shit believed he’d eventually follow through. Never mind his loving wife, Sandy. That was just a formality at that point.
A trip downtown tends to build up quite a hunger, so we pulled off the road and grabbed a few McDoubles. Disheveled, with hair in a tussy and wallets feeling thinner, Dale and Barry were thriving. We spent 2 hours at that McDonald’s as they lectured me on how to best manage a family, a successful work life, and making time to let loose. Soon after we departed, they dozed off and I ran their advice through my head over and until I got them home safely.
I walked into work Friday like a new man. A wink here or there throughout the morning was all we said the previous night’s debauchery. Our little secret.
At 11:45, we sat down for our Friday lunch at the local Mexican joint. Our weekly ritual. Not long after the waiter laid our menus down, Barry dipped a chip into the queso and quipped, “Boy I tell ya, that Kristy had a pretty little pooper.” Dale and I nodded slowly in agreement, and not another word of that night was ever spoken again..
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