|WHETHER IT WAS A GORILLA, THE WOLF MAN, DRACULA OR ANY GARDEN VARIETY MENACE, CURLY WAS ALWAYS LEFT TO FACE THE MUSIC BUT HE "AM-SCRAYED" JUST LIKE MOE AND LARRY.|
|HARRY TRUMAN (1884-1972) WAS OUR 33rd PRESIDENT, (1945-1953). A FEW MONTHS INTO HIS TERM, HE HAD TO MAKE ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS OF ALL-TIME...TO DROP THE FIRST NUCLEAR BOMB ON HIROSHIMA.|
My school was located on a bustling city avenue. On our side, there was a church, radio station, health food shop, liquor store and a mom and pop convenience store. Across the way, there was a firehouse, funeral home, an auto glass center and beauty parlor. Plus, four eateries could be seen from our front door.
In the early stages of getting this enterprise off the ground, I had difficulty coping with the pressure of getting the entity licensed. Oddly, the requirements were the same as if it were an actual casino. I had invested my life savings so every delay and added cost that held up opening, added to my anxiety. I was so choked by the fear of failure that to cushion the burden of uncertainty, I found a safe haven at the liquor store or the Italian restaurant's bar. Luckily, I fought off the drinking demons when the school finally opened.
After the grand opening, the school was also susceptible to spot checks by gaming enforcement agents, (state police). These impromptu drop-ins usually concerned internal auditing or record keeping regarding student attendance. But on one occasion, they wanted to see the procedure for safely locking up our valueless practice chips. My heart jumped into my throat when the first key wouldn't lock a blackjack table's chip rack. The inspectors weren't heartless, they said they'd come back after lunch.
In a panic, I ran across to the firehouse. A ghastly looking fireman with an eyepatch saw my desperation and joked, "I'll lend you an ax." When Mr. Cyclops saw the shock in my face, he smiled, brushed away some cobwebs and handed me a can of WD-40.
By the spring of 1987, the school's enrollment and staff gravitated to the tiny, corner convenience store on their breaks. The Indian couple that owned it, (Wolf's Market), were friendly and appreciated the new influx of business our student body provided.
One day, a student, (he was twenty years older than me) sadly approached me
and whined, "Meestah Stu, Meestah Stu." I said, "Asmat, this is an inform place. You don't have to call me mister...and my name is Steve...not Stu." He said, "Okay Meestah Stu." (I didn't correct him the second time). He continued, "I bought orange juice at the store with a ten dollar bill. When I returned here, I realized that the woman gave me change for a five. She denied her mistake and hollered at me to get out!"
Again, I was low-man on the totem pole. I knew there was no upside for me but I had to step-up and solve the problem. I was filled with negativity because the store owner's wife was far less approachable than the husband. Reluctantly, I put on a necklace of garlic cloves and headed over there.
The rigid hag looked like Stella Lugosi. I tried to look away but my eyes were riveted on the wart at the end of her nose and the mole on her cheek, (with coarse, cable wire hairs blooming out of it). Then, acting as Asmat's advocate, (without accusing her of short-changing him), I explained his side of the story. I politely concluded with, "At the end of the day, double check your receipts. Then IF there was an overage, please refund the five dollars."
I realized she was all tricks and no treats when she started yelling at me in a combination of Hindi and bad English. First, she showed me that her cash register didn't generate receipts. Then white gauze formed at both corners of this female werewolf's mouth as she howled, "I can't believe you would side with a (expletive deleted) Pakistani." She tore a five-dollar bill in half, balled it up and threw it at me. When I looked at her like she was crazy, she started yammering, (I guessed from her tone that they were profanities in her language). Finally, this queen of mean spit on the floor and ordered me out.
Thirty minites later, like a mad scientist, together with my Igor-like secretary, we angrily designed an Edgar Allan Poe themed boycott poster targeting the corner store.
|OUR BOYCOTT POSTER INCLUDED A PHOTO LIKE THIS. WE WERE TRYING TO INCORPORATE THE PHRASE, "NEVER MORE" WHEN WERE INTERRUPTED.|
That's when the store's diplomatic owner came in waving a new, truce-like five dollar bill. I pointed out Asmat and the two shook hands. I was glad my mediation succeeded in defusing a potential international incident while cementing my alliance with the Wolf Market, (my case is proven by the wife's brother, a nephew and the store owner himself eventually becoming my students).
Being in the Curly position sometimes is just a matter of facing the daily responsibilities of owning a business; like using my apartment's kitchen trashcan as a scoop, to dig my car out of twenty inches of snow, just to drive into town, borrow a shovel from the health food store to clear the school's sidewalk. I must have looked like a shivering Yeti when I came in to answer phoned-in "snow-day" questions. Later in this horror plagued day, I was pissed-off enough to use a chainsaw on the moron who accused me of being unprofessional for wearing jeans.
These uncomfortable situations aren't a matter of life and death but believe me, when you receive a report that some devil has vomited in the sink, your first reaction is to turn around and see who you can delegate the nasty task to. It's frightening to be in the Curly position and find out there's nobody behind you.
Other times, you are faced with a snap judgement. For instance, the school had a men's room and a separate ladies room. These facilities consisted of a single toilet, a sink and nothing more. So when I witnessed two male students come out of the men's room seconds apart, I knew something was amiss. Inside the restroom, the air was so saturated with the distinct stink of harsh marijuana that it smelled like a mummy's crypt. The last thing I wanted to do was confront these guys and run the risk of reprisals. But I generated, "a zero tolerance policy for illegal drugs and alcohol," so without backup, I was compelled to dismiss both of them.
Occasionally, Mother Nature threatens your livelihood with something far more horrifying than the temporary inconvenience of a blizzard. The school building was attached to a radio station...and we were tenants of the same landlord. One day there was a surprise visit from an exterminator after the station manager discovered sagging floor boards.
The bug buster said, "I have bad news." "Really," I said, "what did you find in the dungeon, a walking skull, tarantulas and thirteen black cats?" He said, "No, just a termite infestation." Nothing was more disgusting to see than a sea of undulating maggot-like creatures feasting on the floor panels and joists. By the time the workmen ripped and tore out the floor, twenty percent of the space had been damaged by the wood-eating invaders...but the whole floor and support system had to be replaced.
The school had to answer to the state gaming commission so we COULD NOT close our doors during advertised class hours without being heavily fined. This complication forced negotiations with the evil landlord and the blood-sucking contractor, to continuously work around the clock from 11:PM Thursday until 9:AM Monday to avoid any down time.
Forget about ulcers, after one delay led to another...causing arguments and work stoppages, I felt as if the black magic of Voodoo was giving me a heart attack. By the time I wiggled out of the termite fiasco and the doors opened on time for business on Monday, my skin was still crawling and I looked like a zombie. Maybe being in the Curly position was a matter of life and death.
Shortly there after, I got a visit from a toothless, homeless person with a Jack-O-Lantern grin and his witchy, skinny as a skeleton companion. The strangers informed me that their friend PT, a former student of mine, had been killed and they wanted me to come to the cemetery and attend the burial...less than an hour later. I tried to explain that I had to oversee the daily operation of the school...but they thought I was an insensitive jerk.
|PT'S LIFE WENT HAYWIRE AFTER HE LOST HIS CASINO JOB. HE WAS APPARENTLY SLEEPING "ONE OFF" IN AN OPEN FIELD SOMEWHERE ALONG THE ATLANTIC CITY EXPRESSWAY WHEN HE WAS MANGLED TO DEATH BY AN OVER-SIZED INDUSTRIAL LAWN MOWER.|
In the true spirit of Halloween, the scariest position I was left alone to face did not involve a monster. Instead, it involved a pretty, blond, twenty-four year old student. Ursula had a truancy problem which forced me to call her home several times. I never spoke with her but Ursula's mother finally confided in me that her daughter had an extremely rare blood disorder. During a later call, her mom doubted that Ursula would return to class in the near future.
A month later, I was informed that Ursula had passed away. Her mom encouraged me to attend the wake which was going to be held directly across the street from the school...I did not refuse.
I stayed at the school late that night and busied myself so intently on paperwork that I lost track of the time. Even though the gathering was over, I hustled across the street and went into the eerie, dark and empty chapel. I passed rows of empty chairs as I advanced towards a hall that led to a dim light. I was hoping that Ursula's mom might still be there. If not, I wanted to sign the register and ask a representative of the mortuary to send along my condolences. At the door, I glanced to the left and saw through the diffused light, Ursula in the open coffin. I was so spooked that the few hairs I still had...stood on end. Childishly, as if hobgoblins, Frankenstein and ghosts were chasing me, I zoomed like a bat out of hell and went home.
I told you I was more of a Curly than Truman. So if you are ever behind me in a Three Stooges episode, (on an expedition to find the Phantom from Forty Fathoms, in the piranha invested Amazon), be aware that if Moe pushes aside some branches and they smack me in the face...I'll be doing the same thing to you...even if your name isn't Curly.