Mums the Word

Paying Off the Midnight Waffles

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I confronted an officer of the United States Postal Service this morning. I spotted him a block away, casing the neighborhood one house at a time in a criss-cross pattern. He stopped at every door. Who is this man? What is his angle? When he approached, I was ready for him. I kept my eyes sealed to the peep hole. My right hand rested on the doorknob and my left held a gleaming tack-hammer. Nobody but nobody approaches the threshold of my domicile, not without a bag of low mein noodles. One step up towards the door and I was on him, staring him down the curb and into a puddle. “Identify yourself! Are you alone? Declare your purpose! Are you an operative of the government?”

The coward feigned ignorance and hysteria, he even left his ear-buds in and side-stepped my interrogation. He jammed a bundle of credit card offers into my hands and split. Discover, MasterCard, Citibank. They all want a taste. The buzzards are circling because they can smell my alpha-male credit. That's why I'm a mark. I run a high balance but never miss a payment. It's a blood sport. I never cared much for penny slots or gentleman's bets so forgive me for quoting Lady Gaga: "Russian Roulette ain't the same without a gun." There has to be skin in the game or I won't play. I won't be applying for any new credit cards as I am currently engaged in all out warfare with the bastards at Visa. They hosed me into a rotten deal years ago, tempting me into a life-debt with the promise of free airline miles. "Free" is a four-letter word that only rings true if you can't put a dollar sign on a pound of your own flesh.

I shredded the envelopes and torched the scrappings in an iron pot. I was sweeping the ashes into bucket of bleach when Andy squawked. Bruner again, reminding me of the show tonight. He and his roommates produce and perform on these do-it-yourself comedy shows in nontraditional locations around Queens and Brooklyn. Last time they scribbled arrows on the sidewalk and performed in a boxing ring in Dumbo, trading quips instead of haymakers. For tonight, they rented the rock-star suite of a hotel in Long Island City. Admission is $20, and it's all you can drink. I wanted to go, but I had to be up early.

I declined the invitation with great regret. I'm missing too many of these, life swirls ever down the drain. Andy's alarm systems are set daily for 4 a,m. He dutifully wakes me up every day, and I habitually thank him by not pulverizing him against the radiator. I have to be up and cycling over the Queensboro Bridge by sunup or else the guests miss out on their eggs benedicts. That's what I do; I work room service at a five-star luxury hotel in Midtown. My job consists of delivering omelets and dark-roast coffee to celebrities and dot-com survivor stories. Divulging the identity of our guests is strictly prohibited. In fact, it's Service Standard #14 of our zeitgeist: "Be respectful of our guest's personal time and privacy, delivering service that does not interrupt or interfere with our guest's activities. Never approach a guest to request a favor, such as an autograph." I collect them anyway, having Andy snap a small grainy photograph of their signed room-service slips in case I ever need to forge a high-powered signature in a sensitive situation. You never know...but I do.

It's not a job, it's a prison sentence. I loathe the task of rushing breakfast to uppercrust elites with bulletproof bank accounts and Centurion Amex cards made out of anodized titanium. Alas, that's the mission. The hotel is an infant, barely one year old and deathly terrified of an old enemy: unionization. In an effort to thwart organized labor we all make money well over our position, including magical benefits like vacation pay, sick pay and health and dental insurance. I even get an eight-hour freebie just for having my birthday roll past on the calendar. It's the fourteenth job I've held in two years of living in New York City, and at this point it's a joyless chore, merely a means to an end.

The punishment is beyond harsh. My debt is the bastard child of carelessness and life in the moment. I should have been more careful, taken steps to have more money coming in than going out. Prescient of consequence, I did the wrong thing anyway. Life felt liquid, impossible to grasp and ever evaporating into the ether. Responsibility could wait, so I put it on the shelf to deal with at a better time that never came. Digging out was going to take some doing. I had to triage the whole situation and prioritize monotony and diligence over gut instinct and spontaneity. Every balance transfer is a minor victory, followed by a cash-poor hangover. The euphoria is short-lived when I'm paying interest on rounds of drinks and midnight waffles I vomited against the side of a bank four years ago, but I'm no Sisyphus. Parky shall prevail.


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