It never occurred to me that this was as easy as it was going to get. When I turned 15, the fifty or sixty bucks per week I earned was quickly being eaten up by my growing addiction to Parliament Lights and off-brand 40oz beers. We'd pay homeless people to buy them from the run-down deli's surrounding the baseball field where we got into the majority of our trouble.
It was then when I inquired with my parents about getting a summer job, one where I could make some more cash and pass off the paper-route to my little brother. I'd been losing customers, mostly due to my tendency to throw gassers that put craters in screen doors and aluminum siding, in addition to delivering the papers at the early-bird hour of 6pm.
My mother had a bread route at the time, where she delivered this brand of cookies and cakes called "Joey's". Their slogan was something like, "A little of love in every bite." Some kids I hung out with in the neighborhood, who went to a local Catholic School where my mom delivered, found out and were like, "Yo! Your mom delivers the 'Joey loves everybody' cookies?!? Could you hook us up with some?"
I couldn't, so they continued to bully me. Looks like I missed my window.
Anyway, she delivered to this guy who drove a food truck on Staten Island. He was a big, fat fuck named "Bob". I put "Bob" in quotations, not because it's my pseudonym for him, but because he embodied the fat fuck named "Bob." Bob was his real name, he was a fat fuck, and he earned his keep to be called Bob, a fat fuck. He looked like the Epcot ball, wearing a pit-stained, white t-shirt with a tiny head on top. He gave me a job.
I got paid $100 bucks a week to come to his garage for two hours a day and clean all of the dried-up gunk in his pots and pans, then restock all of his beverages. It was disgusting, hard work. Sure, I was getting a pay-bump and weekends off, but it came at the expense of smelling like sauerkraut and eggs for the entire summer.
Bob would be there, profusely calling me "dopey" and "shithead" and "retard" while telling me he'd like to fuck my girlfriend. She was a grade behind me.
Any time I'd make a mistake - like forgetting to fill the coffee pots or scrub thoroughly behind some crevice I didn't know existed - he'd shower me with insults ranging from my level of intelligence to why I hadn't fucked my girlfriend yet. It was a constant onslaught of verbal abuse, day in, day out.
At the end of my first week, Bob courteously agreed to drive me home. While we passed though the neighborhood next to mine, he dropped some words of wisdom:
Bob - "This neighborhood is changing, you know?"
Doorman - "Oh yeah?"
Bob - "Yeah. There's a bunch of punjabs and niggers moving in."
Those are some of the things he'd say when being nice to me.
About halfway through the summer, my Mom sold the route to a nice man named Dave. His wife had recently gave birth to their first daughter, and this was a second job to make ends meet. One day Dave was running late with a delivery and Bob wanted to leave for the weekend. Bob confided in me:
Bob - "If he's not here in five minutes, he's gonna find his wife and baby in the East River... Hey, retard! Didn't I tell you to fill the fucking coffee pots before doing anything else!"
It's funny, being a kid and getting your first taste of what the real world must be like. Because you don't know shit. I just thought this is what it would be like when I went into the work force after high school (my ambitions at that age were minimal). I'd pictured going to some garage, and there be a bunch of dudes in there insulting and swearing at each other, leaving the New York Post on top of the toilet for the next guy. Your boss is the big asshole who makes everyone's life a living hell. It's kind of like what I do now, though there's a mutual respect amongst the guys, no matter how badly we abuse each other. And, no matter how big a stickler our boss may be, there's still a manner in which he has to treat us.
Bob had no business being alone with someone my age. My parents had no idea. They just knew him as fat, jolly Bob who bought their cookies and apple turnovers. They didn't know the awful things he would say, and I never told them anything. But why would I? I was making more money than anyone in the neighborhood, and there was never a time where being broke stood in the way of me doing something. It just came at the expense of having to take a whole lot of shit from a horrid man.
Eventually, Bob fired me for neglecting to fill the coffee pot for the following day. He owed me three days pay and said he didn't have the cash on him. He said to come back tomorrow. I did, and took the bus 5 miles from my house to get it. Same thing. "Come back tomorrow, dopey." I'd come back tomorrow, and he'd give me the same smug smirk and put-on forgetfulness. "Whoops, forgot to put it aside for you before the bank!"
Finally, I came home from the 4th day in a row of Bob's runaround, and told my father. My dad, in a vintage move, calmly stood up from the couch, grabbed his Carhartt work jacket off the dining room chair, and said two words:
Doorman - "No, Dad! Forget it! It's okay."
Dad - "He owes you money?"
Doorman - "Yeah, but, it's fine! I don't need it!"
The stakes are low when your only expenses are cigarettes, beer, and deli sandwiches.
Dad - "Let's go!"
We drove their green 1993 Saturn, which would eventually become my first car, to Bob's garage. I sat in silence the whole time, pissed off that my father was making me go and stand up for myself. At the time, I avoided confrontation so much that the anticipation of a potential brawl between my old man and this fat piece of shit made me sick to my stomach.
Dad - "When you do a job for someone, you make damn sure you get paid for it."
We pull up to the garage.
Dad - "Come on."
Doorman - "No, I'll wait here."
Dad - "Let's go, god damnit!"
I reluctantly get out. He gallops ahead of me, on a mission. We get to the truck, where a new kid has already taken over my job, likely getting his first round of Bob's tirades.
Bob emerges from one of the freezers. Dad marches over to him.
Dad - "Haya doin'? You owe my son money?"
Bob shoots me a look as I cower behind the truck. All I anticipate is him grabbing my father and them start to fight, and it's all my fault. It's my fault because I couldn't do this job right, and it's my fault that I actually went home and ratted out Bob to my Dad.
But Bob didn't grab my father. Instead, he shook like a leaf. You see, it wasn't some fat-faced, vulnerable kid who was going to take his shit because he didn't know any better. No, he was face-to-face with a grown-ass man, a grown-ass man whose son he'd just crossed. Bob was terrified.
Bob - "I went to the bank today. I don't have it."
Dad - "So you're gonna have it tomorrow, set aside for him before you go to the bank?"
Bob - "Yes."
Dad - "Don't make me come back here."
He turned and walked away. I stood frozen. Seeing Bob completely fold in the eyes of my Dad, who was half his size, was mind-blowing.
Dad - "Let's go."
I followed him out.
We didn't say much in the car ride back. He just reiterated how I need to stand up for myself. How I can't let people jerk me around that way.
Easy for him to say, I thought. I'd always known my father to be the guy who would stand up to the goliath, and I figured that gene had skipped me. I never stood up for myself, under any circumstances. I always felt like he was disappointed in me for always getting my ass kicked in school, rarely fighting back ("never" is more accurate). I'd never felt so different from him than that day. I could never, in a million years, picture myself taking that kind of charge, instinctively getting right in the face of someone who'd wronged one of his loved ones.
What the hell am I going to do when I have kids and something like this happens? Call my dad to come fix it?
The next day, I went back to the garage. Bob had an envelope on the table waiting for me. Before I took it and left, he said this:
Bob - "That was really nice of your father to come do."
Doorman - "Umm... okay."
Bob - "You tell him, that what he did, I'm going to have taken care of!"
He's threatening to have my father killed. Oh fuck. This is my fault!!!
Doorman - "Do you really want me to tell him that?"
Bob - "I don't give a fuck what you tell him!"
Doorman - "Ok, thank you."
I jumped back on the s62 bus, terrified that I potentially started a war that would lead to the demise of my old man.
When I got home, Dad was on the couch, watching SportsCenter.
Doorman - "Dad..."
I explained Bob's threat. He listened intently, with his mouth wide-open, which has been a life-long indicator that he's blissfully amused. After I finished, he took a pause, his face became red, and he began howling with laughter like I'd never heard him before.
Doorman - "Why are you laughing? He sounded like he was going to have someone hurt you!"
Between gasps of air, he managed to get this out:
Dad - "Chris... nothing's going to happen."
I creaked my head to the side, silently pleading him to elaborate. And he did. He leaned in for a whisper, because my mom and sister were in the next room and he refused to curse in their presence:
Dad - "He's a pussy."
That was the last we spoke of Bob. I never saw him again, and he never put the hit out on my father.
To be perfectly honest here, I had no intention of putting this story on paper when I sat down to write tonight. It started as a free-write about turning 30, and this somehow came to the surface when I started talking about my first paper route. I haven't thought about it in years. There's a lot to take from it, mostly that adulthood has helped me evolve into a man who will march into a garage to retrieve a debt owed to someone I care about.
Though there's something else that's easy to overlook - I mentioned that my parents had only known him as the jolly fat guy who bought their cakes. I remembered them talking about him before I started working there, and it was always overwhelmingly positive. He had a litter of kittens that he sheltered in the shed behind the garage. He was married with three children. He worked hard and ran a wonderful, successful business. He offered to have their son come in a work for him a couple of hours a day, as if he were doing them a favor. He was "Bob". They trusted him, yet had no idea what a lowlife he really was.
Point is, I should have told my parents what was going on. But I didn't. It obviously could have been much, much worse. Obviously.
In the end, I got to witness Bob shrink to what he really was in the ire of my father, which was immensely gratifying. If I had spoken up in the beginning, that wouldn't have happened. And I may have not taken such an impacting life lesson from it.
Though others may not be so lucky to have things go their way. I just feel bad for his family.
Can you picture a story like this, fleshed out into a half-hour episode of a network TV show? I can! Less than two days to contribute to the Doorman: Web Series campaign and help make that a reality!