Robbie

In the early part of 1986 I left one music shop for, what I thought, would be a great career at another one. Ultimately they both went under. So, while living with my father, I was out of work, which to him was worse than wearing a crucifix to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Across the street from my dad’s place was a couple with a 4 year old daughter, named Nicole, in their late twenties, early thirties. The husband, Robbie, was a clean cut guy, that one day decided he wasn’t clean-cut anymore and became a biker. Almost overnight he went from yuppie to long-hair and beard and a brand new Harley to top off the new persona. I never talked to any of them. One of my half sister’s was around the same age as Nicole so I would see her occasionally.

One day when my dad went to work and his two devil-spawns (my half-sisters) were off to school, I heard someone thumping on the door. I open the door and it’s Biker Robbie from across the street. He says, “Your dad tells me you’re out of work.”
I say, “You were second in line after the L.A. Times.”
He says, “What?”

“Nothing.”
“Well, I’m working on a construction project, want some work?”

“Sure, when?”

“Right now.”

“Shit, OK. Can I shower?”

“Nope, I’m leaving in three minutes.”

So, I ran into my room, threw on some jeans, a bandana and grabbed a sweatshirt.

Ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot of the Northridge Mall in the San Fernando Valley, California. I follow Robbie into this back hallway; he unlocks a gray door with a sign on it that reads “Future Home of Pretzel World.”

My first task, he hands me five or six red rags and some cleaning fluid. And tells me to make sure every bit of dust is wiped out in the place. I fill my pockets with the rags and go for it. The top of the freezer units, top of the air-conditioner – everything. Two or three hours go by; Robbie tosses me a Pepsi, “See me when you’re done.”

Other guys have wandered in and out, carpenters, electricians and two plumbers. Apparently, Robbie is the foreman, and the owner of Pretzel World doesn’t want him to announce that he’s the boss, he wants him observe and more or less spy on them and report back to the owner. So, Robbie’s job becomes mine, things like, “How many cigarette breaks did the plumber take?” and “How long was that electrician standing around?” became my job.

Next I was given some kind of paste and Robbie tells me to “Go around the building and anywhere that there is wallpaper, inspect the top, bottom and seams and if there is any lift – paste it down.” Spent about two hours on that. After, about, six hours into the day Robbie comes over and says, “Put everything down, we’re going to eat.” He treated me to Taco Bell or something. But while eating he wanted the information on all the workers and a list of who was fucking up.

After forty-five to fifty-five minutes we were back on site. Robbie hands me this small can of green, thick-looking paint. And Robbie says, “Go over the counter and all the tables, if there are nicks or scratches on the Formica – dab this over the spot, then wipe it off. It’ll plug it up.” So, I went to work. In between all my tasks and spying, he would send me back and forth to his truck, “Get my big, red pliers,” “Get my push broom.” So, while I did a massive dusting job – the crew that had been there most of the day was now leaving and they left huge amounts of dust and debris, so Robbie throws me a ton of red rags and says, “Dust.” Another two or three hours on that.

Once I was done, I looked up at the clock and it was nine o’clock. I had been at the mall for twelve hours. I don’t want this guy to bitch to my dad and say I was a slacker, so I don’t ask when we were going to wrap this thing up. But I’m thinking it!

When I finished dusting, a very attractive woman dressed in business-sexy (is that a real term?) walked in and talked to Robbie a bit and then walked around and inspected the place. I don’t remember if I was introduced or not, being that I was just a scrub . . . I don’t think I was.

Robbie hands me a mop and a bucket and says, “Make the floor spotless, and make it shine.” I spend and hour to an hour and a half really scrubbing.

As I was mopping I noticed that Robbie and the business woman would walk to the opposite side of the building and talk in whispers. Odd, but whatever.

As soon as I was done mopping Robbie walked over and gave me this huge bucket of some kind of epoxy or something. So, anyway, I wait until my freshly mopped floor is nice and dry, then I take another brand-new mop and start applying this epoxy to the floor.

The funny thing is Robbie tells me to start at one end of the building and apply it all the way to the other end, but once I am at that other end I’m stuck. I’m forced to climb onto the top of this little broom-closet bathroom. I have to sit on top of it until the epoxy is dry.

Robbie tosses me a Pepsi while I’m up there, then I see the business lady come over and pull Robbie by the belt into a corner that is out of my eyeshot. From there all I can hear is the sound of two farm animals in heat, grunts and groans. So, basically Robbie set me up. Made me apply the epoxy ass-backwards so I wouldn’t be able to walk around and catch him.

Finally, at midnight he strolls over, checks the floor says it’s dry and “Let’s head home.”

On the drive home neither of us talked, me because I was beat and him . . . probably because he was trying to figure out what to say.

He pulls into my dad’s driveway and says, “Hey man, that shit with that girl . . . it was nothing. She acts flirty. Nothing to it. But just the same, let’s keep it between us all right?”
I say, “No worries. I didn’t see a thing.”
“Cool.”

Then Robbie shook my hand and peeled off ninety or a hundred bucks. I walked into the house and crashed.

I’d see Robbie occasionally; he’d slow down on his motorcycle and nod at me, then take off. I never worked with him again. And then I’d move a few months later and my dad would sell the house. Not sure what became of Robbie and his family.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

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