Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Day Bonus Post: 85th Job Remembered



Terrifying, isn't it?

Happy new year, everybody. Observant readers may have noticed that the title of the blog has changed (slightly) yet again. That's right - yesterday I suddenly recalled a job which, though I think of it often, I  - for some reason - forgot to include in my list. This brings the total to 85. I guess I may not have thought of it as a "job", per se, because although I was definitely "hired", I'm not sure I was actually paid for any of the small amount of time I spent being where I was expected to be. I'll explain in a moment.

I remember where I was living at the time, and what car I was driving. Given the nature of the job, it puts it around September into October, so I'm going to say it was in late 1981. I'll have to go back and shoe horn it into the appropriate chapter and rework my list. It probably fell between Jobs #27 (the nut company) and #28 (working for the guy with the old warehouse).

As for the job itself, I was hired to be a gorilla in a haunted house. No, really. In the weeks prior to Halloween, a married couple was advertising for workers for a new haunted house they planned on opening up. This wasn't going to be just one of the many run-of-the-mill, short-lived haunted houses which pop up at that time of year. It seems like those are usually run by some fun-loving volunteers who either just really love scaring people and want to make a quick buck, or by charitable organizations who are trying to raise funds for a worthy cause. My new employers actually planned on trying to make their haunted house a year-round attraction. That was something of a warning sign right there.

I don't know if they bought or rented, but they had acquired the use of an abandoned motel on the far north end of the Promenade in College Town. That area has always had a lonely and forlorn feeling to me. At the time it was mainly a mix of orchards and light industry. It has grown up some since then, mostly with somewhat expensive housing developments, but the rest of the area still has the dodgy look that unplanned development tends to bring.

For the past several months, most days of the week I drive my bus right through this neighborhood. I'm pretty sure that the site of the old motel has been replaced by one of the new housing developments, but there is one weird old pair of buildings which looks approximately like the place I remember. I'm pretty sure they're not, though; they don't really look like a motel. I don't know what they are, to tell you the truth. I was looking at them as I drove past yesterday when I suddenly thought, "Oh my god - I forgot to put that job on the list!"

The couple hired several young people, and we met a few times at the old motel to discuss the plans. I think there was an understanding that we weren't getting paid for those early meetings. That may have been legal back in the early '80s, but I'm pretty sure it's not now. If you expect people to report for duty, they need to be paid for their time. Another warning sign ignored.

For some reason I was chosen to be the gorilla. I don't know why a gorilla would be in a "haunted" house with ghosts and ghouls and such. That should have been another warning sign. I never ended up even trying on a gorilla suit before I left.

There was one interesting thing that happened during one of those planning meetings. There was an intense blond fellow in our party.I think he was slated to be a vampire. He was standing in the middle of one of the motel rooms explaining an idea he had for a spooky effect.  He said he could slowly raise his hand (which he did), and then the light in the room could dim. Which it did. But no one was near the light switch, which wasn't the dimmer kind anyway. The rest of us exchanged nervous glances, but blondie acted like it was the most natural thing in world. I kept my distance from him after that.

One morning, I was having stomach pains, They became quite severe, so I asked to leave early. When I got back to the house I shared with Good Time Charlie and our roommate Eddie, I couldn't get in because everyone was gone and I had forgotten my key. It was a cold day, so I curled up in the old easy chair on the front porch and covered myself up as best I could with a foam rubber mat I found in the backyard. Eventually one of my roommates came home and let me in, and I crawled into bed. I ended up having a bout of intestinal illness that lasted several days and left me weak and drained and even skinnier than I already was. Needless to say, I gave up on the gorilla job as a lost cause. It was too flaky, anyway - even for me.

The couple did open their haunted house before Halloween, and I heard it did a pretty good business during the season, although I never went to see it. There was a segment on the local news about it, and they paid for radio advertising. They tried to keep it open after Halloween, but it wasn't long before they had to admit the folly of this and closed up shop. So much for "job" number 27.5 - a total non-starter from beginning to end.

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