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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My First Night Shift

When you sign up to work at a Backpackers there are several tasks you should expect to perform. You will deal with a horde of malnourished tourists who will ask you where to find the towels, blankets, the timetables for ferries to Helsinki, who one needs to bribe for Russian visas, where the nearest/cheapest pub is, the legal age of consent in Estonia, etc. Every morning there is vacuuming to be done, toothpaste-splatters to be wiped from bathroom mirrors, pubic hairs to be swept away (interestingly enough there is an unusual amount of hair left behind in the upstairs showers. Which leaves me to believe that someone is malting or is secretly a werewolf). And then there is the night shift.

The Backpackers is run by mostly volunteers so there are no strict rules that are enforced. Things need to be done, someone will do it. Karma. Night shifts are determined by rock-scissor-papers or assigned to people who have lost bets. If you are hungover enough you might raise your hand to do a night shift so you can stay indoors and give your liver a rest. John tends to do the shifts when he can sense trouble since he is used to dealing with obnoxious, incoherent, drunk people. Part of being Irish I suppose.

'Who wants to do the night shift today?' he asks a bunch of us sitting around the reception area. The other staff members scurry away like roaches scuttling away from a flashlight beam. 'Guess I'll have to do it.' I mutter as I curse my slow reflexes.

The truth is night shifts aren't usually a bad thing. It just detracts from your drinking time. A bunch of guys will inevitably come back with injuries and say, 'We were running down Pikk street naked and then Bob fell down and split his head open. It was so fun!' and you can't help but feel a touch of envy towards Bob. About the only thing you need to do is check-in late arrivals and let in guests who have forgotten their keys. The rest of the time is spent on the computer looking up Youtube to find the latest Christina Aguilera film clips and blooper reels for amature snuff films.

The first three hours was relatively uneventful. For some reason the reception area was filled with guests wanting to hear me tell jokes. These people need to get out more. Usually if I want to tell a joke to someone I have to tie the them up to a chair, cut one of their feet off with an axe and cauterise their injuries with a blowtorch. If they don't laugh convincingly enough I start amputating fingers. But for some reason the guests kept popping up in front of me, like Nigerian email scams that clog up your inbox.

One German guy kept coming in for a while then leaving to get more beer. He was a little bit annoying to tell you the truth. He seemed like a nice enough guy and maybe it was the language barrier, coupled with my desire to see Christina Aguilera's bosoms, that made me want him to leave the room. He eventually went to the lounge room to check his emails.

About an hour later he came in to the reception area. I was alone, going through the bookshelf where backpackers swap their paperbacks for others. The quality of these books were frankly quite crappy (Do I attempt to read John Grisham's The Broker or a Jeffery Archer novel? Which would suck less?) and I was not concentrating on the German guest's deathly pallor. 'I....I sink I need a cigarette.' he mumbled, as if to himself. He wore this expression like an albatross around his neck.
'Uh-huh,' I mutter.
'My...friend is a wrestler. Greek style wrestling.' he continued.
Now I'm looking at him. What the hell do I care?
'He....was in an accident.'
'Was he hurt badly?'
He nods, an automation. His eyes were coridoors. 'He..damaged his spine. The doctors say that he is para..para...what is this word?'
'Paralysed? Paraplegic?'
He nods again. 'Something like that. He will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His life...ruined now. Why? He was...he is so young. My other friends did not tell me this,' he turns to me, eyes misty with tears, 'Why would they not tell me this? It happened a week ago and I'm finding out today on email.'

I don't know how to reply. My tongue feels like it is cement. I can usually just find something to say in most situations. There is a cupboard where I keep standard responses in cans and I will generally find something appropriate to say. Deep inside the cupboard, past the 'Condolences for your dead cat' and 'Don't worry. She never understood you anyway', I find a few hollow words. 'I'm so sorry.' And I throw in some utterly useless sentiments to the pot. 'Are you going to be OK?'

He shrugged and went outside to smoke his cigarette.

21 Comments:

Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

That's a pretty serious ending for a post, Fatman. Quite a shock for those who thought you were a shallow misfit interested only in booze, boobs and cheap laughs. I always knew you had hidden depths, of course.

5:22 am  
Blogger Yawn said...

Yeah, the Human Ape's right. I was hoping for something tainted I could smell reeking its way through the cheap monitor screen. Instead you give us this: the horrors of tragedy.

Perhaps the solution is, as it has always been, to kill the pain, confusion, and awkardness by forgetting it to the tune of whatever booze and pharmaceuticals are locally available for cheap. First toast or dissolvence in a spoon for loading into a rig is a commemoration to the memory of one's life, or at least their previously-had abilities. Perhaps this particular paraplegic will develop intense sensations in his left earlobe that lead to involuntary ejaculation. (Or another area of the body, as many do who lose the sexual sensations from the genitals.) Therefore a prostitute could end up costing much less due to the nature of the act necessary to induce sexual climax. Then again, what if grandma kisses him on the ear?

Hey, I'm just trying to think positive here. I doubt the Germans would find it positive nor funny.

2:30 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

GB- I'd like to think that I'm still a shallow misfit interested in booze, boobs and cheap laughs. It's just that situations like these are thrusted in your face every once in a while. It's not even my tragedy. It's inherited. A third-hand tragedy that belongs to someone I'll never meet again.

Yawn- The other problem with the ear arousal thing is that if a stage magician pulls out a coin from behind the ear and you ejaculate you'd be wondering if you were "turning gay".

7:40 pm  
Blogger sassyassy said...

Fatman, I would love to laugh at your jokes, but when I was nominated for bloggies in 2006, I had to upgrade my standards...tee hee! Shouldn't that read cheap booze, cheap boobs, and cheap jokes?

3:48 am  
Anonymous Wombat said...

Wow, Its times like those when you really appreciate a good cigarette.

6:52 pm  
Blogger sassyassy said...

Isn't the night shift over with yet?

11:36 am  
Anonymous SpeedN said...

Hey Fatty, whats goin on in Estonia? you still doin night shift? you cant leave the world hanging. Nothin wrong with cheap booze, cheap jokes, can boobs ever be cheap though?

10:09 pm  
Blogger Paulo said...

I'm always fascinated with the knowledge I gain from reading blogs, but I jave to say, to learn Estonia experienced the 'midnight sun'...

11:07 am  
Blogger Paulo said...

I'm always fascinated with the knowledge I gain from reading blogs, but I jave to say, to learn Estonia experienced the 'midnight sun' was unexpected...

11:08 am  
Blogger Yawn said...

Hey Fatman....do you understand Spanish? If not or if so, perhaps you might like a good stiff unkphing from Genitallica. They're completely Goggleable.

2:05 pm  
Anonymous Wombat said...

Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.

11:51 am  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

Very true, Wombat, but where is the fat fellow?

2:59 am  
Anonymous Wombat said...

Perhaps we should all do the great Aussie call... KOOOOOEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Where are u our treasured Fatman??

6:59 pm  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

Maybe if you yelled out "FRREEEEEE BEER!", instead...

11:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey fatman, its Shane from purps. Had a blog sesh so im kinda up to date with your world now. Glad to see its going noicely. Look forward to seeing your gorgeous mug when you're back in ol' melbourne.

3:01 pm  
Anonymous Kittie said...

Fatman this is your beautiful woman here, where are you Hon? We are all worried about ya!
Love ya
Kittie
xo

5:58 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

22/12/06

Hola folks! You'll have to excuse me for not replying sooner. Briefly: I am about two months behind in blogging (The Fat-o-verse definitely not expanding at the moment), a month behind in reading emails, back in Australia, homeless and yet I have had three jobs in as many weeks. If I had even a full day off I'd explain the situation in a vaguely interesting way. Suffice it to say that I will return to writing sometime in the New Year, when I have settled down a bit.

1/ Estonia. Will talk about the rest of my adventures in Tallinn. Some interesting characters and events that I haven't even touched on. It's because I'm lazy.

2/ Russia. Yet to write the Part 2 of my Trans-Siberian journey. Lazy.

3/ Sassyassy: Wish my last post before my Internet exile was a happier one but that's the way it goes. The shift is over. life is good again. But blurry.

4/ Speedn: Ooh, a new reader. I usually write a lot more because I have no friends but due to my recent situation (two weeks of incredible poverty, two weeks of extreme work-a-diddily-doo) I haven't written squat. If you ever get bored enough to look through my archives, check out the thing about cloning Jesus or the night I slapped an ex-con at the Lustre Lounge. They seem to be popular with the masses.

5/ Paulo, the stuttering commentor: You weird English bastard.

6/Wombat: That humour/gravity thing- deep. I don't understand it, but deep. (I'm not being a smartass. I'm genuinely stupid. If you're going to comment you have to dumb things down a lot.)

7/ In case the rest of you don't know our favourite ape, Mr. Gorilla Bananas, has recently published his memoirs. No kidding. Get your copies here.

8/ Broadzilla: Funny you mention Free Beer. I'm staying at his house while his wife is in Thailand. It's great. We drink grog and eat cold pizza and watch old South Park episodes. Heh, heh. Towelie. He is the worst character ever.

9/ Shane: Hey dude! The strange thing is we bumped into each other on the day he wrote this comment.

10/ Kittie: My lovely girlfriend has now decided to write comments on my blog. Great. Now I have to tone down on my references to jacking off to Kate Winslet or the Lesbian Girl from Neighbours

1:55 am  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

Hey, Fats... You wanna get high? Towelie is almost the best super-absorbant, cotton-based character ever.

Glad you're back.

7:09 am  
Anonymous Kittie said...

what can i say but ... UGH!

10:52 pm  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

Fatman, I'd start a collection for you if I didn't think you'd blow it all on booze. Someone put on a video of Don's Party at the safari camp and I was trying to work out which of the characters was you. Possibly the guy who liked to watch from the cupboard when his wife had sex with his buddies. BTW, I'm giving away free copies of my memoirs to anyone who has the guts to e-mail their postal address to gorilla_bananas@yahoo.com.

7:18 am  
Blogger Gaijin Girl said...

come back, fatty!

11:25 pm  

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