An honest man in an age of creeps.
I sat alone in the jacuzzi worried about my backpack, which was outside on a lawn chair by the pool. It had my wallet, cell phone, and keys — the modern trinity of security — and my preoccupation with it prevented me from enjoying the jet’s rumble against my lower back. For every bubble that came up, a thought bubble came up in my head. What am I doing here? I envy people who seem able to place themselves inside a jacuzzi and have their problems melt away; where my problems, it seems, just brew. I tried to imagine jacuzzi-centric rap videos, the twinkling diamond studded grills, the slow motion trail of champagne flying through the air, the hypnotic aggressively jiggling asses, and quickly became depressed. My backpack.
Every year my employer takes our staff to a retreat, in this case, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, an hour-and-a-half drive north from San Francisco. Work retreats are an economically efficient way for employers to mitigate their workers without getting them a raise. A mid-salary bureaucrat masticating on a “free” salmon burger is a feel less angry mid-salary bureaucrat. I am one of the only two males in our department; the other, our I.T. Specialist, is also bald, severely near-sighted, and Asian, hence we are occasionally mistaken for each other. He disappeared during the retreat, and is no longer relevant herein.
I imagined myself without a wallet, cell phone, and keys. How would I enter my condominium. Where would I sleep. How would I call a friend to help me. How would I pay for what I needed. How could I prove I was me. These are Kafkian questions a neurotic diagnosed with “catastrophic thinking” will ask himself inside a jacuzzi during his one day of reprieve a year. He will look down at his raisiny finger tips, and consider himself being slowly incorporated into a soup eponymously named after him. It was time to get my backpack. I was going insane.
Upon retrieving my backpack, I passed a young attractive co-worker who shall be referred to as “Dolly,” who despite her rendering does not have enormous breasts, which only serve to signify her gender and distinguish her from me. She is 23-years-old, a recent hire, and a very nice person. If we didn’t work together, and if I was younger, and a little more confident, and a little less depressed, and if, if … then she’d be the type of person I’d ask out on a date. We would eventually have brunch in the morning, a perfectly poached egg as the rising sun, and I would be happy. I said “hey,” to which she replied “hey.” Sometime before corporate cordiality, we died. A reasonable person, as she is, would think I had left the jacuzzi to move on to other things — a Bloody Mary in the pool, two handfuls of almonds after the steam room, a bourbon by the fountain with another handful of almonds, a near fatal nap in the sauna, a deep-tissue massage administered by a strong handed women with a low Eastern European accent — all of which I was able to do.
Walking back to the jacuzzi, I knew Dolly would think that I had changed my plans, reverting back to the jacuzzi I just left, in order to creep on her. The move reeked of creepiness, though it wasn’t, and I thank the reader for being receptive to this unsung truth. Her assumption was fair, however; the empiricism of attractive girls is that they get creeped on and will always get creeped on. She wasn’t flattering herself, but just being realistic. I could have explained to her that our encounter outside did not influence my plans in any way, that I was simply getting my backpack and planning all along to return to the wonderful jacuzzi in which I was trying to enjoy myself. I could have then pointed to my backpack safely inside now as proof. But to say such things would have made it more awkward, so I just talked to her about prosaic modern niceties (which only sounds like nice titties).
At one point, before re-entering the jacuzzi, I considered aborting my plans, knowing how creepy my perceptibly illogical entry back into the jacuzzi would seem. In a way, I staunchly went back “out of principle,” like a nod to my own ethics, knowing I wasn’t a creep, but a very nice gentlemen. So there we were, talking about the weather, the one above our heads that day, and not the black cloud in my heart. We talked about some cool or edgy band she had heard me playing on the speaker one morning, how she also liked that band, maybe even saw them “live” once. I listened carefully to her story, each word, each almost smile of her lips forming the words, listening for the word she was to say ever so gently, as all women who are either threatened or mildly irritated are trained to do. Boyfriend.
And that was it. Dolly said she saw the band with her boyfriend, proof once again that punk is dead. She then said the heat was making her nauseous and got out of the jacuzzi. I smiled, and did not defend myself. I stayed a little longer, looking at the nervous water, the erratic surface which kept on changing form, as if it were never content, trying to be something it wasn’t. My fingers were so wrinkled they made tiny faces, each one a frown. I would’ve left too, but didn’t want Dolly to think I was following her. Besides, Chen Soup still needed some more time.