Friday, May 28, 2010

Practical Joke #(who knows)

house My assistant manager, who’s daughters and nephew both worked with us at the West Valley Free Wheeler, lived in a duplex with pillars by the front door.  They were just far enough out from the door that you could walk between them and the house.  Which made a few of us think “hmm, this is the beginning of a great prank.”  So one evening, a few of the other employees and a couple of her relatives, quietly wrapped the pillars with toilet paper, creating a paper wall in front of the door.  One of our delivery drivers climbed up on the roof with a bucket of flour, and another employee and I positioned ourselves on either side of the door, where there wasn’t any toilet paper and we could easily drench anyone coming out of the front door.  One of her relatives, water gun in hand, went in the back door and started squirting her, chasing her around the house. tophouse As was our plan, she tried to escape our gunman out the front door, saw the wall of toilet paper, turned one way, got hit by a bucket of water, turned the other way, got hit by another bucket of water, then tried to escape through the wall of toilet paper.   She came out from under the front porch wet and covered in soggy toilet paper.  But that wasn’t enough, that’s when the driver dumped the bucket of flour on her.  Wet, soggy TP and flour.  What a mixture.  We were laughing our guts out, and fortunately she had a sense of humor and could only congratulate us on our ingenuity.  And laugh too, as she planned her revenge.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Free Wheeler, prelude to some practical jokes.


I started working at Free Wheeler right out of high school, sometime during the first week of July of 1978.  It was just a dinky little place in the corner of an old car dealership, the rest of the building was still occupied by a car parts store.  The three guys that started it had all been M.P.s in Germany during the Vietnam war, and had come out to Salt Lake together to start a rock band.

One night, when they had been partying pretty hardily, they wanted to get something to eat, and realized that there was no place in the valley that would actually deliver food to your home.  When living in Chicago, two of them had worked for what is now a national pizza delivery chain, and decided Salt Lake could use a good pizza delivery place of it’s own.  So the day after Thanksgiving 1977 they opened the doors, and 7 months later I walked through the door looking for a job.  By this time one of the original owners had left, and another friend of theirs had bought his way into the business with a couple hundred dollars, a ‘72 Chevy Vega and ‘68 VW Bug that we15 used for delivery cars.  The Bug had a big hole in the floorboard right by the driver’s left foot and no reverse gear, and the Vega had a bad clutch.  Add to that the ‘72 Super Beetle with a front end that wobbled every time you went over a bump, and you get one hell of a nice delivery fleet.  But we made it work.

The best part about Free Wheeler was (and still is) that is wasn’t just a workplace.  Mike, Mitch and Al, the three owners, created an atmosphere where the crews became close friends.  We worked together, we partied together, we vacationed together.  Every Thanksgiving the store closed down and pretty  much the entire crew would get together celebrate the store’s anniversary.  At the original store we would close down to play intramural football twistedup at the University of Utah (our team name was "the “Twisted Brains”.) and we even closed down for an entire week so the whole crew could go down to Lake Powell.

When I was manager of the West Valley store it was a very small crew, and we became so close that we wouldn’t even knock when going over to each other houses, especially at the house of my assistant manager, who was pretty much the matriarch of the store.  We had a habit of playing practical jokes on each other, and would always try to extract some sort of good natured revenge whenever the prank fell on us. 

So, this is the prelude to future posts about the practical jokes we played on each other, and other ones I was involved with that have nothing to do with Free Wheeler.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nip it in the bud…

This is a repost of part of one from my other blog, but since I couldn’t decide which one the whole story belonged on, I decided to put the whole story there, and this part, which belongs here, here.  If you want to read the whole story, here’s the link: Click on me.

I was 6 or 7 when my dad caught me with a Matchbox car I had stolenmatchbox-vauxhall-cresta-sedan-22-detail from the local 5 & Dime.  I hadn’t even had the chance to get it out of the package, so my dad immediately packed me into the car, drove me back down there and made  me go in, return it and apologize for taking it.  This little lesson has stuck with me, well, it’s still with me.  I’d like to say that I’ve never stolen anything since then, but as we all know the teen years can overcome the best of parenting.  But even during my most narcissistic adolescent phase, I still had this big knot in the pit of my stomach anytime I took something that wasn’t mine.  It didn’t stop me, but I still had a physical reaction.  Which probably explains why my larceny was kept to a minimum, and can say that I have never been arrested for any kind of theft.

Remembering back on my experience, I really have no idea what the man at the counter said, or exactly what my father had said for that matter.  I vividly remember walking in that door, looking down the counter, on the right, to where the cashier was, and standing there in front of him.  I remember being embarrassed as hell that I got caught, and more importantly, that I was being held responsible for my actions.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fun with Cops, Part II

About a month after the incident at the party at my house, I had another run-in with Officer Napoleon.

easthigh There was some issue with students from my high school parking their cars, or just sitting on the lawns, on the small street right by the school.  The big issue was that that was where they went to smoke pot.  The neighbors complained enough about the “Douglas Street Squatters”, as they were known, that the city made the street a no-parking area during school hours.  Now Douglas Street runs parallel to the main street in front of the school, which seemed to have caused some confusion for Officer Napoleon.

It was lunchtime and there were a whole bunch of students out at the 7-11 across from the school, which happened to be where my unofficial parking spot was; right on the main road in front of said 7-11.  We were standing there eating lunch, and watching a cop give tickets to all the cars along the main road.  I was wondering what he was doing, and when he finally got to my car I decided I now had the right to ask.  I walk over to him, and as I get close enough to talk to him I realize it’s the same Napoleon wannabe cop that was strutting around my house just a few months back.

“Whatcha doin’?” I asked him.

“What?” He responded.

“This is my car, I was just wondering what you were giving me a ticket for.”

“Parking illegally.  They changed this to a no parking zone during school hours.”

“No, that’s Douglas Street, we can still park here.”noparking

“Nope, they changed this street to.”

“Not according to that.” I said as I pointed to the parking sign right in front of my car.

He didn’t say much, just looked at the sign, ripped up the ticket he had started and then went back to all the other cars along the street and ripped up their tickets too.

I fought the law, and the law (didn’t) won.”


Monday, May 10, 2010

Fun with Cops, Part I

It was sometime around October of my senior year.  My parents had taken off to some convention somewhere and left me and my younger siblings alone in the house for a week.  Which, at 17, meant “One Big 7 Day Party.”  My  best friend, and a dozen of my closest friends, had pretty much moved in for the week.  A house full of unsupervised teenagers, something the ultra-conservative neighborhood (SLC in 1977, EVERWHERE was ultra-conservative) must have just loved.

fields Not that we planned this, but they were in the process of building a couple of condominium buildings almost across the street from my house.  Now, other than partying, what other things do teenagers, or did they in 1977, like to do?  Well, explore unfinished buildings.  And these had working elevators. 

While we were partaking of our bootlegged bounty in the house, (let’s call them) J.T., Eric and some other unknown friend, decided to explore the high-rises.  At about 10 at night.  Well, they had done this a couple nights before, and came running in the front door, yelling “Cops, Cops”, and as we all just started peeing our pants, they started laughing.  Yeah, funny joke.

friends1 Well, this evening JT comes running in the front door, screaming “Cops! Cops!”, and just like in the story about the kid who cried wolf, we didn’t believe him.  Until he ran out the back door, jumped off the balcony and ran out into the field.  Then I thought “Hmmm, maybe he is serious?”, went to the front window and looked out. 

Flashing red and blue lights right in front of my house.  Holy $%!%, he wasn’t kidding.  That’s when I followed him, running through the house screaming “Cops! Cops!”, out the back door, off the balcony and into the field, with half the party in tow. 

About a third of the way down the hill, I look over and there’s my older brother running right beside me.  He looks at me, I look at him, and he says “That’s OUR house, we gotta go back and see what’s going on.”

(See, my parents had drilled some sense of responsibility into us.)

Damn, he’s right.  So we head back friends2 up to the house, to find the half of the party that had remained being interrogated by 4 or 5 of Salt Lake City’s finest.  Well, not all.  One of SLC’s finest was sitting on the couch in the living room, drink in one hand, smoke in the other, talking to (we’ll call her) Tory, a female freshman friend of mine.

We walked into the kitchen to find a room full of kids, with the head cop pacing around, barking questions, like a modern day Napoleon grilling the troops on what went wrong at the last battle.  Seems that two of the three that had been up at the condos had frozen right in their tracks, while JT ran for his life, leading the cops right to the party.  Napoleon got his name from the other two, and damn well wanted to get his hands on that danged fugitive.  He got everyone’s name, asking each one where JT was, getting the same response from them all: “He’s out in the field.” 

When we walked in and he asked us, we told him who we were, and that it was our house.  I don’t remember any specifics of the grilling, but he did write down my sister’s name when she came home in the middle of the mess, my 11 year old little brother’s name when he woke up friends4to see what was going on and even my sister-in-law who showed up near the end to pick up my older brother.  We half expected him to put his ear to her very pregnant stomach and demand to see the baby’s identification.  They made us pour out all our alcohol, and then spent an hour walking through the field looking for JT, passing by but not stumbling onto a single one of the 15 or 20 friends  that were hiding under sage brush and other such natural cover out there.

An hour or so later, they gave up looking, and left.  No citations, no arrests. (aahh, the innocence of the 70’s).  My little brother went back to bed, my little sister went to bed and my older brother and his wife went home. 

Now, we all knew better than to raid my parent’s liquor cabinet, they never needed a lock on it because what restrictions they did put on us were to be taken seriously.  But after this ordeal, we were glad that the cops hadn’t discovered it, and we carefully partook of what we thought we could get away with.  (We didn’t – I had to pay the parents back, twofold).  We had to do something to calm ourselves down as we waited for the absent party goers to take the chance the cops were gone and risk coming back in.  And when they did, they needed something to warm them up, after all it was October,friends3 and although there wasn’t snow on the ground, I do remember it being cold out there. 

It was about midnight when the cops left, and people started trickling in around 1:00.  We heard stories about  cops walking within feet of them and shining their spot lights on them from 20 feet away, and then going right past them.  The very last person to return to the party was the fugitive from justice, JT.  He showed up just past 4 in the morning, shivering like a soaked Golden Lab and was immediately wrapped up in a warm blanket and given something to warm his innards.  He’d been hiding up a tree next to the Church at the end of the road, the cops had even shined their light up into the tree, but never noticed him.

This, of course, was the end to the visits to the unfinished condos.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Prelude to “Fun with Cops, part I”

As I look back on my parent’s job of parenting, it amazes me exactly how naive the 60’s and 70’s were.  My parents did, or allowed, things that quite frankly would have their children removed by DFS if done today. wayback We would sit in the front seat of the car, completely unrestrained except for mom’s arm which would automatically swing out whenever she had to stop suddenly.  Sometimes we would be sitting on dad’s lap, helping him steer our bright red 63’ Chevy wagon down the highway.   And when we weren’t in the front seat, we were often laying down in the way-back (the cargo area of a station wagon, behind the back seats) with all our camping gear floating around us, a hundred lethal projectiles surrounding us as we cruised the highways at 85 MPH. 
Then there’s the summer we spent on Martha’s Vineyard.  fiat Yes, they hired a nanny to watch over the 4 of us while they were working the deal for my dad’s Calculus book.  But picture a family of 6 cruising around in that 2 seater Fiat my dad is standing next to.  Mom & dad in the front seat, the 4 kids (ages 3, 6, 9 and 11) sitting on the trunk with our feet, safely anchoring us to the car, in the space behind the front seats.  Tell me that wouldn’t bring a social worker to your house these days.  Oh, and the hitchhiking.  We were allowed to hitchhike all over the island.  Of course, the 3 year old was not allowed to participate, and the 6 year old could only hitchhike if accompanied by the 9 and 11 year olds.  But my older brother and I had free run of the island.
Yeah, those were the 60’s.  When my parents were still the up-and-coming suburbanites.  Then the 70’s came, with my mother’s cancer, chemotherapy and the subsequent doctor-endorsed (for my mom at least, and quite nudge-nudge, wink-wink) marijuana use.  Curfew hippiesat my house during my teen years was (actually a very strict) 9:00 on school nights and, well, “Call and let us know if you’re too drunk  to drive home and going to spend the night at your friend’s house” on weekends.  My friends knew this, and would call for me if I was already “asleep”.  It was not unheard of at Friday dinners for me to say “We’re going camping, I’ll be home by 9:00 on Sunday.” and simply get a “Have a great weekend.” from the parents.  Which leads to the whole purpose of this tirade – the prelude.
My dad was, and still is, a very prominent Professor, he was hired by the University to help build a world-class department because of his reputation and connections.  This meant that he and my mom did a lot of traveling, leaving a house full of teenagers completely unattended.  This is the prelude to the future post to be titled “Fun with Cops, part I”, a week during my senior year in high school where, at 17, I was the oldest one in the house.
Now, before you ask yourself “is this guy writing this from behind the bars of a state prison?”, family despite all those things my parents did that would get them arrested if they were raising kids in 2010, they did a pretty damn good job.  All 4 of their children graduated high school.  3 went to college.  NONE of us have a criminal record or have even had any serious problems with the law.  3 of us are married with children, one with grandchildren, and all 3 who have been married have never been married to anyone but the person they are currently married to.  We have all spent our lives supporting ourselves and our respective families, never expecting anyone to take care of us financially, other than during emergencies. 
Whatever my parents did do wrong, they must have also been doing something right.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Road Rage in the 80’s

Fury1966-1 It must have been ‘86, I was working at the Free Wheeler in West Valley City.  A co-worker had a 1966 Plymouth Fury and my little brother had a 1973 Cadillac.  One of our favorite past times was to drive around in the two cars and slam into each other at stop lights.
We wouldn’t be going very fast, it never did any real damage to either of the car bumpers, but it would jolt them and get people looking.
cdv73aThe fun part was when we would start yelling at each other out the car windows.  We’d hang our heads out, shake our fists, sometimes the passengers would sit on the doors pounding their fists on the roof of the car.  All just to see what the onlookers would do.
Usually it would be just stare, one time a lady who was going to pull out of a parking lot into the lane next to us choose to back up and use the other exit, but if never lasted long because the light would soon turn green and we’d be on our way.
Until the next red light.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dummy in the Road.

When I was in high school, the family car was a 1974 Dodge Van.  For 2 various reasons, I would often be stuck, or allowed to, drive the van instead of my Colt.  Which made it a lot of fun to cruise around with 20 of my best and closest friends.  (And at 73 cents a gallon, I needed that many people to pay for the gas.)
The Harvard/Yale area around 17th East was solid middle class at the time, so a good portion of my friends lived in the area, which meant I spent a lot of time driving around there.  One of these times we were headed up 17th East, just north of the now defunct Emigration Market, when I had to bring the van to a screeching halt, within feet of hitting a body in the middle of the road.  yeti-10
Once my heart was back out of my throat, I noticed it was not a body, but instead a home made dummy.  So, I pulled up next to it, my friends slid open the side door, hauled it into the van and we took off as a group of kids came screaming out of the bushes after us.  My theory was “the spoils go to he who peed his pants”, which meant the dummy was mine. 
Now, they shouldn’t have used a new pair of Adidas, nice pair of corduroys and shirt and stuffed it with mom’s good towels if they were going to put it in the middle of the street.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Life lesson A-567.4-B7BstrokeR:
Don’t use mom’s good towels and your good shoes for a practical joke that may blow up in your face.