Freudian Slips: Pretty in Pink

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 03, 2005

Pretty in Pink

Bob
While working my way through college, I masqueraded as a night custodian in an elementary school. There were three custodians that worked staggered shifts in the grade school. I closed the school and worked the witching hours from 3:30-11:30pm. The custodians were a tight clique although we had our philosophical differences. Bob wallowed in the evening shade of his life. Even when he wasn't tipping the bottle, Bob had a habit of denigrating whatever didn't fit into his 'old school' ways. In the throes of a mid-life crisis and afraid to leave his dust mop behind for the computer field, Bill languished as the underachiever. I was the youngest and most idealistic of the three of us. I had social work in my blood and they smelled my bleeding heart a classroom away. Our differences made it a working relationship for all of us but schooling for me.
Bob was a macho man who never met a woman he did not like. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy who distanced himself from anything with doily and lace. A man's man with chauvinistic undertones, he had an indefatigable sense of humor as the gatekeeper of 10,000 puns. Bob and Bill used to ride me and never let up about my good will to man. Because I voiced a compassion for human life, Bob was the ringleader in using me as a whipping post. I kept what was best of me and took what was best of Bob, a photograhic memory of every pun he ever told. Bob and Bill nicknamed me "The Dog" because I was kind, obedient, and loyal to everyone. As a janitor, I never perceived their nickname for me as complimentary but I embrace it a lot better as a lifelong social worker.
In the summertime, the three of us worked day shift. One day not unlike the others, the three of us sat down on break to work on a crossword puzzle. How many janitors does it take to do a single crossword puzzle? I told you. Three. Bob got way out of line with his unruly jabs. I am never defenseless with my quick wit but Bob crossed the line. He deserved to be taught a finer lesson that cross words couldn't do justice to. While Bob and Bill tried to think of a nine letter word for poseur, I acted absentminded and schemed for a comeback that would etch permanency. Where do you hit a masculine guy that would get his goad? The answer laid in a four letter word that is a synonym for feminine.
Next to the boiler room, Bob had an office with a padded comfy chair, a desk with personal possessions, and a coat rack. Bob's office was a place for him to hang his hat on and he did just that symbolically and literally. As the head custodian, Bob had dibs on the only custodial office and he relegated Bill and I to closets in separate wings of the building. Bob's office was not only a source of pride but his sanctuary for escape.
With a formulated plan for revenge sketched out, I made a pit stop at Home Depot on my way to work and prepared to work overtime. After my eight hour shift, I walked down to Bob's office and laid out my tools of the trade. Over the next five and a half hours, I painted his office a magnificent hot flamingo pink! Feminizing his office sure felt like strokes of genius.
Bob confessed to smelling fresh paint before he even turned on the lights the following morning. Wanting nothing more than the smell of a fresh pot of coffee, Bob's hairy nostrils feared the worst in the pitch black darkness of the school. He wasn't puzzled at all by the paint only the color.
"Pink!" Bob cried in an empty building by his lonesome.
He hit the four letter word for feminine in stride on the first try. So let it be written that Bob became the only custodian in the school district with a hot pink office. Teachers often brought up the color of Bob's office as a source of ridicule. The children laughed at him. To make matters worse, Bob had to explain to every deliveryman, contractor, and substitute custodian that walked through his office why it looked like Candyland. Bob often asked me how I had the fortitude to do something like that.
I alsways returned volley with one of his puns. "Every dog has their day."
The truth of the matter is that a practical joke is as long as you want it to be and as impractical as you like it. Bob, Bill, and I eventually went on our separate ways. Bill and I left for the real world. A few years later, I got word that Bob transferred to another elementary school down the road. For the longest time, I had devilish ideas of greasing the palms of their night custodian and repeating the pretty in pink performance. I never got around to carrying out the joke.
In 1997, I learned Bob had died a lonely man before he even had a chance to retire. Right after Bob's passing, Bill had the opportunity to go through his apartment but he had little to his name. Bob died of a heart attack in that apartment next to the last prank the three of us carried out together - a framed 8x10 color picture of us drunker than skunks standing in knee-deep snow during a blizzard wearing only our underwear. By our smiles alone, we looked like dimwitted stooges in great white death. Like I said, a practical joke is as long as you want it to be. Some you can even take to your grave.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous et said...

“What About Bob?” What a sad tale
to tell about Bob! The only fun he seemed to have was with you and
Bill. At the end of his days, desolate and alone, with only a photo to remind the world, that at one time in his life, he did have friends!

7:45 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Intriguing story! There is a custodian at our local high school who has been there for at least 30 years. Everyone knows and loves him, but I think he leads a lonely existence outside of school grounds.

Would you put yourself on my blog buddy locator map, please? The link is on my last post. Thank you!

8:46 AM  
Blogger honkeie2 said...

A sad and very human story. It is sad he died alone but you did spend some good times with him and gave him some momments to smile about. Because in the end we all die alone with our memories of those loves that we lost and will be leaving behind.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

et,
im wondering whatever happened to his beer can collection?

jess,
unless your H.S. janitor started when he was 17, he should contemplate retirement.

Honk,
Right you are my blog brother to the north.

7:28 PM  
Blogger lilly05 said...

Sad story Joe, At least you got to brighten up his world with the paint job. I doubt that your thoughtful act was easily forgotten!

4:18 AM  

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