I love this time of year at work. Except for on the roads, everyone is happy. They are working steadily along, looking forward to the holidays and some of the less work-ethically-inclined (like Yours Truly) are doing as little as possible as they savour and enjoy the season. It was on just such a day, decades ago with the office phones unusually quiet, and the snow drifting down outside the office window - that I was taking my ease and enjoying some Solitaire time on the computer. Back, then, that was a big thing along with Minesweeper and the other standard Microsoft games every computer had. It wasn't to last; a phone rang, and my hero and role model - Lesiure Suit Larry - began flapping his gums at 100 MPH as he cheerily gabbed with his customer. And dammit, the phone rang again and I did the same.
After hanging up I had to go out back to check stock or fill an order while Larry babbled at the front office phone. He had his back to me, and I was feeling unusually prick-ish that day - so I gave him a dirty cheap shot in the kidneys for fun and amusement. I didn't even see his elbow as it shot up into my face.
Stars exploded behind my eyes. My brain flipped 360 degrees in it's pan, and the next thing I know there are tweety-birds circling above along with orange stars, green moons, and purple horse shoes. Larry turned around, stunned. "Excuse me Nick, but I think I just killed the inside salesman, NYUK NYUK NYUK!!!"
Holding his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone, Larry said "Sorry about that, Junior, my reflexes are a little on the fast side and I didn't have time to think..."
"S'alright," I croaked, "You hit like a girl, I didn't feel a thing..." I found my glasses and tottered off to my office. Next thing I know Larry was hovering over me, lightly slapping my face. Apparently I had managed to collapse into my office chair...and had started to bleed. "Well, ya don't look concussed," Larry gabbled, "How many fingers am I holding up...?"
"Fuggoff," I replied.
Lighting a cigarette, Larry passed over a box of Kleenex for me to shove up my nose and told me the story of his lightning fast reflexes and how he came to develop them. What follows is likely bullchit, embellished and made worse by Yours Truly... but it makes for a fine story for a lazy day as we lead up to Christmas...
Larry was a graduate of the Northern Alberta Institute Of Technology, or NAIT as we call it here - Buiness Administration. Even then, the course was widely regarded as the perfect ticket for girls that wanted to go to school to meet a man, and guys that wanted to feel like they would be big wheels one day but would likely just end up being washed up salesmen of one type or another.
Upon graduating Larry found that all the jobs for high-fallutin yuppie corporate execs had been taken and that the oilpatch really didn't have much respect for the suit guys. Larry DID have talents that his fellow graduates didn't. He LOVED to work, he LOVED to talk, he LOVED to wheel and deal...and he could fight if the situation called for it. He was a tall, skinny man in the body, but with thick, ropey arms and he was pretty strong. Women went dippy around him. So it was that he started bouncing at a local bar at the Riviera Hotel.
In those days the Cabaret was the 'in' way for young men to meet women, see and be seen, or sink a pint or two with buds. There was seldom any trouble at these events so Larry learned how to tend bar, do short order cookery and even serve beers. Wherever he went he was loud, boisterous and assertive and soon found himself the 'Night Club Manager'. The Riv had a big problem in those days. The Cabaret was getting old. New hot spots were opening and the new club, Barry T's - was kicking ass and cutting into their business. His mandate was to clean up the hotel's nightclub, make it respectable AND profitable. The Riv was getting old even in those days.
The new rules were simple. You were there for a good time. You didn't fight, you didn't do drugs, and you treated the women with respect or you got pitched out on your ass. Larry approached the new FM radio station, K97, for advertising. They were brought in to supply the music, the media personalities were expected to attend and he got off to a helluva start. On his opening night there was only one incident: the famous Chuck Chandler (host of Disco Days) showed up and was wired on whatever his dealer had sold him earlier that day! Chuck was quickly isolated, and quietly escorted out the door by Larry's cohort in crime, known only as Steadman.
Where Larry "could take care of himself in a fight" - Steadman ENJOYED it. He had been sent to the hospital more than once and had sent his opponents there too. Rumour was that one day he wanted to be a cop. He took his fighting and the law very seriously and was considered a 'professional' bouncer at the time. Harmless guys like Chuck were handled and dispensed with gently but firmly. The tougher rig pigs and rail roaders took a little more persuasion. Larry presided over all the mayhem, hustle and bustle with his usual cheery demeanour and was a man within his element. Steadman dispensed with the tougher customers and often Larry chipped in to help just as he did with the waitresses, cooks and bar tenders. Everyone had fun when Larry was around. A couple of radio stations tried to head hunt him but Larry refused. He was the young man's version of The Big Wheel.
One day, Larry was flapping his gums and flirting good naturedly with the girls and poking fun at their guys when Steadman came up and pulled him away. "We gotta problem, boss."
Across the dance floor, a couple of hard looking women had walked in. One of them was quite large and obviously a big, imposing bull-dyke. "So what," Larry says, "A couple of carpet-munchers. What are they gonna do? Unless they get stupid, their money is as good as anyone else's. Relax."
"Not these ones, Larry. That big one is a problem. She's the one that cut up Finn a couple weeks back. Her schtick is to come in, start leering and pawing at the girls and provoke the shit out of their boy friends. When they stand up - she cuts them...". Finn was one of Larry's part timers, and had gotten an obscene number of stitches from an unruly woman with a knife one night when Larry was off. It was one for the books - women typically didn't knife guys in the bar. The perp was never found and Steadman seemed to be the only witness besides Finn and the perp herself. "Oh crap," Steadman cursed, "Here we go!" Across the dance floor, voices were raised, male and female, chairs toppled as the combatants stood to square off - and Steadman was already moving.
Watch out! She'll bend ya over and make ya bark like a pig...!!!!
"I'll take this one straight on, Larry - you keep her hags and tire-biters off me and jump in if the skank gets lucky...!" And seconds later, he was in between the guy and his gal - and the meanest, ugliest woman either had ever seen. "Let's everyone cool it," Steadman said in a calm,low tone, "I know the barkeep, he'll refill the spilled drinks, no charge, and everyone backs off and nobody gets hurt...let's keep it civil and try and have a good time here...".
But the "lady" would have none of it. "This doesn't concern you tough guy," she said, "Clear out now and you won't get hurt...". Steadman set his feet, and growled "Last chance chickie..."
He barely dodged the first flash of steel. "Bitch has a blade!" someone shouted. Several things happened at once: Larry tied up two of the lesbos, Steadman dodged another swipe and came back with a round house and laid his assailant flat out! An onlooker got the 'knife'...one of those old 1970's era afro combs. The handle had been sharpened and stropped to a mean razor's edge. "Put that in my office," Larry ordered, and call the cops right now! Everyone else relax! She's alright, me and my cohort in crime will escort the lady out, and as for you," he said, pointing at her companions, "You had better hustle. The cops are on the way. Steadman, help me take out the trash!" They both got a shoulder under each of the dazed woman's arms and quickly hustled her out. Behind them, the music started again, people started to relax and talk - and the night life resumed as if nothing had happened.
Once they got outside Larry said " Chit! What are we gonna DO with her, Steadman? We just can't throw her on the sidewalk for the cops..." Steadman told Larry to hold the groggy woman while he slipped out from under her arm, and went over to a nearby dumpster and opened the lid. Then he came back and said "Gimme it."
"Jesus Christ, Steadman! You're NOT going to throw her in the bloody dumpster!!!" And with that, Steadman took her weight up on his shoulders and heaved her into the dumpster! Inbound police sirens could be heard wailing as they pulled into the parking lot. "Cripes, Steadman!!! What am I gonna tell the bloody cops?!?" Larry gobbled.
Slamming the lid, Steadman said, "You'll figure something out." and went back into the hotel to clean himself up. Seconds later, red and blue lights flashed over the evening scene, and Larry found himself front and centre in the spotlight of the squad car headlights.
"Son of a whore," Larry said to himself as he turned to face the cops.
"What a bunch of crap!" I said sarcastically. "YOU beat up Chuck Chandler? THE Chuck Chandler From Disco Daze? Were batshit crazy lesbians even invented yet? You lie like a sidewalk, you stupid old gas bag!" I scoffed.
"Well if that's gonna be your attitude, after I shared a deeply personal and significant life experience, you can just pack up your stuff and go home! There's blood all over your shirt, the phones are pretty quiet, and I will handle the office today. Are you okay to drive, you wuss...?" Such was Larry's way of giving me a day off.
I can't remember what I did with my time off that day, but I will always remember sitting in that office as Larry spun his tale, and I listened like a kid to a bedtime story. It was likely the best elbow smash to the face I ever got in my life.