“And now we play The Waiting Game.
Aw, The Waiting Game sucks — let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!”
— Homer J. Simpson
STOWE, Vermont — Ah, yes The Waiting Game. I’ve gotten to know the rules well this past month. Not to say I haven’t been active. On the contrary, since leaving Brooklyn I’ve hitched through three states and one province. Yes, we had ourselves a miniature cherry pickers’ reunion (see “The Cherry Orchard”) in the fair city of Montreal.
But my principal activity is trying to get a J-O-B. As a writer. For a daily newpaper.
It ain’t easy, folks. Especially when you have a blank spot for the past four and a half months on your resume. I mean, sure tell ’em about the Middle East stuff, that was all above board (see “Lunch with Hezbollah, Tea with Hamas”) but freighthopping? You can’t exactly put down “recreational trespassing” under hobbies. I supposed you could, but would it be wise? These are the types of quesitons I’ve been grappling with.
Anyhoo, after a succession of interviews at different papers, only one of which has had the decency to reject me forthright–I’ve had to learn how slowly the wheels of professional hiring turn at midsized newspapers.
My base of operations through most of this was in Saratoga Springs (NY) where an old friend and former editor put me up three different times in his apartment which is not much larger than an airport detention cell. There truly wasn’t room for the two of us, and while he was too polite to throw me out, it was time to go. But where to? A few of the papers said they wanted to hire “soon — very soon” and I feared hopping a westbound freight only to be recalled while crossing southeastern Indiana.
Most hostels in New England shutdown for the winter in New England. Actually all the ones that aren’t in ski towns or Boston do. I’d read about one in Rutland, Vermont, that was run by some sort of cult so I shot ’em an email. At 3:30 p.m. *bing* they responded and said to come on down. I hastily threw my gear together and hiked to the interstate. By the time I’d arrived, the sun was very low in the sky.
Just as dusk was settling a pickup truck screeched to a halt, backing up quickly. He was only going as far as Glens Falls (20 miles or so) but it would put me on the right road to Rutland.
“I just finished work at the casino,” he said, gesturing with a marijuana pipe and taking the last swig out of a vodka bottle. People ask me why I hitchhike. I usually tell ’em it’s because I prefer the nutjobs that pick me up as opposed to the nutjobs I meet on the Greyhound. This guy was no exception.
Responding to his proferred pot pipe, I explained that I might be drug tested soon. I’m not a pot smoker, but it seemed the most polite response.
“My son gets piss tested. You know what he does? Him and his co-workers have this fake dick they hold and squirt the piss into the cup. It looks so real, they do it right in front of the foreman,” he cackled.
And no, I didn’t ask where they got the “clean” urine — didn’t wanna know.
He continued: “You see, if there’s an industrial accident, they get piss tested. So they keep the penis in the locker room. You know, for emergencies.”
He dropped me off on the road to Rutland, a little out of his way. Nice fellow, and a competent drunk driver I should add.
It began raining. Raining hard. An affable fellow in a silver Honda picked me up. We got to chatting and he was a little distracted because he drove the wrong way up an exit ramp. We were immediately greeted by a phalanx of headlights as oncoming traffic on the freeway came barreling towards us. To his credit, he didn’t panic.
“Drive over the median,” I wheezed. He did, sparing us a grsily vehicular demise.
He told me about his business, a ski lodge in Stowe, Vermont. I began to tell him about The Waiting Game and my destination: some alleged cult in Rutland that runs a hostel. And a vegetarian cafe. At the very least, they won’t eat me, I reasoned.
“You just need a place to hang out for a few days?” He asked.
Yeah pretty much, I admitted.
“‘Cause I’ve got about 50 empty rooms, you’re welcome to one,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say. “Uh… I can work. I’m sure you have chores…”
Oh yes, he smiled, plenty of work.
Turns out his seasonal worker from Central America didn’t get his visa renewed, so I had good timing. The past few days I’ve been hired as a temporary handyman, helping with renovations before opening. Good thing too, ’cause I was down to my last $12.00 in my checking
I have to say that I dig Vermont and Western Massachusetts. The friends I’ve made up here in Vermont have shown me how similar the state is to my native Sonoma County. People drive import cars with too many bumperstickers, the young people sweat THC and speak a dialect of hippie-ebonics (for schizzle, dude!); and there’s plenty of drunken driving down unpaved backroads whilst drinking cheap Canadian rotgut.
These are my people.