I’m standing in front of a toaster. (Intrigued yet?) Oh, it’s also the size of a mammoth, and it’s one of the most medieval devices I’ve personally come across in my life. This large rusty metal contraption rotates about 40 pieces of bread at once, and gives birth to toast after a few rotations. The thing is, you have to stand in front of it, as it radiates heat burning your face off to catch the bread at the bottom. After each rotation the bread falls out, you catch it, and throw it back into slits, trying very hard not to burn the flesh from your hands. Like I said, medieval.
At this time, I am seventeen years old, working at a retirement home during the summer of 1995. I work 5 days a week, from 7am-6pm. I make $4.25 an hour. It blows. Hard. I’m one of the many teenage waitresses serving the folks breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m also one of the many teenagers the manager of this place treats like donkey bleep.
But, this story is not about the a-hole manager, or the scary toaster.
Scene: Back to tussling with the menacing toast maker.
As I’m performing daredevil tricks with bread to prevent myself from ending up in the E.R., I hear some disagreeable voices going back and forth from the other waitresses.
A bit of back story: I’m the newest employee. Why do you think I’m performing one of the most undesirable duties as a waitress in this place. Little did I know, there was actually one more duty that had it beat. Beat by, like, a lot.
I yell over to the girls and ask what the problem is. One exclaims it’s the other’s turn to take Mr. Johnson his meal, and of course the other waitress disagree’s and says it is not.
“Who is Mr. Johnson, and why won’t he be in the dining room?” I ask.
Their heads quickly whip towards each other locking eyes, and I could see evil manipulating light bulbs going off.
“Well, the thing is, he kind of has a special condition, so we have to bring him all his meals.” One finally pipes out.
“Okay, so why are you arguing about it, just take the man his food.” I say, a bit frustrated.
“He has elephantitus of the balls.” The other waitress blurts out.
(This is what she said, and what I called it for years, but in later research I discovered it is commonly mispronounced that way. The actual term is elephantiasis.)
I had never heard of that before but my logical brain had a pretty good idea what it meant.
“I mean, you just don’t know. You just don’t even know. It’s all out there. And then there is the smell. It’s so gross.”
“Just give me the food. I’ll take it to him. The man has to eat.”
They both look very satisfied. When I begin towards the elevator one yells, “Hold your breath!”
As I’m going up to the third floor I think, how bad could it be, okay, I haven’t seen too many balls period, but whatever, and what part of this place doesn’t smell like piss. Huh…she didn’t actually say the smell was…ugh whatever…
I get off the elevator and start down the hall to Mr. Johnson’s room. What a convenient color for the carpet. Shit brown.
Two doors away from his room and my nostrils are already catching a whiff of something. Directly in front of his door my senses are being assaulted with a pungent aroma that is more wretched than anything I could imagine. This is not okay. This whole thing. I shouldn’t be here taking all the B.S. that comes with this job. And someone should be in there disinfecting, cleansing, powdering…or whatever.
I knock on the door. No answer. Oh come on. I decide to just go in. I open the door and walk over the threshold. As I catch a glimpse of Mr. Johnson sitting upright on the edge of the bed–I turn around and power walk my ass right back out, closing the door behind me.
Not because of the sight of his naked from the waist down body, and crusted cantaloupe sized balls, because I forgot to hold my breath.
The smell as bad as it was outside of the room, was a completely different situation inside of the room. Words will never be able to fully explain what that bouquet was like. I can’t even explain why it smelled like that. The only thing that ever made sense was, whoever had the responsibility of cleaning that room and Mr. Johnson, were terrible at their job.
I swallow traces of vomit down my throat and prepare to go back in. This poor man.
I take a few deep breaths and hold it. I power walk back in like nothing happened.
– Put his tray of food down.
– Nod. Force tight smile.
– He doesn’t acknowledge my existence. Sad. But okay with me at this point.
– Grab tray left from last meal. Place dirty dishes on it.
– Freak out internally because all dirty dishes have unexplainable white crust-like substance around the edges.
– Realize I’m being an idiot because what I’m thinking can’t be possible.
– Think: Anything is possible.
– Realize I’m about to pass out.
– Power walk out of the room. To the elevator. To those two damn dirty bitches.
– Express to them they are horrible people.
– Quit 3 weeks later.