My first day, at my first job ever, a guy named Tyrone shows me how things go at the resort. We stand outside in the hot sun and stare at women in bikinis. We’re pool attendants at a fancy resort; dudes in blue with not enough to do. Tyrone tells me not to work too hard—it heightens expectations. I ask him where I can put my blue hat for the day. “On your head,” Tyrone says. “It’s hot out here.” Later, we wander around the resort and Tyrone makes a few phone calls from a hotel house phone. We also flirt with a pretty girl at the front desk. We spend forty-five minutes drinking Mountain Dew in the employee cafe. I try to work a bit; collect towels, sweep trash, anything, but Tyrone will not allow this. We walk from place to place in the resort and nod at different people in different uniforms.
At the end of the day, Tyrone tells me he thinks I’ll get the hang of things.
Trash detail is the worst. We throw all the black trash bags into one room. At the end of the day we pile all the bags onto the back of one golf cart and drive it across the resort to the trash compactor. On busy days—the weekends—two guys are constantly driving the golf cart from the trash room to the trash compactor. The room smells like bar rot and old fruit and vomit. At night, usually around midnight, we sweep the room out and hose it down with water and purple degreaser.
Charles spends the most time on trash detail. He has tattoos on his wrists and neck. He covers some of them—the ‘offensive’ ones—with white wristbands. Charles says he doesn’t mind trash detail, but I know better. Charles is on trash detail because he has tattoos and wears his khakis below his ass. The great thing about Charles is this: When it’s really busy he helps us hide lounge chairs at different spots around the pool. When it’s really busy—and people are willing to pay top dollar for a spot at the pool—we’ll kick Charles a percentage of our tips and he’ll supply the chairs. At the end of each day, we clean the trash room and smoke cigarettes and steal alcohol from the cabana room.
A kid named Francisco finds a purse full of marijuana near one of the resort pools. We all gaze into the purse and giggle. “Damn,” Eric says, “that’s crazy.” Francisco asks us not to tell anybody in management.
We don’t tell.
The thing about Francisco, what I remember about him, is that he did one hell of a Scarface impersonation. It wasn’t just the voice though. Francisco looked like Scarface if Scarface (the one from the movie) were a foot shorter and super-skinny from not enough meat. Francisco rides the bus to work—I’m pretty sure—and calls the guests “rich fuckers.”
Aside from these few details, Francisco is a model employee.
A guy named Lance runs things in our department. As pool attendants, we work alongside the outdoor grill’s bartenders and wait staff. There is a tall, red-headed chef with a temper, a staff of managers who wear Hawaiian shirts, and a group of guys in their fifties who peddle tanning lotion to the old ladies.
Lance always wears a flat-brimmed baseball cap and an earpiece connected to his walkie-talkie. He’s adamant about using radio codes—“what’s your twenty?” he’ll mumble every few minutes—and he treats the ‘guests’ like royalty.
At the resort one day, a bartender named Jose asks me if I drink. I tell him I don’t and that I never have. I tell him alcohol isn’t for me. He laughs and looks out toward the blue pool and all the people inside it with their little umbrella drinks. Jose turns back to me and says, “you don’t drink now, but don’t worry, one day you will.”
He was right.
Andy wears a handlebar mustache. He talks with a thick New York accent and sells tanning lotion in a little booth on the pool’s south side. Andy also sells watches to the resort’s employees on the side. He wears a Rolex to work and glares at everybody from behind dark, expensive Ray-Bans. Andy calls his watches “timepieces.” He tries to sell me a green diver’s watch with incredible capabilities. This timepiece can survive immense depths beneath water.
It’s reliable. It’s exact. And I don’t have enough money to buy it.
A guy whose name I can’t remember sells tanning lotion with Andy. They’re in business together. This guy tells me to read a book by Edward Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang. He says I’ll love it. I read it and I do love it. I still have it in my personal collection. In the book, a group of environmental activists travel around the American Southwest sabotaging construction sites.
8. Joseph works with us and he is a reckless golf cart driver. The golf cart we use for trash detail keeps having trouble starting. It turns out all the trash bags are leaking their juices onto the spark plug beneath the seat. We figure this out and dry the spark plug, but we forget to latch the seat. Joseph makes his trash delivery. On the return trip he really floors it and as he comes around a turn, the seat flies off the cart and Joseph tumbles into the grass. The golf cart shoots forward, careens up a small rock and takes flight directly into the center of a fish pond. The pond is right outside a Sushi restaurant that charges over fifty dollars a meal. Joseph gets a paid week off to recover from his ‘injuries.’
9. On the morning shift, we have to be at the resort as early as four in the morning. We meet in the employee cafe a little before then and drink soda and coffee. I’m usually responsible for the smaller pool on the resort’s far side. I hose down the pool deck in the dark. I arrange all the lounge chairs and stack the blue and white striped towels. I fill a giant water jug. I slice lemons and dump them in the water. It’s all very lonely and peaceful. When I’m done, I crawl into one of the cabanas, close my eyes, and sleep until I hear a clang from the front gate.
10.The breakfast burritos at the employee cafe are the hot ticket. Everyone asks to go to lunch before breakfast ends at the cafe. The burritos are huge. They are stuffed with scrambled eggs, salsa, cheese and bacon. It’s a ritual; eat a giant burrito and go back to work holding your stomach.
11. Each day, when we come in, we have to swipe a little timecard through a machine. The card looks like a debit card. I slide mine through and the machine beeps—it’s how we get paid. Each day, when we leave, we have to swipe that same card through the machine. I slide mine through and the machine beeps—it’s how I get paid. Sometimes, we pass our timecards to each other and slide them through the machine as a favor for each other. Sometimes, we get paid for work we don’t do.
12. One night, I steal a golf cart. It’s gas-powered and almost as fast as a car. I drive it out onto the golf course and make it go as fast as I can. It’s dark and I can’t see very far in front of me. I yank the emergency brake now and then and slide into uncontrollable revolutions. The sprinklers on the golf course switch on and I drive for a long time through a light mist of water and feathery night air. For a long time, I drive through a manicured landscape of manufactured rain.
Cover image courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr