Through the course of my pet-sitting business (and my life, it would seem) there is always the client (or friend, or co-worker) that I inadvertently say nothing but stupid things to. While I somehow appear to be a veritable genius to some, there is invariably that person whom I regularly come off as a drooling idiot in front of. Case in point: while working at an animal hospital in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, I for some reason could not do nor say anything right. “I’ll get your surgical tools,” I told the doctor/owner once to which he replied: “They are called instruments. I’m not going to fix a motorcycle.” At this I laughed nervously but inside felt like a moron. I knew they were called instruments yet I’d blanked for some reason. And then there was the puppy with the deciduous canines. I knew he had baby teeth that had to be pulled but in front of a co-worker (and a client) I said: “The little guy has a set of doubles.” Like that makes any freakin’ sense! They both looked at me as if I should immediately crawl under the nearest bridge and take up life as a troll. To my credit the little guy had been neutered recently and, while undergoing that procedure should have had the teeth pulled, but for some reason hadn’t. I assumed (most asininely) that he was meant to have them.
And so it was with my pet-sitting business there was Andrew. He was a great guy, very generous, had a wonderful wife, I loved the hell out of his dog, but I forever said the dumbest things around him. It was like I had a chronic case of diarrhea of the mouth. If I meant ‘up’ I said ‘down’, if I meant ‘right’ I said ‘wrong’. I once said: “Getting those puke stains out of the carpet will be like shooting fish in a barrel.” As if it would be easy to get cherry Kool-aid stains out of white shag. Jesus, what the hell was I thinking? Obviously the little hamster running on the wheel in my head was asleep at the switch.
I will confess right here and now that I used to smoke marijuana with some regularity. This wasn’t a problem with Andrew; he and his wife smoked everyday and encouraged me to help myself to the Ball jar of weed they kept in a kitchen cabinet. Maybe I helped myself too much, or maybe his strong demeanor intimidated me, I don’t know which. Whatever the case I was constantly a source of hilarity with my garbled phrases and stupid questions. Marijuana had been a problem regarding my questionable intelligence when I was younger, no doubt there. Just ask one of my various bosses at one of my menial labor jobs, they’ll be more than glad to confirm. When I was seventeen a manager at a restaurant I worked for had a meeting with the dishwashing crew (of which I was one of four) and told us to hold the silverware by the handles only, for sanitation purposes. I simply couldn’t wrap my stoned mind around it. When I thought of ‘handle’ I thought of a doorknob, or a lever or, maybe in my most brain-dead hour, as what Charlie stole from Aqualung and henceforth the train it wouldn’t stop going nor could it slow down. Please don’t ask me to explain that reference. I simply couldn’t place a ‘handle’ with a fork or knife. To quote Keanu Reeves: “Whoa!”
In the earliest years of my pet-sitting business I smoked weed about two to three times daily, so this could have been a factor. Honestly, it took several years of not smoking to clear out the cobwebs that had accumulated in a brain I’d mostly allowed to be on vacation for the majority of my life. It wasn’t easy to quit, but after a few years I felt my IQ increase by several points. For this reason alone I wanted to make sure I never fell back into the habit. I realized I was a fairly intelligent person and I didn’t want to blast my mind back to the Stone Age.
I eventually realized it wasn’t weed that caused me to say such stupid things, though; I found that even after I quit smoking I’d still come up with some doozies. He and his wife had a 4th of July party one year and I’d been invited plus a guest. I knew a girl I wanted to take but I also had a friend who wanted to go because he was broke and knew they’d put out a mighty fine spread. His belly was rumbling just thinking about it. So I emailed Andrew and said something like “If I can only bring one guest I’m gonna bring a date.’ This said because I wanted to show Andrew and his wife that I was capable of attracting a female’s attention (I’d been single the entire time I knew them and was starting to think they believed I was a closet homosexual). So the chick stood me up and I showed up with my buddy and upon entering I said something like “This is the person I was telling you about,” forgetting entirely about the email I sent. He and his wife looked at each other and an almost imperceptible nod passed between them. Somehow I’d confirmed their suspicion…
And then I went one further and asked if I should run down to the corner market and pick up some refreshments for the party. A twelve-pack maybe, or a bottle of wine. Andrew looked at me with the most singular expression of distaste I do believe I ever witnessed. This party he was throwing? He’d invited over a hundred people and the man (unlike Ted Knight) was definitely no slouch. He had not one but THREE kegs of imported beer and enough booze and wine to keep the marines at Camp Pendleton drunk until the next decade. And here I was asking: “Should I go and grab a twelve-pack,” like I was being generous or something. Why didn’t I just put a ‘Vacancy’ sign on my forehead and get it over with? Now, another side-note in my favor: I simply wanted a drink. After that comment I needed something to dull the pain and I didn’t know where he kept the booze stashed. My question was intended to fish out the location of said beverages so that I might enjoy one, like, pronto.
Even long after I no longer pet-sat for he and his wife (their dog, most regretfully, had passed away) I still managed the occasional stupid question every year or so. When the earthquake hit Japan in 2010 and the debris and nuclear waste and so on was supposedly headed for the California coast, I fielded a phone call from an old pot-smoking buddy of mine who warned me that I had to get out of California immediately. According to some radio station lunatic he listened to there was supposed to be a cloud of poison gas or radioactive waves or some calamitous shit immediately forthcoming and it would be in my best interest to head for the hills. Without even consulting the Internet or the local news or some other, informed source, I called Andrew to ask him what I should do. I left a message that went something like: “Hey Andrew, long time, hope you guys are doing well. Anyway, I guess there’s supposed to be some fallout headed our way from the earthquake in Japan and I was just wondering what you two are going to do about it. You think I should get out of town, maybe head to the Mojave Desert? Just wondering. Call me if you get a chance.”
Can you imagine my embarrassment when I later found out my old dope-smoking buddy had been listening to some crackpot on Channel Zero? Andrew did call me back, and he explained patiently that there was no need to evacuate; if there had been surely the local news would have let us know. I thanked him and, after some small talk (how are you, how’s the wife?) I hung-up and thought ‘Christ, It’s never going to end. Whenever I talk to this guy I’m always going to say something stupid!’
So, no offence Andrew, but that’s why I haven’t called in a while. Congratulations on the book by the way, best of luck with it. And tell Julie I said ‘high’…ah shit, I mean…oh, forget it…