20 Years

Saturday, March 26th.

Today marks my 20th anniversary at my weekend job. A hard job to describe, really. It’s a big, historic house sitting on a 40 acre wooded lot in the middle of one of the most posh and expensive suburbs of DC. Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked in the gift shop, in the main offices, and served as assistant property manager. On the weekends, I’ve always been one of the house managers. The sacred cash cow that keeps the property going: Rental events, where we turn the house and grounds over to weddings, receptions, and anything else at 10k a pop.

My job: Make sure nothing fucks up during a tedious and sometimes emotionally shattering 10-12 hour shift. It’s one part customer service, and two parts keeping the old mansion together with chewing gum and bailing wire. Plunging out toilets, standing ankle deep in sewage while hotwiring the fuse box, and holding up walls until we can get the 100+ guests out and all let out a shuddering breath. In each shift, there’s really only about one hour’s worth of work – largely at the end of the show where I have to keep on top of the catering staff and other vendors and make sure they don’t rape any of the departing guests or throw grenades down the toilet.

While today I celebrate – to use the word loosely – my 20th year, I’m a little upset that it’s not been mentioned by my bosses. How about a congratulations or something? I don’t expect anything big. Just a pat on the back. You don’t see 20 year employees in America anymore.

Of course, for half the time, I’ve been on weekends only. There are no assistants, no co-workers. We have five events a weekend, but never concurrently. It’s just me, sitting anonymously in a darkened office trying to avoid human contact as best I can while still doing the minimum amount of work. I’ve made a point to not associate with any of my co-workers outside of my weekend shifts. If I’m not getting paid, why the fuck would I hang out with my co-workers? They’re all crazy anyway. It’s not like I yearn for their company.

One thing I noticed last year, and am aware of today as one would be aware of a bullet in the gut, is that I’m starting to burn out on this job. By my best estimate, I’ve been to over a thousand weddings thanks to this job. Over a thousand insane brides, unbalanced families. The same routine over and over again. And how many tens of thousands of drunken guests, surly caterers, snotty vendors, and wedding planners who come at you with mace and switchblade? There’s no way to count.

By far, though, the worst part of the events is that the prime wedding spot – a grove of trees – is right next to the entrance. I have to stand in the road and block daytrippers who want to see the grounds, or visit the shop and buy birdseed. I have to send them around the block to the back entrance. Without fail, this results in a battle. Name calling, spitting, people trying to ram their cars through the barricades…you name it. I, and the five or six other people who share my job, have taken to blocking the entrance with our cars. One birdseed customer tried to get past that obstacle by pulling up onto the lawn and driving up into the wedding.

I’ve never understood that. These rich fucking people in their SUVs are so hell-bent on buying birdseed that they’re willing to kill for it…and, yet, they are not willing to just drive around the block to get it. They’d rather harm another human being than take an extra three minutes out of their day? And this seed costs more per pound than a gallon of gas. So it’s not like there’s some insane sale going on.

I’ve worked in the shop, though. I know these seed customers. They are deeply vicious animals. Birding and birdfeeding, in America, is some sort of bizarre narcotic for the rich, it seems.

Now, I know. I’ve been there. Coming up the entrance to someplace and finding it blocked can be a pain. I understand the inconvenience, but not the anger. If the back entrance is just a hop and a skip away, what’s it matter? And, besides, the lane is only blocked for an average of 15 minutes. Oh, and, you know, it is private property after all.

That 15 minutes blocking the lane can feel like a lifetime, though. I dread it almost every day of my life, whether or not I’m on the job. The events stop in the winter and I’ll have four or five months of free weekends and, still, I obsess about the start of the next season. I think constantly of what will happen when next I block that lane. When next I’ll be poisoned by waves of homicidal rage from the Entitlement Class monsters who think it’s okay to tear people down for the sake of their little shopping trip.

Sometimes I fight back. Name calling, slamming on the hoods of cars. Sometimes I try to reason with them – without the events, the property will go under. The only thing keeping this utopian 40 acres intact is a humble handful of events each year. Weekends only, and all during a seven month window. Without those events, the developers will be on the property in a heartbeat.

You’d think the neighborhood people would be aware of this. When the Army sold the nearby Forest Glenn Seminary annex to developers, it resulted in countless houses and townhomes. A massive influx of people.

The plan for our site, if the developers had their way, would be slam about 100 townhouse units on the property. Maybe more. So when a neighbor starts screaming at me for blocking the lane, I ask them if they’d be happy with 100 families moving in. I point to an adjacent property – once a mansion and another wooded lot with a babbling brook – that was sold off and became home to 40 homes.

And the property is utopian. I love it. I love working there. I hate the job, but I love working there. I think that makes sense… You can wander alone in the woods, commune with nature. Or get drunk in a tree. Whatever. You can watch herds of deer cavort on the lawns. You can stand on the roof of the mansion, surrounded by the night, and watch the moonrise.

When the drunk guests are gone, when the vendors finally drag their sorry asses out of the house, there’s this powerful silence that settles over the property. The tension of the last ten hours of partying and screaming lets go, releases back into the atmosphere, and the entire property seems to breathe a sigh of relief.

Sometimes I’ll sit there and let all the bad vibes just flow out of me. Slowly head out to my car and take in the night air, then drive home through the neighborhoods.

That’s probably why I’ve lasted 20 years. Well, that, and the money. I love the place. I believe in it.

The fucking assholes who scream at me when I block the lane, for all the stress they cause me, don’t really matter. In the end, I win. They can’t get past. Sticks and stones, right?

Not being acknowledged for years of service doesn’t matter. After all, I think all my co-workers are nutjobs. I’m better off if they’re clueless and silent.

I just wish people weren’t such fuck-ups. I guess that’s what I’ve been trying to say for the last thousand words: Why can’t we just get along? We’re all living the dream. So why are we all so angry? Relax, you filthy, motherfucking cunts. Just relax.