marching up through the ranks of the parking management industry

December 16, 2008

BY 1994, I had dropped out of college and dedicated myself full time to marching up through the ranks of the parking management industry. I was working as cashier on the lonely 6th floor of the Chatam Center located across the street from the now Mellon Arena. I had rose to the upper levels of seniority going from greenhorn to old timer. My floor was easy street, the sixth floor directly below the plaza level. The action was limited to dealing with the occasional lease holder and their forgotten parking card. Most hotel guests would get confused and exit on the fifth floor which meant that I had a lot of time to follow my own pursuits: writing, drawing and crank calling the ultra left, local radio show of Lynn Cullen on a Motorola brick phone. On warm spring days I would sun myself like some cold blooded cretin pale and flabby from a life spent relaxing. 

Eventually managers began to come and go as well and that is how I came to know Chuck. He was a real cock swinging type, a Lieutenant in the Army prior to joining the civilian world. He reminded me a lot of Kevin Bacon’s character in Animal House. A smarmy ass kisser who’s respect was superficial and only because of the rank behind it. He had a slightly up turned nose and an upper lip that didn’t quite cover his top row teeth which resulted in a very rat-like look to accompany his dry, nasally tone and cheap suits. 

CPS followed a slash and burn growth policy, move into a city and take it over. Manage everything from Civic to private; Corporate to Mom and Pops. Our GM wasn’t that aggressive, and how could you blame him? The soul CPS controlled property was a second rate hotel on the edge of an Urban Redevelopment plan that did not succeed. It acted as the no-man’s-land between the Hill, one of Pittsburgh’s Hoods, and the business district. Not to mention that the smell of piss from the men’s restroom wafted a few feet past the front door; even further when left opened for any length of time. This cock was brought in to straighten this situation out. He was brought in by corporate to put a fire under Bill’s ass. There was some competition in town. He wanted Chuck to go. 

Chuck called a big meeting his first day to introduce himself and his plan through all that he learned in a Dale Carnegie seminar. Maybe he should have tried neurolinguistics. Is it just me or do you also hate a person that mirrors you? He gets off to a rocky start as Mike, one of the maintenance guys in his mid twenties, stumbles in singing R&B over top of Chuck who has been speaking for a few minutes. He continues and this twenty year-old inner city chick starts cracking her gum. On purpose. Chuck asks six different times, going from a laughing off the first time to a demand to stop it by the 6th and final time. She stops. Other people disrupt him on purpose. I laugh at it all and he singles me out to shank – I’m the biggest white guy. 

“What’s so funny? You know – I’ve seen some shit; I was in Desert Storm.” 

Mike asks, “Did you kill any of them?” 

“No. But I was close – twenty miles from the border.” 

“Did you see any action at all?” This was asked by the guy, who in his mid forties encouraged you to not get anyone pregnant and to go to school so that you wouldn’t end up like him. He seemed like a guy who missed his kids when they were small and was trying to make up for it.

Chuck replies with a dramatic pause “I was in a trailer… with equipment. It was secret.” 

From the back of the crowd, “Then why are you telling us if it is supposed to be a secret?” This was not going well for him. 

I pile on, “So you were in an air-conditioned trailer?” 
He starts to get a little shrill and a hint of nervousness because he has been exposed.

“We had to wear chem suits the entire time – it was hot…” He has pretty much lost everyone and this is brought truly home when Bill went to his office and sat down behind a semi closed door. 

A few weeks in and Chuck is now trying to be down and relate to everyone on their individual level. With me, he tried to play this Zen Master giving me a koan that sounded like one half of a stupid inspirational poster; something that he expected me to do to rise in the garage ranks. Since I was one of the cashiers employed the longest, he confused my lack of real responsibility and work with sincerity. No Satori for me. With every subtle nudge that he was giving me, he expected me to spit out the obvious answer. I still acted confused. He would get very agitated at this, to the point that one time he actually said, “Ron, you are not THAT stupid!?” 

“Come on Chuck, that’s not cool, calling me stupid…” The end result always the same. I didn’t do what Chuck wanted and I got rid of him for awhile. 

This came to an end one day when Chuck got super pissed and yelled at me to tuck my shirt in after five minutes of one analogy after the other that all ended with the subject pulling their zipper up; combing their hair, tucking a shirt in. A couple of Union Delegates staying in the hotel watched it all go down and commented as Chuck stormed off, “What the hell is wrong with that guy?” 

I ended up in Bills office a few hours later I find myself seated (my shirt was tucked in) directly across from Bill who is giving me a look like, “I know – Chuck is an idiot” 
Chuck launches into how I was purposefully pretending to not understand what he wanted until I got him so flustered that I forced him to yell at me in front of customers. Bill looks dumbfounded. He asks Chuck why he had to ask me to tuck my shirt in such a cryptic way and assures me that all future requests from Chuck would be direct and to the point.

I held my hand out to chuck. “No hard feelings Chuck.” He looks down and sheepishly holds out his wet palmed paw and grasps slightly. Of course I told everyone what had happened; Chuck had succeeded in undermining himself. I was now Chuck enemy number one. I got calls from whoever was working in the punch card machine / level 5 booth for two weeks that Chuck had stopped in to see my previous days times. He got bored and tried to work on other people and get into other battles. 

He got his chance to get me back a few weeks later over a little graffiti that I added to in one of the booths on the first level. Chuck had succeeded in getting me taken away from valet relief when he fired an old drunk, called Charlie the Cashier, who had finally got the boot for drinking 40’s in his booth during his shift. I would relive the people on the lower levels for their lunch breaks as it was more important. Chuck would handle valet. The fuck, making like three times as much as me and stealing my tips for some shit that he started. One day I was dosing off, probably because of the heavy fumes in my subterranean cell. I noticed that someone had long ago wrote the office managers name, Donna, on the desktop and more recently someone had added a triangle positioned in such a way so that she was at the top. I added two of the maintenance men’s names at the remaining two vertices. In the middle, I wrote “Triangle of Love.” To try and disguise the fact that I did it, I rubbed the ink to make it look worn. Why Kendall and Mike, the two maintenance guys? Kendall because he was an annoying cornball who talked all kinds of ten percenter smack but then made it a point to fuck only the white chicks at the business school from upstairs that worked with us for one or two semesters. They usually dropped out and moved back to the center of PA, got all country and popped out a few rednecks. They were the worst chicks too – with that fucking blue, raccoon eyeliner and terrible big hair, years after the end of big Aqua Net styles. Mike I added because he always expressed an interest in fucking Donna. He had a thing for old chicks, what we now call MILFS.. Donna knew as much and was disgusted because she did not like black people. In my younger, more activist liberal leaning days, I found Donna and Kendall reprehensible. I knew he wouldn’t hold a grudge

I get a call from the guy who I relieved, about an hour after I get back up to my booth. He’s laughing his ass off, “Ron you a NUT!” I pretended that I didn’t know what he was talking about. He told me how Mike saw it and was pissed but then started to laugh and talk about how much he would love to bend Donna over her desk in the office. 
Nearly a week passes before I’m unexpectedly called to the office. I walk in and Donna is looking at me like I put a flaming bag of shit on her stoop and she stomped it out. She points to Chuck’s cube and I head back. His cube was at the end of a wall that bisected the office into two halves. I sit down and Chuck wagon has a shit eating grin. 

“We’ll Ron,” he talked with a slight Southern drawl, “you’ve gone and done it this time.” 

“Chuck – what are you talking about?” 

I know for sure what it’s about.

He hands me a Polaroid of the Triangle of Love, it is blurred and the only thing that you can really discern are the blurry lines that make up the edge of a triangle. He took this way to close. Fucking idiot. 

“Chuck, ” I love starting every sentence with his name “…is this a triangle?” 

“Don’t treat me like an asshole! You know what you did: the Triangle of Love with Donna, Kendall and Mike! She is a married woman and it is not appreciated and will not be tolerated!” Strangely enough she tolerated her husband picking up black prostitutes, always making excuses for him.

“Chuck, what the HELL are you talking about?!” 

“Just sign this; you’re being written up for vandalism of company property. These are like felonies; two more of these and your out. Who’s laughing now Ron?”

I signed the form and added U.D. next to my name. Chuck asked what it meant and I told him that I signed it Under Duress. That really jacked him off. He sat there and his beady eyes bulged from their sockets and sweat drops formed on his forehead – “GET OUT THERE AND CLEAN THAT BOOTH! CLEAN THE ENTIRE INSIDE OF IT! I’M GOING TO CHECK IT AND IT BETTER BE SPOTLESS!” Donna handed me a bottle of cleaner and some paper towels and mumbled a discernable ‘asshole’ under her breath. I smiled and walked out of the office. I clean the cube with some sort of acid that was used to eat oil stains off the floor. It ate a lot of the paint up but left a nice shine behind. 

I find out what happened later in the day from a fellow employee. Apparently one of the transient employees, one of the aforementioned business school skanks was working the cube over the weekend during an event. She was Kendall’s cum-dumpster for the current semester. She cried to Donna who then cried to Chuck. 

It all came to a head about two weeks later. I walk into the office on a Thursday. Nearly all of the employees where there because it was hockey season and the Penguins were playing a home game. CPS charged a one time event flat rate. Chuck is all smiles, “Hello Ron, I saw what you wrote about me upstairs…” He seems like he thinks he is going to fire me. And this is fucked because I really do not have any idea what he’s talking about. 

“Okay, I’ll say it, you wrote FUCK YOU CHUCK on the back of the gate on six.”

“No Chuck, I didn’t. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The room is silent by this point.

“You think I’m an idiot? That’s your level!”

“Chuck, if I wanted to tell you to get fucked, I would just come up to you… and say – Fuck You Chuck!”

Bill the GM, turns, snickering, and goes into his office and shuts the door. The odd silence continues as people make there way out of the room and into the garage to laugh. Chuck lowered his head and headed back into his cube. I didn’t see Chuck for the remainder of the week. As luck would have it, a few of the cashiers call off and when this happens, level 6 is closed and valet duties are handled by the hotel staff. I would end up on level 5 and Chuck pulls up to my both with his hand out holding a signed ticket and his parking pass (managers got unlimited free parking, that was one of the perks).

“You can drop my pass in the safe.” 

I process his ticket and as I turn to face him, he pulls his arm back and makes his way through the gate to a fast right turn. Did he just quit? What the fuck just happened? Several minutes go by and Charlie the guard makes his way over to my booth. He is an older old school union steel worker that is passing the time until his pension kicks in. He made me laugh the hardest of any CPS employee when he gave a carload of wide-eyed, freaked out Japanese tourists who were staying upstairs, directions: 
“Well, Goddamn, you just go straight through that motherfuckin light and make a goddamned left at the next motherfucker. You got that shit?” They respond with, “Thank you, thank you so very much, yes, yes.” 

“Did you hear Ron? They fired that Mother Fucking Chuck B! Hahahahaha, Hahahahaha – stupid motherfucker…”

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