"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Days of Thunder, Nights of Just Plain Wierd
NASCAR Function: abbreviation
1 : National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
2 : What I came to dread in the hotel business
I was raised on stock car racing, since I lived only a few miles from the Darlington, SC stock car track.
Heck, I even had an aunt and uncle who had property within sight of the thing. You could sit in their backyard next to the lake, and watch the very tip tops of the cars as they rounded turn number one. You couldn't tell whose tip top was racing past, but you could still see it.
I went to the track several times as a child. Mostly, I remember how loud it was. We would take ear plugs or cotton to put in our ears so we could stand it. The covered stands were a lot worse noisewise, but you could get some serious sunburn in the uncovered stands. And if it rained, well, there ya were.
The infield was where the serious partying went on. Those folks would arrive sometimes days in advance of the race, and my money would bet that 80% never even saw the race at all. Not like they cared.
Long as there was another beer, they were happy campers.
So, living so close to one of the major race tracks, there were names that were major, major celebrities to us. Darn right heroes. People like Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and Junior Johnson. Nowadays the biggest NASCAR drivers are internationally known, but back then they were the sole property of the United States Southern Redneck, and on two weekends out of the year everybody within a hundred miles of Darlington, SC got to be one. Of course, most people in that area already had a lifetime membership.
Which brings me to, I think, 1983 or so. I had taken a job as a night auditor in a hotel after having lost my job selling radio ads (long story, I'll tell that one later.) After one month, they put me in charge of all of the audit departments in all of their hotels (Another long story. Sheesh, I'm stacking these things up here.)
Race weekends were a zoo.
Every hotel within a four hour drive would be booked solid for weeks before the race. If a hotel did happen to luck up on some space at the last minute, it would sell for two or three times the regular price, and people would happily buy it.
Needless to say, our normal quiet little hotels would be hubs of activity of all sorts, well into the night. As the audit was best performed at night, those were my hours. Eleven to seven.
This, for race weekend, put me at the crux of the action.
The first one of those weekends I worked, I came in on the Friday night right before the race, and the desk clerk had some news for me. "It seems Kyle Petty tore his car all to shreds today in the time trials. His dad Richard came by and said to clean his room and rent it out if he wasn't back by eleven, so we did."
Oh, ok. I had this little pang of "uh oh" but what was done was done.
We spent the next four hours trying to do the audit. At first, we would be interrupted every minute or so by a new person thinking that maybe, just maybe, we might either have a room or know of one. "Are you sure?" they would beg. "Just one? We only need one room?"
Yeah buddy, we sit on rooms just for folks like you. No, I didn't really ever say that, but I sure thought it.
I would tell them that there were not any rooms within a hundred miles or more any direction, which was true since we had checked. The cheap hole in the wall hotels had even rented out the lofts over the offices. They would leave disappointed, but pointing south where their best chance was.
Finally we stuck a note to the door: "No Vacancy" which didn't really work well, and then added "and don't know of any" which seemed to work better, and we dove into the audit.
I would make periodic rounds of the hotels to make sure no one was tearing things up too bad. We only lost one drink machine that night.
There were some folks by the pool with a cooler, young guys that were definitely members of the United States Southern Redneck club, and not just weekend members either. About my second or third round I noticed that one of them had gotten himself what I call "hollerin' drunk."
He was standing in the pool, in the shallow end, in his clothes, and swinging at the water and shouting.
"Yuuuh thksh blirsh!" Splash. Glare for emphasis. "Fuuuuush yush aaaaweeh!" Splash, wild swing, missing the water.
Well hey, give him a break, it was a moving target.
He weaved back and forth like a palm tree in a storm. His friends, not in quite as bad a shape but not too far from it, looked at me helplessly.
"You guys are gonna have to pack it up and get him out of there," I said.
"We tried, he won't listen."
"BLRRRUUUUUAAAAH!" Splash. Even though he was facing away from me, it hit me square on.
I looked at my pants, now soggy wet.
"YOU!" I shouted.
Nothing. "Heeaaaw!" Splash.
"What's his name?"
"KEN!" I shouted right at his head. Now, this had an effect. He turned around.
He stared at me, bleary eyed.
Somehow my yelling forced its way through his stupor, and he climbed out.
My goodness, he was big.
He looked down at me, eyebrows furrowed. "Whaaaa?" he growled.
His friends quickly grabbed his arms, and their cooler, and took off to their room. He struggled the whole way with the occasional "Whaaapthpthpth" but they just kept dragging him, even though one of his legs now seemed to have stopped working.
Well, there's my race weekend story, I figured. I went back to the office.
I guess it was about three in the morning when a slim guy with a goatee (I think) walked in. You could tell by his expression that he was not in a good mood. Fortunately for me, the audit clerk waited on him first.
"Can I help you sir?"
"I need my room key."
"What would be your name, sir?"
"Uh... uh sir... We were told by your father Richard to clean and rent your room if you were not back by eleven."
I do not think I have ever seen someone quite so intensely angry.
"You what??!? You rented my room?"
Well, I couldn't blame him. Here was a guy who had started out his day with a car wreck, had gone to another state to get a new one, and now he didn't have a bed to sleep in before he had to get up in four hours to drive in a 500 mile stock car race.
Yeah, he was upset.
By that time I was up at the counter too, apologizing for our "miscommunication." The best we could do for him was that he called one of his pit crew and went to his room to sleep. He glared at us on the way out, and I'm sure he blamed us for losing the race the next day.
And maybe the next several races too.
About four months later, the other race weekend rolled up. This time I was ready. I was stoked. I dared anyone to sell any rooms out from under anybody.
For a couple of hours, things ran smoothly. We put the sign up early, so the only people that interrupted us were the ones buying gas and the ones that figured the sign didn't apply to them.
On my rounds, I had noticed the members of one of the pit crews out by the pool. They seemed to be behaving OK so I didn't bother them.
About one in the morning, one of the people from the pool came running in. Or, at least he was trying to run, he was rather drunk and it was more of a point-and-work-your-legs-fast-until-you-hit-something kind of thing. "We got, uh, our buddy, uh, he jumped in the pool, uh, he dove in, and, and, uh, uh, he's at the bottom and won't come up."
I immediately told the auditor to call an ambulance, and vaulted the counter. A lady who was paying for gas said "I'm a doctor" and I replied "Follow me!"
When we got to the pool we both jumped the fence to get in rather than go all the way around to the gate. A few of the guys from the pit crew had managed to fish their friend out, and he was laying motionless on his back, not breathing.
The lady doctor immediately started CPR, and within just a few seconds he sputtered and gagged and began spitting water out. She turned him on his side so the water could run out of him.
"Hey, lady, you got some huge bazoombas, you know that?" Said one of the pit crew guys.
Well, not actually. He didn't say "bazoombas" but I want to keep this blog relatively family friendly, so its "bazoombas."
I could not believe my ears.
"Hey, whoo hoo! Kiss him again!" Whistle catcall.
If she had tossed him back into the pool, I would not have blamed her. Sploosh, more water gushed from his mouth.
"Man, what do you think you are doing?!?" I said to the drunks who were making these remarks. "This lady just saved your friends life!"
You could see, somewhere in their beer fogged minds, a little spark of "You know, he might have a point there." But it was then quickly overrun by the bazoomba brigade, and they said "Hey lady, you got some bazoombas there, you know that?"
Meanwhile, she is still attending to their friend, who is gradually managing to win his fight back to the land of the living. She ignored the hecklers. Sploosh.
And I'm thinking two thoughts. One is that these guys are the lowest of the low. The other is that this lady has some real class.
"Hey lady, you got some bazoombas there, you know that?"
"Whoo Hoo!" "Yeah, whoo hoo!" Beer in the air, to show what a high complement this was. "Whoooo!"
The police arrived with the ambulance a moment later, and we let them take charge. I walked the doctor back to her car and thanked her over and over, and apologized for the idiots at the pool.
She said she understood. I think we both did.
She drove off to wherever she was headed (lucky them, they got one good doc!) and the hotel passed a policy that no more pit crews would stay there on race weekend.
Now, here in Richmond, I can hear the races at the local NASCAR track twice a year from my own front yard, even though they are miles and miles away. But I never go. As far as I am concerned, I gave up my membership years ago, in a dark parking lot, watching a doctor's car get on I-95.
Cowards are cruel, but the brave
Love mercy, and delight to save.
John Gay (1685 - 1732)