When I was just a teenage lad in Syracuse, NY, working mindless summer jobs for a temp agency, I was sent to one of the big area hospitals to labor for a few days as a grunt. I was a pretty good grunt back then, willing to sweat hard for my paycheck by doing the kinds of things that grunts were meant to do: move junk from one supply room to another; hump around desks and other heavy stuff; grunt a lot.
The guy I was sent to work for, whose name I can’t possibly remember, divulged to us temps that he had a side of beef in his freezer at home. This would supply his family with food for something like a year. He had steaks and burgers and filets and so forth, all butchered up and neatly packaged to be defrosted for family meals. What a bargain! None of us grunts had nearly that much cow in our freezers . (By now, this man is probably dead from heart disease, but that’s another story.)
On the first day I was there, the side-of-beef guy that I was sent to see – let’s call him Nick – brought me and the other grunts to meet the head honcho, a mean guy behind a desk whose job clearly did not involve a lot of grunting. He had seen thousands of young jerks like us, and he wasn’t going to take any of our BS. We temps all got a stern warning: “Don’t hide. If you hide, I’ll fire you.”
What was this guy talking about? I had no intention of hiding.
The hours in this job wore on the way they do in all such jobs, in excruciatingly dull minutes, and you embraced actual tasks that you could sink your teeth into: get all those desks in that storage room and get them over to offices X, Y, and Z; wear a cheap paper mask and get rid of the radioactive waste in the radioactive waste room; etc. Hospitals are incredible mazes that take years to figure out how to get around in, and moving stuff from here to there meant you’d be wandering hallways and getting lost a lot, now and again walking in on an appendectomy. At one point, I opened a supply closet to get something and found a custodial staffer hanging out in there wearing nothing on top but a bra. She giggled when I opened the door (I think she might have been intellectually challenged, as we say these days). Was this “hiding?” Yes, it must have been, although it looked an awful lot like she might just have been changing clothes.
One day, around 11:30 in the morning, "Nick" realized that it was too late to get any meaningful work started on our new assignment of moving filing cabinets or secretly dumping used syringes before lunchtime. “You got about half an hour,” he said. “Go hide.”
Now I understood! Go wander the halls is what he meant, and act like you’ve got something to do. By the end of my stint at that hospital I was as good a hider as I was a grunt.