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To Hide And Hide Not


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.

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Totally Unrelated


For a while there around the latest turn-of-the-century, I’d frequent Matt Murphy’s Pub in Brookline Village, where the host would seat you and your dinner companion at tables with perfect strangers, who don’t have any obligation to welcome you to the table or even acknowledge your existence.

Once, my wife and I went there and were seated beside a famous historian, who was having dinner with his daughter. I got my wife’s attention and made eyes at her; she furrowed her brow at me in return: “What?” As discreetly as I could, I tried to get her to notice who we were sharing the table with, gesturing with my eyes and making little jerky head motions. I could tell she had no idea what I was trying to convey. Finally, I wrote on a napkin that we were sharing a table with…you know…wink, wink (and his daughter, which was really of no consequence to either of us.)

Our dinner was now spent listening to this important man converse with his attractive twenty-something female offspring, instead of concentrating on own lives while drinking pints of draught beer and eating rabbit pie. They had sat down not long before us, and there was plenty of time to eavesdrop during our own silences. The historian was going on and on about something, and his daughter had grown not just bored, but actually really irritated. The famous professor was talking philosophically about the nature of love and said “Now, if you’d like to talk about romance—”

“I wouldn't,” snapped his dinner mate. At that moment, it suddenly occurred to me that the woman, who was about 30 years younger than the historian, was very likely not his daughter after all. And here I’d been wondering why the two were dining way across town and hadn’t thought to invite mom.

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Double Dip


A friend of mine recently bought 2 tickets on StubHub for $600 to see Paul McCartney, which, it turned out, were “double-sold.” That is, when he went to the gate, other people had already entered on the same barcodes.

This reminds me that I just gave away a couple of Red Sox tickets to a charity, and I can imagine a scenario in which I’m run over by a bus and my wife and kids, in their grieving, dig deep into my most personal digital belongings, and come across these tickets as PDFs on a hard drive (along with an extensive collection of secret fan mail). And they decide to go to the game as a remembrance of times past, before dear old dad I was flattened by a bus. They’d enter the game before whoever overbid for my pair of tickets gets to the gate, talking to each other at length about my surprising populist appeal.  But by the end of the day, the charity of my choice has alerted the public to my alleged "double-donation" of Red Sox tickets. It's all over the papers, of course.  “What is he, trying to cheat on his taxes?” the average Joe on the street wonders.

And although I’m not at fault, I’m dead and gone and therefore unable to make my innocence known to the community, except via séance, which, unfortunately, I can only attend if someone invites me to. 

And my name lives forever in infamy!

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In recent days I’ve spent virtually all of my free time working on my newest idea, which is to open a knot tying school.

Sure, sounds great to you, but you probably weren’t thinking through all the potential problems. For example, I’m not that great at tying knots. Surprised? It’s so funny how people like you always take me for a master knotsman, just by the way I carry myself when I’m ambling across the dappled town green, clad in the finest of linen and fingering a length of polyester cord, my cell phone to my ear as I make a dinner reservation at the finest of knot-tying restaurants (which carries Belgian ales on tap), while waving to the town’s selectmen on the other side of the green.

The rope is just a ruse! But that doesn’t mean I can’t open a school. I see the need (who can tie knots anymore?), and I can hire talent to teach people what they need to know.

Can you tie knots? Then consider applying for a job.

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