Thursday, May 25, 2006


Monday, May 22, 2006

The Admiral

Feb 15, 2004

”Two towels, please.”

Redhead, SPF 30 still streaked on her freckled nose. At least she’s younger than sixty. Came in with that guy in the clip-ons, three rows from the pool. Is he actually wearing socks? What a wanker. Of course they aren’t guests. It was obvious from the moment they appeared. Glancing nervously from the guard post to me to the bar and the floater. Sizing up the employees. Trying to notice who has taken notice of them without drawing notice.

Pale as snow. Definitely Canadians. French? No, not tacky enough. Must be Jews. He’s trying to be all savvy, scanning the scene from behind his tinted lenses. What makes you think you are going to do a better job of casing me than me casing you? I’m watching people every day. It’s my job. It’s what I do.

I’m the towel concierge. That’s right. I can see you cracking a smile. Go a head. Dismiss me. Everyone else does. In fact, that’s kind of the point.

“Two towels, please.” She even blushes a little, like a sixteen year old buying his first nudi-mag. Definitely Jew. Her nose gives it away. Call me a bigot, but I’ve got empirical evidence, more than a five yeas of field research.

“You got your room key,” I’m just playing. Love to see how they respond. Any money they’re visiting Bubby and Zaddy’s condo down the beach.

“We’re just here for lunch,” she responds, minute beads of sweat beginning to form around the freckles of her forehead. It’s hot out, but not that hot.

She adds, “Visiting my uncle and aunt.” She even points vaguely in the direction of one of the hotel wings. Not bad. Mostly truth, with a dusting of spice to make it Kosher. Right idea, terrible delivery. If we were across a poker table from each other, I’d end the evening a rich man.

I let her dangle for just a second. Just long enough for her to know that I know. They don’t seem like the kind of folks to cause trouble, but now I’m guaranteed of it. They’ll probably tip like fucking crazy to boot. I hand her the towels with a friendly smile. I would have given her a wink too, except for the shades.

“Enjoy,” I add as she shuffles off. Her boyfriend or husband or whatever has picked a half shaded spot outside the main traffic routes of the deck. Very strategic and well planned, except for the fact that it’s off season and they are one of only a half dozen or so clusters out this morning. On a day like this, it don’t matter where you sit, we’ve got you marked. Not that I care, I’ve got a bigger school of fish to fry.

Now Vince, the floater comes sauntering up, talky in hand. He leans on the stack of terry in front of me and gazes out over the sea of recliners.

“So, how’s business?”

When Vince asks, “How’s business,” he’s not inquiring as to how many towels I’ve handed out that day. Vince is more interested in the catch.

“Nine o’clock,” I tell him. We haven’t made eye contact yet. This is Vince playing it cool, like he’s all undercover or something. Like someone is going to look at his polyester, Admiral embroidered golf shirt and not know he’s an employee. Just happens to be leaning up against my towels with a talky in his hand. I doubt Vince has spent any time I the armed forces, but I bet he wished he had.

A nine o’clock, on the other side of the pool, is a family of six; 1 oversized mother and a gaggle of offspring ranging from six to sixteen. Vince runs his tongue along the bottom of his moustache.

“Good damn, how can something that orca spawn something that hot?”

He is referring to the oldest daughter, pulling off her T and slipping timidly into the pool. Ben Affleck himself would have gotten whiplash.

“It’s genetic,” I say. “Something happens to them at the age of forty. It’s like some cruel joke of evolution. All the hotness is front loaded in order to attract a mate. Once they’ve snagged someone, it all goes to hell. Happens all over the Mediterranean. I suspect the EU has launched a probe.”

“Hey man, you know what they say, ‘Hispanics are for dating, not for mating’,” Vince laughs out loud then runs the back of his hand across his mouth. “Six before lunch? Not bad for the off season.”

Now, there’s no official quota for chasing freeloaders from the pool, but each shift maintains an unofficial count. No money changes hands, but bragging rights count for plenty around here.

“You’ve missed the best part. Check out mamasita’s beach bag.”

“Is that a fucking Chihwawa?” Vince actually drops his glasses to the tip of his nose to get a better look. “Right fucking on! Thank you siniorita.”

Dogs always get you bonus jabs when you’re talking to the lobby goons at the end of the shift. Vince lets his eyes wander from the dog to the daughter again. For a guy trying to play it so cool, he’s pretty fucking obvious. Even the dog is beginning to glance our way nervously.

“Better get on with it,” I prod. “You don’t want them to leave of their own accord.”

Vince rounds his gaze over his shoulder back at me; he’s still leaning against my towels, now pressed to half their original height. He winks and pushes his shades back up his greasy nose with his free hand before shoving off towards the offending family.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind someone stealing a dip once in a while. Especially in the off season. It can actually help pad the deck for the paying guests. No one likes to be surrounded by a sea of empty recliners, especially when you are all but naked. Makes a person feel like the world’s watching.

Notice I didn’t nark on the Jewish couple. They’ll probably buy a bucket or two of shrimp just because they’re out of sight from their Kosher family. No, it’s the balls out shamelessness of these locals, Hispanics in particular, that really get me raw. Walk right in like they own the place. Spread out over ten chairs, kids all yelling and chasing each other. And to top it off, why not bring your fucking dog. Like we’re all going to sit around wondering why your bags yipping and barking and carrying on.

No, you gotta nip this kind of thing in the bud or word spreads and next thing you know you’ve got a fucking public pool and the whole place has gone the way of the Diplomat down the road.

“Locals?” Steve has swayed up to my stand while I watch Vince do his thing.

“I gotta say it. Vince may be a fucking Neanderthal, but he’s a pro when he needs to be.”

Steve is gayer than sunshine and everything from the rainbow coloured Hawaiian print to his cartoon lisp screams it. So naturally, he and Vince don’t quite click. In this case though, Steve is right on both counts.

There’s a finesse involved in what Vince does (that’s Steve’s word, not mine.) To remove someone without causing a scene is a skill. To remove a Spanish family while maintaining the poolside tranquility is fucking art. Frankly, I have my doubts Vince is going to pull this one off.

I shift my attention back to the melodrama. Vince and the mother are exchanging heated words. Daughter is just swimming back to the edge of the pool. This could really tip the balance of power, if Vince let’s his attention stray. A Spanish mother is a lot like an elephant and her calf.

“OK busboy, I got $20 that says Vince looses control of this one.”

“You’re on towel pimp.”

Steve takes a twenty out of his pocket and lays it on my towels. I don’t think Steve is hip to the daughter factor. Not wanting to let on though, I reach for my tip jar to match his bet. It being the off season I find myself counting quarters to make up the last two dollars.

“Pay up,” Steve smirks and pokes me in the shoulder. I drop a quarter and loose count as my attention swings back to Vince. “He’s fucking kucki-kooing the dog,” Steve coos into my ear.

“All right,” I jerk away and finish counting out the change. Stupid thing to bet against Vince anyway. Man is a fucking professional. Now he and the daughter are chatting it up as he escorts the family up the stairs.


Steve glides over to a nearby table to clear away a plastic cup. An oversized tanner, probably German, is streached out, eyes closed against the mid-morning sun. Steve takes a moment to run his gaze over the bulbous thicket of the man's mountainous stomach, lingering too long over the foothills of his Speedo. Steve is a self proclaimed Bear Hunter, a term he unfortunately felt the need to teach me when he started here a couple of months back.

In a euphoric trance, Steve floats back to my post and pitches the cup lightly into my garbage.

“I gotta tell you Steve, I just don’t see it. It’s like you could lance that guys gut with a pin. It’s fucking vial frankly.”

“Oh, to be that lance,” Steve laments dreamily, fully engaged in a fantasy I’m only too glad not to share in. He’s now forgotten the lessons his mother taught him, let alone his college hospitality management degree as his gaze thoroughly caresses what his hands cannot. It must be the humidity today because everyone’s in heat. I give Steve a shove and knock him back to reality. “Don’t you have a daiquiri to deliver?”

Steve looks at me with distain, “That’s what I have staff for.” He laughs too loudly, then turns to leave, wrist dutifully cocked in the ninety degree gay man’s salute. I have a thought. “Hey Steve.”

He arcs his back and half turns towards me.

“See the couple at six o’clock? The red head and her husband or whatever.” Steve glances over, “Not my type.”

“What did they order for lunch?”

“Those two? Let’s see. Peel and eat and a fruit plate. Couldn’t decide on drinks, but good tippers.”

Fuck. Shoulda bet him. Could have made my money back, then some. I feel like my motor’s slowing down. Not thinking straight. Shouldn’t put money against Vince. Man’s a pro. I duknow, maybe it’s the humidity, not normal for this time of year. Maybe I just need a fucking vacation.