It’s four a.m. and I just woke up from another job-related nightmare. I was getting up in another hour anyways. Perhaps these painful dreams of work will be exercised from my subconscious if I write them down. I won’t claim to suffer from any form of PTSD., let’s save that for the combat veterans and victims of serious crimes. Still, I’ve seen some pretty fucked up shit in my years of French Quarter employment.
My position? Morning clean-up guy in a couple of dive bars right off Bourbon Street. It’s every bit as gruesome as it sounds. Imagine a melancholy Tom Waits song about mopping up vomit. I’ve been doing this for so long, not only can I tell you that the puddle contains hurricanes and gumbo, but that it looks like it originated from Pat O’Brien’s. It’s not a career for the weak or cowardly. These are some highlights from my cringe scrapbook.
I hose off the sidewalk every morning. Picture Jackson Pollock with a bad stomach virus. There is no way to feel cool about yourself while hosing off a soiled condom stuck to the lid of the city garbage can. I’ve seen so much blood in and out of the bars, it’s like analyzing a crime scene as I clean. “Janitorial Forensics” as I like to refer to it. Blood drops and spilled drinks with shoe prints tracking through it all.
Walking into work about 7 a.m one morning, I was greeted by a bartender with a distant dead stare in his eyes. He had a welt on his forehead, and his hair and the objects behind him were splattered with candle wax. I only asked, “Did you kick out a hooker last night?” He silently nodded yes. I felt like Sherlock Holmes.
Years ago, when I worked at the hotel across the street, I was hosing a rather large puddle of dried blood with a trail starting from Bourbon Street, leading to the front of what is now the Ra Shop. As I rinsed the sidewalk, a tooth skipped across from of the water. “Someone was an asshole to the wrong person last night.” A couple days later I ran into a door guy at the club on the opposite corner, his right hand was bandaged. My buddy lamented, “I was aiming for the side of his head, but he turned into it. Sliced my hand on his teeth. He lost a few, hope I don’t catch anything.” I casually motioned to my corner, “He went that way?” A nod of yes confirmed my conclusion.
One might be surprised to find out how difficult it is to hose a butt plug down a gutter. I guess it has to do with how it’s shaped. Where the fuck did it come from? Did it just fall out? Did someone get bored with it and just reach back and pluck it out? Perhaps it just fell out of a pocket, I told myself as many gallons of hose water were used to prompt the bright red sex toy to the sewer grate on Bourbon Street. It should wash out to the river after the next storm and from there, flow down to the Gulf of Mexico where it will lodge into the blow hole of a baby dolphin — IF everything goes according to my diabolical plan.
I find some disgusting things in the gutter as well. One time I found a toe. An actual little toe from a human, like in the movie, “The big Lebowski.” That’s how I recognized what it was. I leaned down real close, rinsed it and looked a little closer — yea, a fucking toe. Didn’t surprise me a bit. We see idiots all the time wearing flip flops, sandals or even barefoot. Good, you deserved it. I won’t wear anything less than Doc Marten on that wreckage-strewn street. Hosing the tiny grayish appendage down the gutter, I amused myself with a lousy John Goodman impression: “You want a toe, Dude? I can get you a toe. Hell, I can get you a toe by three o’clock. With nail polish.”
I pondered if I had any obligation to report it to proper authorities. Nah. Teeth, toes, they don’t care. What if I found an entire foot? Would I phone it in, then? Probably not. I just would pretend I didn’t notice it and let the city workers deal with it. An entire leg? Hm, maybe. Odds are the owner didn’t get very far.
Another morning I walked into the men’s room and stopped dead in my tracks. Looking down right in the middle of the floor. “REALLY GUYS?! I would expect this in the women’s room, but not in ours.” I leaned down and squinted. “Oh wait, it’s just a cigar. Sorry men, as you were.” Ask any janitor, the women’s bathroom is always many times worse.
“We’re out of paper in the ladies’ room.”
“No, you’re not. There’s a half a fucking roll strewn all over the floor. Every morning it looks like goddamn mischief night in there.”
This is why I don’t date anymore. I’ve been cleaning ladies’ rooms for so long that I want nothing to do with you nasty assed bitches. They all act like they don’t even fart, yet there is crap on top of the toilet tank. Somehow the glitter makes it all OK, I guess.
You must stay up with the graffiti, too. If you let one tag slide the next day, there will be three more. Inspecting the women’s room one gloomy morning I was greeted by “MEN R PIGS” written on our ivory tile wall. Upon examining the scrawl to determine the best removal method, I realized it was in fact written in blood. I chuckled at the irony of this self-own. Do used tampons work like felt-tipped markers? Total lack of self-awareness on her part. I gloved up for the procedure and laughed thinking about a troll response. I should write beneath it: “NO WE’RE NOT” in semen. That would’ve been counterproductive to my job, though. Besides, I’m not that young anymore. Maybe I could’ve squeezed out enough to write just “NO.” Not nearly as clever.
Why did I wake up this morning screaming? Have you ever had to plunge a fetus? There is no coming back from that.