Carnival Off My Back

Category: Blog, Commentaries
  1. Great Exceeding

“Carnival Off My Back” by Cotton Mather

Some people are exceptionally good at being angry, or more specifically, maintaining mental clarity while angry. I’m not one of them. My entire mental navigational apparatus goes haywire when I’m involved in a confrontation and I hear myself saying stupid things the equivalent of “I know am but what are you”. The only times in my life I’ve ever truly eviscerated someone with loud and perfect vitriol were times when the other person had done something so despicable and heinous that words seemed to appear with a power and force all their own. So if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of shouting, red-faced invective from Robert Harrison, the chances are that either you did something truly egregious- or that you’re a full-time monumental jackass. Or both.

Just out of college I got a job in a high-end Atlanta restaurant. The corporate rep at their downtown high rise who hired me suggested I visit the place a few times to make certain I was well suited to the “culture”. So I stopped by twice, both times late afternoon when nobody was there, had a beer and hung out with the bartender, who was really cool and also happened to be gay. So what? The place seemed posh, the money would be awesome, and I said yes. Well that’s how I came to be one of two men, on a staff of 102, who was straight. The other straight fella was black and also named Robert, and the guys referred to us as “our two little straight salt and pepper shaker Roberts!” After a brutal week of hazing I was accepted into the ranks because I refused to be intimidated and worked diligently – and they started to notice I was kicking ass bussing tables and destined to make waiter in no time. The only problem was the manager, who had made overtures towards me from day one, became incensed when he found out I was straight. And so he began to harass me mercilessly – in front of the customers. After three weeks of being humiliated publicly I couldn’t take much more. One day just after lunch rush was dying down I found myself attempting to bus a table in a crowded restaurant while this vicious, angry little red haired man screamed at me at the top of his lungs. In spite of being told by my co-workers that I was doing top-notch work, this a-hole was shouting at me again! And I just shut down. Everything became strangely quiet. His mouth was moving, his sad little face was all red, but all I could hear was my beating heart and an ocean roaring. Then suddenly – I snapped back to consciousness and heard “…do I need to send you back to training Robert? Is that what you want? What do want Robert…What do you want!!!!???

Whereupon another voice distinctly like mine answered, “Do you really want to know what I want? I’ll tell you exactly what I want – you abusive and cowardly little prick! What I want is to quit this f****ng job!” And at that moment my left hand emptied a pitcher of ice water over his head, while my right hand planted the bus tray full of dirty dishes and condiments into the chest of his silly little white tux. Then, honest to God, the entire room burst into applause. He was screaming something about security when I ripped off my apron, walked into the kitchen, and helped myself to a chicken salad sandwich that had just come up on line. Then I walked out the back, crossed the street, sat down a park bench and ate it. And it tasted fantastic.

Hexagram 28, Great Exceeding advises on how to navigate high-pressure situations in which one may be in extremely uncomfortable circumstances. Such as trying to hang onto an awful job when you need the money. Or trying to tolerate the intolerable for the sake of the ones you love.

Carnival Off My Back performed at The Star Apple Kingdom by Robert Harrison, Whit Williams, Josh Gravelin, and Dana Myzer. Recorded by RH. Mixed by Paul Stacey. Mastered by Lars Goransson.

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