It was eleven thirtyish, bordering around midnight. The halls of the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center were empty except for me and a four foot tall, thirty pound potted plant in one hand, and a twenty pound mirror, which could only fit between my armpit and the tip of my fingers if I slouched like Quasimodo … and even then, just barely. Looking like one of those twisted metal puzzles you have to figure how to take apart, if I hadn’t reveled so much in my finds, I would have given them both up during the quarter mile trek across the hotel’s expanse to my car.
If only that half dark walnut and half cherry framed piece of glass could have been but an inch narrower, I wouldn’t have been contorted about it in such pain … but it was free, like the plant, and who can deny themselves something that is free? I couldn’t, not with that lousy paying job. Perks like those two items disguised the truth, made it easier to swallow. Now I knew what a homeless man feels like when he searches the trash and discovers a dented and discarded pot that he sees well-fitted for his head as a hat. Hobbling in agony, but always making sure I looked in control, I never set the two objects down while someone was in eyeshot of me. I didn’t want to let on my discomfort. I put on a smile as my digits separated at the knuckles, my arm dislocated from my shoulder, and a few discs shot like Frisbees from my back, and grimaced internally and beseeched that moment when whoever-it-was was gone and I could finally collapse. It didn’t happen often, when someone passed, due to the time of night, but it did. Strange though how some of their looks also seemed to hide something, as if they wanted to smirk or laugh at my situation, or just get away quick enough so that they could call security, believing I must be a thief. Who else walks around like that, with those, in a hotel that costs four hundred dollars a night? Honestly, I would have found myself peculiar too, but fortunately I don’t have the shifty eyes to totally condemn me. Still, the halls weren’t too brightly lit to see my eyes, and I could imagine the mirror shattering and soil all over the carpet as security tackled me. It was such a long walk and painful that I was actually beginning to believe myself guilty of something.
So where did I get my treasures? I’d gotten them from a product-based-themed convention I’d been hired to help set up. Early in the morning, before anyone-with-money had had breakfast, I was preparing booths, measuring out the eight by ten foot space allotted to each, staying true to the taped markings on the floor, which we’d put down, and secured a numbered placard to serve as an address for whoever was to be there to find. I set out trash cans with liners, and delivered to each booth, which had requested the need of them, tables and chairs. When that was done and the vendors had set up, we were then told to leave and return later that night for cleanup. A few luckier workers were asked to stay to man the garbage cans from overflowing, answer any needs of the merchants, clean any spills, and more or less, traverse the going-ons. They were luckier, because they got paid for their time, which more or less was just being there, nothing any harder or demanding than that while others went home and had no pay during the break, and no opportunity to fill it in with another job. I got lucky though, and was told to stay.
Given a walkie-talkie, I was able to walk around and feel more special than the guy who cleaned out the garbage cans. Don’t get me wrong; I still had to do that, but in my head I believed, perhaps it suggested I had more intelligence than that, at least to anyone who never held a walkie-talkie and knew it only consisted of listening with your ears and pushing a single button so as to be heard. I mean, they didn’t know who was on the other end. I could have been in contact with the mayor, or the FBI … or even the president. There in my hand I held a mystery … even though … I knew the only voice coming out of it would tell me of the next trash can that needed changing. Yep, I was the diaper man with the hefty bags. Question: Have you ever gone by a door which said, “Only Authorized Personnel Allowed?” And didn’t you envy those who could go in those doors … envy them even just out of curiosity to see what they were hiding? Well, I had … and guess what … I got to actually go through those doors while I was there. And do you know what I found?! Do you know what was behind them? Bigger trash bins to throw the trash bags into after you emptied the smaller trash cans … trash, trash, trash … and oh yeah, cement walls to match the cement floors … all grey. I can scratch that one off my bucket list now.
So as was stated previously, we’d set up the booths, but the vendors had brought all their own stuff to dress up their cloth cubicles, to draw an eye to them and make a proper representation of whatever good they were peddling. Some had supplied their offense with plants, others, signs, still others, means of demonstrations to show what their product could do. Everything had to be just right and cared for … but the thing was … only in a time which was temporary. When the convention wrapped up, much of that décor was put to the side, to be removed through those Only-Authorized-Personnel-Allowed doors and tossed into those larger sized trash bins. And by whom you might guess. Those like me.
The plant was a plant and I like plants, so that I scavenged. The mirror had been a demonstration tool for some polish. The frame around it was two-faced and didn’t match, but what the hell, the mirror worked, so I took that too and gave the trash compacter an easier job of it. I also remember taking a few sunglasses, which were being discarded each in their own little plastic bags. I think I still own one. If I’d had more arms and a syringe of steroids I would have taken more.
But you know what? It’s trudging in the center of night, tired and in pain, but rejuvenated, because you’re burdened down by someone’s unwanted things you’ve drawn the lucky card to take home, that makes you realize how desperate you are for the little things to make you happy. And when you find that the little things do make you happy … whatever they are … aren’t you better off?
… Sure you are.
Real: Everything other than what’s mentioned below
Not Real: Ever thinking of using steroids