The last time I was fired from a job was in 1982. It was at the Sharpstown Mall in Houston, where I had taken a sales associate position with Sexy Underwear and Toys, a franchise retail establishment that offered a fine selection of clothing for the discriminating shopper. Our best seller was the “Lock him up, Jim!” which consisted of a bright blue pair of briefs with a padlock on the fly.
Fit the key,
Remove the treasure,
Add to your undressing pleasure!
That was the jingle, if I recall correctly. They fired me for failure to move enough product, so to speak.
I hadn’t planned on doing the Labor Board Complaint Crit, held each year in the picturesque town of Methylvania, located halfway between Methville and Methopolis in scenic inland Southern California. The only reason I was going to the race was to do the race promoter a favor. He’d asked me to announce the master men’s 40+ race because I’d done it the year before to great acclaim and because I was free.
Especially because I was free.
The main reason I wanted to announce wasn’t simply to get my hands on a microphone in front of an audience, it was a public service to keep people from falling asleep while watching the race. This year the announcing was provided by Puddsy McNuggets’s Professional Bicycle Race Announcing and Sump Repair Company, and Puddsy was one of the best in the business, which is to say he was pretty much the only one in the business, and he was awful.
Bike racing is boring even on a good day, and there’s never a good day. The Labor Board Complaint Crit was no exception: A blurry herd of spastically colored, interchangeable people roar by for a microsecond over intervals that seem slower than the origin of species, during which bells are rung and mysterious phrases are uttered and then at the end the tired remnants lurch across the line and the winner stands on a cardboard box in front of a dumpster and raises his hands in the air to receive a medal and hopefully some deodorant.
Puddsy had just finished announcing the junior girls’ race, which had fourteen competitors, and even that surpassed his commentating skills, which were more suited to announcing rainfall or fog than an athletic event. He’d never raced a bike and had learned the announcing trade as an auctioneer for used sumps.
“Here they come!” he’d say in a sad, bored tone, and they would come.
“There they go!” he’d add, and they would, indeed go. Who “they” were, and the mechanics of why they were coming and going remained as mysterious and impenetrable as the fur on Schrodinger’s cat.
Every few minutes Puddsy would sigh deeply, inhale, and commentate. “Looks like it’s strung out on the back side,” he’d intone, as if it someone were making a bead necklace in junior high. Since none of the town’s twelve inhabitants had seen a bike race since last year, during which time the meth and tequila and domestic violence had erased all memory of it, they would crane their necks trying to figure out what was strung out and who was showing her backside.
In between comments (“Number 261 is making a move” [Ed. note: What kind of move? Bowel?]), Puddsy would switch the PA over to his playlist of 70’s classic rock and lunge forcefully into the real object of his affections, his third double grande chili-dog burrito with extra cheese and farts. As a dringle of melted cheddar dangled off his chin he’d periodically look up and try to add some funereal color to the drab and lifeless event. “This one is going to be a bunch finish,” he’d predict when the group came back together, followed a few minutes later by “This one is going to end in a breakaway,” when one or two riders gained a second on the field.
The children’s race ended and I hopped up on the sound stage, introduced myself, grabbed a microphone, and pushed Puddsy out of the way as the masters racers mobbed the start line. The night before announcing a race I always do a quick online check to see who’s registered and then follow it up with a series of queries to various state and federal databases. This always makes announcing more fun, and I started with gusto.
“There’s Finkle Finkleston, twelve-time state champ and currently living more than two miles from all schools and playgrounds. He will be firing some heavy artillery. And folks, keep your eyes on Stubbsy Quackenbush, who just finished serving his time for murder; he’s a mean one in a knife fight or a sprint.”
I continued with my call-ups, praising the ex-porn stars, the ex-dopers, the current dopers, the national champs, the state champs, the deadbeat dads, the breakaway artists, the tattoo artists, and those who were just there for the weekend on parole. “The ones to watch, though, are the Destroyer and Gatecrasher! Destroyer’s the one who looks like he hasn’t eaten since 1984 and Gatecrasher is wearing the bright orange lid that looks like a legless cockroach!”
The audience cheered and craned their necks to get a look at each of the heroes.
As the race started, I urged the crowd to yell. “Use those lungs! Don’t act like you’re all choked up on Deep Throat!”
Puddsy grabbed my mic. “You can’t talk like that! This is a public event!”
“What’s a Deep Throat, mommy?” I heard a small child ask.
“Shut the fuck up,” I said to Puddsy and grabbed the mic back. Then I launched into a detailed discussion of race tactics, pointing out the tricky technical sections of the course, the points on the course where the wind shifted, the importance of sheltering against the barricades but not running over the metal feet, crashing, and tearing your aorta.
Puddsy spit out the business end of his fourth cheese burrito when I accidentally let drop a couple of f-bombs. At that very moment one of the peloton’s most fearsome felons was making a move up the crosswind-riddled gradient. Puddsy took a stab at announcing, clearly embarrassed at the large crowd of people who were now ganging up against the barricades to hear my awesome mix of commentating, profanity, race tactics, intimate details about arrest records, and slander.
“Number 872 is going for the prime!” Puddsy yelled in a tone almost similar to excitement.
I filled in for him. “A prime is like getting some blow along with a hooker,” I roared. “The main event is the hooker, but the blow sweetens the pot. Watch these deadbeat dads living in dumpsters endure inhuman pain and risk death for five bucks and a tub of high-performance electrolyte a/k/a sucrose!”
Puddsy was livid. “Get off this stage!” he roared. “You’re obscene! These people just want to hear music! They can’t understand anything you’re saying!”
“If there’s one thing the folks here in Methylvania CAN understand, it’s hookers and blow!” I shouted back into the mic to an appreciative pair of single-tooth housefraus with tattoos on the uncovered, upper reaches of their untethered udders. A third winked and mouthed the words “Ten bucks for you, behind the third dumpster!”
Puddsy yanked out my mic cord and switched on “Ventura Highway.” “You’re fired!” he screamed. “Get out of here!”
I hopped off the stage, watching as the Destroyer and Gatecrasher crushed the field with a full-gas, two-man breakaway, just as I’d predicted. “To hell with you, Puddsy!” I yelled back. “I’m calling my lawyer to file a complaint with the labor board!” I reached into my pocket and called myself, as I also handle labor law violations for select clients.
On the way back to my car I saw the promoter. “I thought you were announcing,” he said.
“I was,” I answered, “but old Puddsy gave me the same treatment I got when I was selling ‘Lock him up, Jim.'”
He looked at me funny and I continued on.
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