When I turned 14 my parents suddenly stopped supplying me with everything I wanted. I thus was forced to obtain employment at a water park. Not only did I decide to work in a water park, the most trite of first job options, but I decided to work as a park service employee. This meant I was essentially to act as a personal servant to any person within the park. I cleaned, provided moral support or gave direction. Now this was Provo, Utah, so obesity rates were fairly low and a good number of swimsuits stretched over the more doughy parts of people, but I saw several stomachs that were used as curtains over crotches, and those patrons are still potent in my memory.
The most prominent of those potent memories was formed on my first day. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a phlegm colored rag, I marched into the moist concrete confines of the women’s restroom where my new office was located; the maintenance closet. Two feet by three feet containing a water heater and a shelf with just enough room for the mop. Just as a pulled my head from the room a women standing directly behind the door requested the most emotionally scarring thing I have ever been asked to do, help her out of her swim suit.
She was five-feet two-inches at most and must have weighed somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds. This stout woman’s face was not one to be turned away, tragically up turned nose and sagging eye sockets. It seemed as though she were the poster child in the fight to abolish gravity, proving the horrors it could perform on people.
“Can you help me out of this?” She kindly croaked.
“Yes, of course,” I choked out–a frequently ruinous phrase for a fourteen-year-old people-pleaser.
The woman then turned to reveal the back of her form fitting ballet pink swimsuit had a corset-like lace up with a neat pink string desperately attempting to hold all of her in. I placed my trash bags under my arm and reached for the bow her husband must have lovingly tied.
Some bows are fun to untie. Like presents, or too small of shoes you’ve been wearing all day. But this bow, to a fifteen-year-old on the first day of their first job, this bow felt like opening the hell-mouth. With its loosening came only a slight stretching of the suit, meaning I had to fiddle with the rest of the clingy damp fabric to free the poor women. As I continued on down unlacing her, I noticed that the woman was expanding. The lacing had been so well done that she had managed to hide thirty pounds in the overlapping of her back pudge. The woman was inflating. As if on the other side of her there was a bike pump adding air to her.
I successfully reached the bottom of the corset and took a nervous breath when she turned to thank me holding her swimsuit to her chest so as not to flash everyone within a seven mile radius. Her attempt at modesty was in vain and I saw more of her than I did of any of the bodies in the Body Worlds exhibit. She quickly expressed her thanks and withdrew back into a stall. Struck with the piercing fear that she would ask me to help her back into the suit, I scuttled away to my only safe haven, the dumpster behind the cafe.
Out beside the dumpster, I stood like a heroine amid the Armageddon scene of thirty years of hiring teenagers to clean a water park, breathing deeply at first and then not so much when I considered the chemicals being emitted by the pools and the fragrance of the dumpster. This was my first day of work, of my first job, and the first time I talked to a dumpster.
My soliloquy is long since forgotten but it must have gone something like: “What? What in all the sweet mercy of the universe is this? I can’t go back out there. I can’t see any more backs like that. I don’t ever want to see another swimsuit in my life. Oh dear, I’m going back out there aren’t I? I am going to go back out there and clean the throw-up off the chairs next to the wave-pool. I am going to go back out there and give some sunscreen-saturated father directions to the other side of the parking lot. I am. I simply am. And if this happens again, I’ll laugh, and I’ll be gracious and I’ll earn my $7.25. Every penny of it. And I will forever and always praise every lunch lady, bus driver, janitor, and garbage man I see. Anywhere. Ever. I mean it.”
Four months later, the park closed for the winter and I got a job as a weekend busser at a failing Italian restaurant, where I was once asked to make enough lasagna for the state champion football team.