When my apartment got flooded a few weeks ago on an early Tuesday morning, a group of workers showed up from a cleaning and restoration company. I hadn’t even known of this kind of company existed since this was my first foray into the “Flooded Club.” My reaction to the flood was denial (“this isn’t so bad”), delusion (“I can blot this with paper towels and use a blow dryer”) and finally, acceptance. When my building hired these green-shirted guys, I was grateful for their expertise, anecdotes, and reassurance they would use their brawn and professional machinery to dry out my sopping wood floors.
A revolving group of workers stayed for about four days. Chuck, the Supervisor, age 28, was usually present (with three-hour lunch breaks from which he returned smelling like a local bar) but spent most of his time chatting with us and making phone calls to tell his co-workers that he “scored with some cool clients.”
I blame myself for opening the floodgates of communication and breaking the employer – employee line. I tend to talk during times of duress or alternatively when I’m happy, sad, or angry. I cope with most of my emotions by talking too much. I find it easy (or somehow controlling) to reveal personal information and somehow this makes me accessible and vulnerable and allows others to share their innermost secrets with me. I thought this was something I learned in journalism school, but I’ve always been captivated by people’s lives and stories; somehow my empathetic soul wants to go on the journey with them. Maybe spending my adolescence practicing my social skills on old men who’d come in for a 49 cent cup of coffee and linger for two hours helped me talk to anyone. Maybe it’s because my parents never shielded me from adulthood and this has always empowered me to feel like I can talk to anyone about anything.
Chuck, the Supervisor, had a diamond earring in his cheek, like a beauty mark and perfect white teeth with a voice just like Christian Slater.
“This water damage is nothing,” Chuck says. “You should see the real messes I clean up. I’ve been in the military. I’ve seen it all. You know when a person dies and they lay there for four days before anyone finds them? Eventually, the morgue removes the body but all those liquids from the body eroding for days puddle onto the ground and I have to clean that up. I went to Iraq and Afghanistan and now I clean up human remains and shit.”
Chuck spewed stories nervously as if he was compensating for my over chatting. He told me about some of the celebrity homes he’d cleaned; overflowing sewage on the first floor or a mold-infested basement. He told me about his PTSD and recited a laundry list of medications he’s prescribed.
“None of them work anymore, even though I drink a pint of vodka every night.”
“At least you’re not hooked on Heroin,” I say because I like to put my foot in my mouth.
“Been there, done that,” he says.
On day two Chuck arrived a bit more chipper (maybe my talk therapy helped).
“You smell so good,” he says and inhales deeply. “What perfume are you wearing? It’s been following me around the last 24 hours.” At first, I thought he was saying that I overdid it with the perfume and I am one of those old ladies who you smell even after she gets off the elevator. My instinct was to say “I’m sorry.” He instantly said, “Don’t apologize. I love it. What’s it called? Come stand next to me so I can smell it some more.”
I giggled nervously but did what I do best, kept talking. Incidentally, my husband once told me men can occasionally misconstrue a woman’s nervous chatter to be flirtation.
The third day Chuck arrived even though there was nothing truly left for him to do. He said he wanted to check the dryness status of the wall. This involves using stud finder type tool to push against a wall and clicking a button. The job takes twelve seconds for two walls. Chuck lingered for three hours and at one point says, “I got a picture of your toe in one of my photos.”
Once again my immediate reaction to this comment is to become defensive and thought he was telling me my gross toe tainted his photo. Once again I apologized and he said, “It’s so cute and tan with that adorable pink glittery nail polish.”
My mind darted to wondering if he had a foot fetish, if he was drunk, or if he was lonely.
Right before my husband got home (couldn’t happen soon enough) Chuck wandered over to a wedding photo on my husband’s desk and stared at it intensely. The day before I had mentioned I was Russian and he acted surprised.
“In this photo, you look Russian and hot.”
At this point, even my insecure inclinations were won over by the evidence and I acknowledged this was official flirting. Further substantiating this accusation, his many mentions about his preference for older women, “especially MILFs.” While it’s flattering to have further validation about my membership in the “MILF Club,” I realize the grown-up, mature me is much more preoccupied with a dry floor.
My husband came home but Chuck wasn’t inclined to leave. Instead, he kept up with the chatter and we ushered him off to the weekend with a shot of ten-year-old Scotch as a tip.
But not before we witnessed an epic moment. Next stop: witnessing Chuck join the butt dial club. Stay tuned.