Thursday, November 12, 2015
Because the photograph looked too much like me.
“Milord? You have to come see this.”
“I do, do I?” I had seen a lot that Halloween evening. Much of it, I would like to un-see.
“Yes, I rather think that you do.”
Erin was using “my lord” and “rather” like some fancy-pants English person. This, despite the fact that Erin was from Ireland. I suppose she was trying to stay in character; Smugglers’ Inn’s relief seating hostess had dressed up like Mary Poppins for Halloween. It was a decent get-up, especially with her accompanying carpetbag and umbrella. I may have been the only one who got the reference, though; some dope later asked if she was a Victorian prostitute.
“Be there in two minutes,” I said, not looking up from my phone.
“We shall await your company in the bar.” Erin held her button nose in the air and strode away from the tiny manager’s office and through the kitchen, swinging her hips like I’m pretty sure Julie Andrews never did.
I finished checking Facebook (hey, I’m the boss) and fortified myself with a glass of Diet Coke before striking out for the lounge area. I knew the kind of trouble that awaited me. Or, I didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. Let me explain.
But before I explain, let me say that this whole Captain Morgan’s Halloween Bash 2015© thing was not my idea. Until now, our nod to the holiday on the 31st of October had consisted of strewing some fake cobwebs behind the bar and having a bag of fun-sized Snickers bars on hand for the eight or ten trick-or-treaters whose parents were so feckless as to take their little princesses and spidermen padding around the vast Northtown Shopping Center parking lot while nearby, kid-friendly suburban homes stood cheek to jowl extending to the horizon. The odd Smug’s employee might show up for his or her shift sporting plastic fangs or a rubber fright mask, but they would never work in costume. We weren’t Taco Bell.
We weren’t The French Laundry, either. When someone from Captain Morgan’s marketing department called and said that they had seen Smuggler’s Inn on “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” and figured that our name made us a natural for hosting a Halloween party featuring their rum, we didn’t say no. Selfishly, I thought we might be able to do a tie-in with athletes from the St. Paul Winter Paralympics, Smug’s latest branding client. When I gave voice to this, I was informed that the Captain Morgan character whom attendees of the Captain Morgan’s Halloween Bash 2015© would be encouraged to dress up like did not have a peg leg. (What respectable pirate captain doesn’t have a peg leg?) Our turn on “Kitchen Nightmares” had ended with Mr. Gordon Ramsay and company fleeing the final taping with Pongo, our dishwasher, hurling missiles at the departing crew vehicles like an Elizabethan theater-goer chucking turnips at a particularly weak cast of Henry VI. I didn’t know if I wanted to put the gang through that again.
“I already did a vote,” Carol, our socialist day manager, had informed me when I confided that I was thinking about calling the rum people and backing out. “Everyone's down with it, even Los Illegals”.
As it had been explained to me, Smugglers' Inn was to be one of 11 bars across the country hosting a Captain Morgan’s Halloween party the Friday before Halloween. The whole purpose of the event was to generate content featuring happy, rum-soaked party-goers that would stream on the Captain Morgan's website. Carol was saying that even those employees who had hid in the storeroom during the taping of “Kitchen Nightmares” now wanted to be seen by tens of thousands of online voyeurs who didn’t have a real Halloween party to go to.
“Media whores!” I said. Out loud.
“Smile and don’t be an arse.” Erin had dropped her Mary Poppins persona when she had grabbed me by the elbow and marched me out to face the music in the lounge. She and I were now facing a jumbo screen that was flipping randomly between groups of costumed drunks and MC’s dressed like characters from a swashbuckling movie. The sound was off, or maybe the music in our lounge was too loud, but I read supers that said Honolulu, New Orleans, San Antonio and Plymouth.
“Where is the sea witch?” I asked Erin.
“And here he be!” shouted an amplified voice right behind me. “Here be your captain!”
I turned around and was dazzled by a bright light. Our lounge was dark, but there was no reason the videographer needed to blind people to tape them, I thought. No wonder people had complained.
“Happy Halloween!” I said to the silhouette of the MC. I smiled. I tried not to squint.
“’Happy ‘alloween, mistah boss mon!” said the Captain Morgan’s Halloween Bash 2015© MC. There had been some debate when this woman had shown up about whether she’d been in something—a TV show? Movie? Hip-hop video? No one could say for sure. She was early 30’s with honey blonde dreads and sporting a gold tooth that glinted in the light. I think the tooth was real, but her Jamaican patois was every bit as bad as Erin’s British. She was kitted out in a loose blouse with tights and a giant belt buckle and knee-high boots--more Three Musketeers than Pirates of the Caribbean, but as Halloween costumes go, it was miles ahead of what the locals were wearing. I spied the gorilla with a Hillary Clinton mask that I’d been asked to rule on (acceptable) plus the guy in fatigues and greasepaint who had agreed to put his realistic rubber AR-15 rifle back in the trunk of his car after first telling me the story of the heroic army sniper whom he was honoring by getting pissy drunk on $2 rum drinks. I also spied several all-too familiar faces.
“Hildy!” I shouted at our cook, “Don’t you have food to get out?”
“All out,” Hildy said. Like that gave him an excuse to be out of his kitchen wearing a bloodstained apron.
Two of our wait staff stepped into the lounge and walked up to Erin, who was hovering just outside the cone of light that bouncing off the thin spot on the top of my head. They were smiling—always a bad sign.
“Now, BOSS MON,” the MC went on. “Yah people tell me dat you been a-working all week on your costume for ‘dis par-tay.”
“Liars!” I said. I had a hunch where this was going and it was not a good place.
“Now, where is dis great cos-TUME?”
“Here de cos-TUME be, mi’lady!” Erin answered. She was now Mary Poppins from Kingston, apparently.
With my co-workers applauding, Erin walked up to me with blue visor and an ancient hands-free headset that I think I used in the 90’s. I couldn’t believe that they were actually doing this too me.
“Put it on and be quick about it, mon! De natives is restless.” The MC put her hand on her hip and pantomimed lashing me with a whip. This elicited whoops and hollers from the patrons, who had stopped trying to shout above the music and were all turning their attention to the sweaty guy in the navy blazer fumbling with a visor with a video camera hovering twelve inches from his face. With a little more effort, I got the hands-free headset on over the goofy visor-thing. I looked like…
“Mike McCoy! As I lives and breathes, ‘tis Mike McCoy, de coach of de world famous San Diego Chargers!”
My co-workers all took out cell phones, so that they could record my discomfort.
I shrugged my shoulders and parted my hands in a “Whadda ya gonna do?” gesture.
I’m sure the MC was asking herself right then how she had come to this place in her life where her job was pretending to know the coach of a mediocre football team on Halloween night. I mean, I am all for middle aged white guys, but we do all kind of look alike. Yes, a couple of people had told me that I bore a passing resemblance to the head coach of the Chargers, but I don’t follow the game and if I did, the Chargers? I mean, they are currently two and seven…
Suddenly, I was drowning. In a glacier.
“…iiii!” I continued. I spluttered a few choice expletives, which amused the people holding cell phones to no end. With the videographer’s light dazzling my eyes, I had not seen the full, 30-gallon Gatorade Barrel as it was raised and its entire contents dumped on my head by whom, I know not. I saw the big screen. On it was another bar, another party. All of the costumed patrons were laughing and pointing and holding each other up because they had just seen the funniest thing IN THE WORLD, otherwise known as an unsuspecting man getting doused with a massive quantity of ice water. The location supered on screen, I noted, said “San Diego”.
So, here it is, a week and change later. I am in Macy’s, trying on suits to replace a navy blazer that I owned and that is now ruined and I begin thinking of what kind of devious, hopelessly weird employees that I have and I start to laugh. And I can’t stop. I get hold of myself and the salesman who was helping me asks what I think of the suit and I manage to say, “The goddamn thing makes me look like Mike McCoy,” and he says, “Who?” but I can’t answer; I am laughing again. I leave and I go to Mens Warehouse where I manage to buy a wool blazer without embarrassing myself and this is my life.