Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hazelnut Gelato and Picking Fights with Tommy Lister in the Maze of Forgotten Construction Projects / part 3

Like I said, the construction was just the start of it.

If it weren’t for the construction this gelato incident may not have been as entertaining as it turned out to be.  So now you know the story as told to Natasha, which sadly hasn’t gotten passed around the store like I expected it.

But here’s what really happened.

More or less.

The real start of it was me being very, very hungry two days before. 

This was the kind of hunger where you start kind of craving things you don’t normally want, or hadn’t had in a while.  Your stomach is growling and suddenly you can taste pickles or a stuffed bleu cheese burger, and now that’s the only thing you can think of.  Your mouth is watering, all you can think about is taking a bite of that burger; the way the bun feels like a sponge for a second before yielding and that instant your teeth hit burger.  You hear the crunch of the lettuce and can feel it all pack down and break away before tasting the bleu cheese that’s all melty and stuffed inside.

Once you get an idea like a bleu cheese burger in your head that’s it.  That’s all you can think about, all you can taste.

It wasn’t a burger I was craving though.  Well maybe—usually I am, so I could have been.  OK, I probably was.  But I also needed some chocolate.  Which is weird.

I’m not a big chocolate eater.  Every once in a while it happens though.  These things happen.

So I bought this candy bar from the café.

Enter the Godiva Hazelnut Gelato candy bar.

I only ate half of it.  It sucked.  The other half I threw in the freezer in the breakroom and forgot about it until I was leaving work the next night.  I grabbed it, thought it might be better frozen—you know, give it a second chance.  All chocolate is better frozen.  Experiment with a Reese’s Cup if you doubt this.

And then I left it on the passenger seat of my car.

Had I had to work the next morning this tale may have gone unhad, and had the temperature that Saturday afternoon not cooked the inside of my car up to eighty, I may have found out if that gelato candy bar was any good the second time around.

But alas… this was not to be.

Instead it sat and melted on my passenger seat.  I noticed it only after I’d thrown my messenger bag on the seat and climbed in.  It didn’t look that bad though, I didn’t think it was anything to worry about.

Tonawanda Constuction Team 6 kicking back after a job well---OK, not done, but started... sort of

I saw the traffic backed up on the Youngmann so went around, hoping the sidestreets wouldn’t screw me over so much.  I’d forgotten about the Maze of Forgotten Construction Projects. 

Despite the Youngmann getting two lanes amputated no actual construction ever gets done on Saturdays, which meant whatever lame attempts were normally considered on those blocked off streets during the week weren’t even an afterthought now for those guys on the construction crews day-drinking on their boats.

After a several block detour I made it to work.  Parking I grabbed my bag and upon lifting it realized the extent of the Godiva melting.  That chocolate really can’t handle the heat.  It oozed even more out of the wrapper but at least, since I rarely clean my car out, there was an empty plastic bag I could throw it in.  I picked up my bag and checked it over pretty well, I thought.

No chocolate.


Out of the car.  Bag on the shoulder.  Car keys in my pocket.  Store keys in their little pouch on the bag.  Pat down to make sure I had my wallet and cell phone.  Yeah.  Everything seemed to be in place.

And then I got into the office and set my bag down.

Apparently, when I searched my bag so thoroughly to ensure no melted Godiva Hazelnut Fucking Gelato had gotten on it, I failed to check the shoulder strap.

Because really—who checks the shoulder strap?  Why would I?  Who would think to?  The rest of the bag was clean damnit!  It was clean!

actual photo of me helping someone---I'm very serious about finding books

So now I have this explosion of chocolate on the front of my shirt, up near the shoulder. 

It was nice a dug in too since I like to hang on to the strap while I walk around all,

“Look I have a messenger bag—I have so many papers I need to carry them in something—I can’t possibly carry all my important papers without a cool messenger bag.  Oh god, I’m so much better then you.  See, I have papers.  In a bag.”

That pretty much is what goes through my head, except I hate this particular bag.  There’s a padded slot for a laptop but mine doesn’t fit.  And it had these annoying buckles.  They clink.  The straps on them won’t stay tight so it’s just clink clink clink while I walk around.

I’m like a cat with a bell around its neck—but that’s not important right now.

Explosion of gelato!

I guess that’s actually it, that’s the real story.  Fucking candy bar melted on the seat of my car, got on the strap, ground into my shirt, and I started off my day frantically scrubbing my shirt clean in the breakroom.  The rest of what I said before was pretty much how it happened; warm water, paper towels, insistent dabbing, wet shirt, brown stain.  For a guy, and for this guy in particular, I think I did a pretty good job cleaning it up.  It could have been a lot worse.  Well it was a lot worse, it could have stay a lot worse is what I mean.

You could still see something, but it was more a shadow of a melted Hazelnut Fucking Gelato candy bar then the aftermath of Tommy Lister’s patented Hostess Cupcake Sledgehammer Punch that it looked like initially.

That customer really did screw face me and take a step back though, you know, to get the big picture of the disaster apparently.  So I screw faced him back and then found the book with the blue cover he saw on a table three months ago that he thought maybe had something to do with the ocean.

Hazelnut Gelato and Picking Fights with Tommy Lister in the Maze of Forgotten Construction Projects / part 2

Wouldn’t it be great if—

That’s how this part of it started.

I cleaned up pretty well, but there was still some signs of what had happened.  That meant questions from coworkers and queer looks from customers.  I explained what happened to a couple people, but this was embarrassing.  It wasn’t something I wanted to talk about it.  Most were satisfied with a mumbled, absentminded, “Oh, yeah, got something [trails off into unintelligible muttering].”

more or less an accurate depiction

My coworker Natasha didn’t accept such an answer.  My evasive muttering seemed only to pique her interest.  This former Soviet spy turned cashier following the fall of the USSR wasn’t about to let the issue drop.  Her dastardly interrogation technique of not walking away and asking repeatedly, “What you mean?” finally broke my desire to not rehash the traumatic parking lot incident of that morning.

I was running late, I told her, already pissed off about the traffic.  I couldn’t get on the Youngmann and then got sucked into going almost around in circles before I finally made it in.  Getting to the parking lot was just the beginning.

I have my man-bag on and I’m friggin around with my keys and making sure I haven’t forgotten anything.  I’m angry, I’m pissed off—I’m late, there was construction, I’m going to work.  How am I not in a bad mood?

oh, and he did this to Hulk

I’m busy digging into my bag so I don’t notice that heading along the row of cars opposite me is this guy.  This big guy.  This big black guy.

Think Deebo from Friday.  Or the Galactic President from the Fifth Element.  Or picture the convict from the Dark Knight who threw the detonator out of the window on the ferry.  These would all be the same guy.

Picture him.  Because it was him.  It’s Tommy Lister in the parking lot, coming right towards me.

He’s about three of me.  We’re heading right for each other, but I don’t notice him because I have my head down, making sure I have whatever crap I need.

And he’s eating a cupcake.

He’s really enjoying this cupcake too, so much that he apparently doesn’t really notice me either.  He’s enjoying this cupcake far more than 300lb. man should.  Picture a fat little kid who just heard the music from the ice cream truck.  That’s how this guy looked, one hand raising a cupcake to his lips, the other hand with the second Hostess Cupcake on standby.

If I knew how he looked of course, which I didn’t since I had my head down and I’m doing my pissed off emo-Matt walk towards the front entrance of the store.

So my head is down and Tommy Lister is making sweet love to his cupcake and—POW!

—or ZONK!

ZONK! may be more appropriate for how ridiculous this is.

So my head is down and Tommy Lister is making sweet love to his cupcake and—ZONK!—we collide.

I’m sure this guy was actually pretty nice, you know, underneath all that terrifying massiveness.  I wouldn’t know.  I got bumped, one of those hard shoulder to shoulder impacts that kind of spins both parties back and to the left so you’re almost facing each other.  There was the impact and then I saw cupcake.

And then I mumbled under my breath, “Nice cupcake, Little Debbie,” and started to turn around to head once again to the store.

Only… I didn’t quite mumble it under my breath as much as I’d intended.  It wasn’t quite under my breath at all.  Or sufficiently mumbled.  And he heard me.

His eyes went wide in a blind sugar- and people-saying-stupid-shit-induced rage.  My eyes went wide as I realized what I’d just said that out loud.

Remember that second cupcake Tommy was holding?  Ready to go when he finished the first one?

I’m not sure if he intended to do what happened next, or if he forgot the cupcake was in his hand.  He still had a piece of the first cupcake in his right hand, so he may have forgot and thought his left was free for the dismembering of skinny smart-ass white boys.  Or maybe he was just upset that I’d referred to him as Little Debbie when this was a completely different brand from what he was eating.  It could have been that I called him Little Debbie at all.

Perhaps that cupcake in his left hand was the only thing that saved my life that day.

You ever see a SWAT team take out a door with a battering ram?  Now imagine me as the door and a cupcake on the end of the battering ram.

I was thrown back from the impact with his left sledgehammer and slammed into a Burberry painted Smart Car, crumpling the recycled pop can body.  I looked down to see the cupcake exploded across the front of my shirt, chocolate blossoming from the point of impact and bits of white swirly icing littering the crater that once was my shoulder.

Tommy Lister was a mix of emotions.  He wasn’t sure what to feel.  On one hand he was pretty good to go on ripping my arms and legs off and stuffing me in a garbage can (seriously, he was probably a really nice guy, so I’m sure he would have thrown me out when he was done rather than leave a mess for someone else to clean up).  On the other hand, he looked genuinely upset he just lost his other cupcake.

looked something like this---that's not really an explosion, that's Tommy Lister's rage

I took that moment’s hesitation to run the fuck out of there.

There may have been some frantic, hysterical arm waving when the running occurred.  There may have been terrified shrieking.

I can’t confirm these details, and I thank anyone who witnessed this incident not to confirm them either.

Once safely locked inside the employee break room I set to work cleaning off my shirt.  Which went relatively well, actually.  Little warm water, paper towels, some careful yet insistent dabbing, and I was left with a wet shirt and a very light brown stain instead of the Hostess Cupcake carnage.

I still got questions and funny looks, and one douche actually took a step back and lowered his head, tilted to one side.  Really?  The stain on my shirt wasn’t that dark, and wasn’t that big.  You don’t need to step back to take it all in, so knock it off and tell me what color the book you’re looking for is, because I know that’s all you know about it.

Most people let it go when I mumbled an explanation, and I’d pretty much forgotten the whole thing by the end of the day.  But Natasha was a little trickier.  She wouldn’t have been satisfied with the story I’d passed off on others throughout the day.  Oh, and gullible.  That’s right, that’s why I was able to tell her this version.

  But that’s OK, because this story was way better than what actually happened.

Hazelnut Gelato and Picking Fights with Tommy Lister in the Maze of Forgotten Construction Projects / part 1

Godiva.  Hazelnut.  Gelato.

But more on that later.

They say that in Buffalo there are only two seasons: winter and construction.  I’m fairly certain this is also said in any other city in the world as well, since Buffalo isn’t exactly  a unique snowflake here when it comes to crappy weather and crappier roads.  So just insert whatever shit-typical weather any other city is known for where you see winter, and I guess we’ll all be on the same page.   But if the dual seasons theory is correct, then in this case, it seems the current construction season is comparable to the Blizzard of ’77. 

Street crews have created a maze of detours around forgotten construction sites where getting from point A to B now requires not a straight line, but a four year old with an Etch A Sketch to draw you a map.

There are ‘Road Closed’ signs up all over the place, and they’ve been up for at least month at this point.  I can see construction equipment, just sitting there on the other side of those road closed signs. 

Just sitting.  Waiting.  Silently weeping tears of oil.  Only oil though—they would weep grime and road crew filth but these pieces of equipment haven’t been used and furthermore haven’t moved in weeks.  And so they cry.

The construction crews are really good at putting up the road closed signs, I have to give them credit for that.  But, much like when I decide to do my laundry and I only get as far as sorting it into piles all over my room before grabbing a beer and ignoring said piles for another week, setting up those signs isn’t really accomplishing anything. 

It isn’t really enough to just put up the sign.  Anyone can put up signs or block traffic with a handful of pylons.  Shit, I can close my street off right now with all the construction cones (and one barrel) that I’ve collected over the years.  I can even add a Stop sign mid-block just to fuck with people.

So it isn’t difficult to set up signs and block roads off.  Anyone can do that.

OK, it’s important, I know, the whole closing roads thing.  You don’t want to take a turn only to find yourself on a patch of grooved pavement two inches below normal street level and suddenly playing a game of chicken with a road paver who’s about lay some asphalt over your Geo Metro.  So closing roads is a good thing.

It helps if, when you a close a road, that you then do something with those roads.  So, job well done—sort of? 

Meh, it’s a start—that should be good enough. 

After all, you guys are probably only getting paid about $16 an hour.  I can’t expect signs to get set up and construction work to be done during the same season.

At least in a few spots someone went above and beyond and they actually stripped the roads down.  That’s pretty good, right?  Its a start—its progress.  Yeah, they stripped the roads down… then went on vacation. 

Road closed.  Grooved Pavement.  Road Closed.  Grooved pavement.

You see the pattern.  And you’ll get to know this pattern pretty well since the roads have sat like this for over four weeks.

It’s not like anyone uses these roads anyway; being blocked off or unpaved won’t inconvenience anyone at all.  Residential streets connecting two major thoroughfares?  Unnecessary!  What are those—houses?  Who uses those anymore?  And roads?  Who needs roads?

Doc Brown said it best, “Roads?  Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

He was referring to the world of 2015, but do you know what?  We’re ahead of fucking schedule.

We’re there, man!—we don’t need no stinkin’ roads.  At least, that seems to be the opinion of whoever is planning and scheduling construction projects in the Town of Tonawanda since one can’t access half of the roads and the half you can drive on make you feel a can a paint fresh off the shaker.

My big problem on gelato day (and I’ll explain about the gelato later) wasn’t even this maze of closed roads.  Its that I was forced into this maze of closed roads and detours because some jerk off had the bright idea that at noon on a Saturday they were going to shut down two lanes of the Youngmann Highway. 

Let me explain why this is a fucking stupid:

Canadians really like to shop in the US, especially for shoes.  They love buying shoes.  Many a weekend is Western New York buried in the discarded shoes and shoe boxes that our Neighbors to the North have abandoned whilst in the throes of shopping ecstasy, eh?

There’s three major bridges within roughly thirty miles of each other that connect Canada and the US, and each of them easily connects to the I-190. 

From there you can either dick around in Niagara Falls, or follow it to the Youngmann where it dumps you onto Niagara Falls Boulevard and the buttload of shopping that stretches along there.

So on a Saturday, when traffic is bound to be the highest, even without the influx of Canadians who need new shoes, how—HOW?!

—is it a good idea to close down two lanes of a three-lane highway that is the most direct route between Canada and the largest concentration of shopping awesomeness within thirty miles?

OK, maybe not awesomeness, but there’s certainly an incredible variety that should cover all the shopping bases between the dozen or so pockets of shopping plazas and the Boulevard Mall.

That stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard should cover all the bases with Canadian shoppers. 

If they can get there.

It’s as if we don’t want their money. 

Not only have we closed down two-thirds of the most direct route, backing traffic up for another two miles, but any exit they take to avoid those delays runs them into the Maze of Forgotten Construction Projects.

All those Canucks wanted was to buy some new shoes and ask where the washroom is.  They don’t deserve that. 

That’s like someone offering you a hundred bucks and you punching them in the face.  And then later that night asking, “So… can I have that hundred bucks now?”

The construction isn’t really the point, so its safe to say I’m getting a bit off topic.  The mess of construction cock-ups is really just to set things up, its what starts out this tale.  It helps explain what happens later.  The gelato is what ends it. 

Well, not really, the gelato shows up all over the place, unfortunately, but you’ll see what I mean later.


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