Some stories for you

This week has been a quiet and busy one.  I’ve worked.  Yep, that is about all I’ve done.  I have had some fun meeting the people in the hotel, its always interesting chatting with people at a bar.

To set the scene:  The bar has a ‘managers reception’ from 1730-1930 daily.  Norm is the barman (during the week).  Norm is an interesting person, though of course he has to be – he’s the barman it’s his job.  Any lull in the conversation and its Norm to the rescue.  He’s got an elderly Jack Russell, Randle, who is going deaf, he’s a little worried about the old soul.  He keeps talking about this trip that he goes on each year, to Sturgis.  People seemed to understand and nod along with his stories.  I had to ask him what this ‘Sturgis’ is, turns out it is the biggest motorbike rally in the States, he’s a Harley person.  Being a barman as well, he gets to take ten days off work in the hotel to spend a week up at Sturgis where he gets to tend bar for a few hours a night and get mad cash but also spend the day going riding.  He tells an amusing story about driving up there last year and he was tootling along at much more than the speed limit (because that is what people in the USA do), and the cops pulled him over.  The cop asked where they were going and what gear they had we’ve got gear for a week for four guys. What kind of gear? The normal, sleeping bags, tents, alcohol, et cetera – gear.  And anything else?  To be honest mate, we posted our weed ahead. Carry on boys.  In Colorado weed is legal, growing seems to be controlled but use is legal.  Its not legal in Wyoming where they were, so the cops were trying to catch them out. I’ve heard that story a few times. Mark actually noted it the first week, it’s legal but a work drug screen and you lose your job.

The other day I met a bloke called John.  He has a mostly wonderful life where he follows the summer around.  When I told him he must have gotten lost he noted he was in Denver for some work.  He makes signs.  Started the business up from scratch he and a mate and now he gets to sit around and let the business run itself.  He gets to go where he wants, meet the clients he wants and happy days.  He had amusing rants about taxation and how it should be standard across the board.  His point was that he’s already doing a good community service by employing 100 people, why should he also have to pay such exorbitant taxes?  The US tax year ends 31 December so I guess taxes were on his mind.  [side note, I just went to type the date as 12/31/2015 – I’m learning this backwards stuff too fast!  I think it is a function of the number of times I’ve had to type dates into things, spreadsheets and schedules etc.]

A couple of days ago I met a lovely couple.  I didn’t get their names.  They would have been in their 70s ish.  Here for the Christmas week to spend time with family but needed space from them too.  We had a little chat but I couldn’t find out much about them. They just didn’t answer questions much, they were all too impressed with me being a girl, in engineering. It was coupled with Norm talking about a friend of his who is a welder, 24yo woman ex model decided she’d be a welder so she is. The ladies point was that in her day women could only be secretaries, nurses, teachers, or wives.  Not sure how I would have gone in that lifetime. She did tell us of their friend who used to be a secretary. She worked at Coke until one of the bosses came out and told her she should wear shorter skirts. She was livid. Not sure how she did it, but now she is an executive with them and all very impressive sort of woman by the sound of it. I suspect here the times of sexism are a little more recent than at home, particularly in some of the less forward thinking areas.  I couldn’t imagine being any of those things… They had a laugh when I told them that I may have been an okay secretary if the boss could ignore my cursing (yes, it is cursing or cussing, not swearing in this country).

Last night Norm got a call from the front desk asking if he had a corkscrew.  Seemed like an odd question to me, its a bar, there would have to be a corkscrew.  A little while later a bloke, about in his fifties, came down with a bottle of wine.  He had bought dinner for the front desk girls and was wanting the bottle opened for a glass for everyone.  It was apparently some super fancy nice bottle – Norm was impressed.  The guy was wearing a NASA jacket, which I ignored as being a souvenir.  Turns out that he is indeed an engineer for NASA and he was here with his team to build a satellite.  His story of woe was that they had put their gear in a shipping container from Canada.  The gear happened to include some fancy laser goggles.  Their container was detained at customs for ten days because of these goggles, and it was only when he called customs to ask where it was that they told him (note to self).  The silly thing was that the goggles had been purchased in the USA, taken to Canada and used a bit, then were being brought back into the States for this job.  They were stopping their own merchandise.  Hilarious.  He told them to bin it and get the container moving but he’d already had to send his team back to Canada until next year as they’d run out of time before Christmas.  He looked a little haggard the dear man.

We then had a chat about his work.  He was building this satellite to go to an asteroid and take some samples and bring them back.  The asteroid its going to has a one in 3000 chance of coming towards Earth and hitting us.  Hence the sampling.  My only response to that was that I hope its a big one Think the dinosaurs big. Brilliant, then I’ll be out and won’t mind too much (Mark didn’t agree with that point of view *shrug*). I then asked about mining the asteroids, he said people were working on it but it’s not profitable. I added a “yet”. He did say they were one step closer because some law had recently been passed whereby you cam call dibs on an asteroid. You can’t with the moon or planets but asteroids are fair game. I wasn’t certain if it were a national law or international. He also said he’d sent some of his sons hair on a mission, one with no return. So his sons DNA is on some asteroid. That is super cool!!!

Norm is from Irish descent, born and bred in Boston. He talks of it as being a pretty rough place. But he has a special spot in his heart for his dearly departed grandmother. Seems she was the first to come over here. He used to visit her every Wednesday and play bingo with her then they’d go talk about the old days. She passed away ten years ago or so. When she was in her nineties she was driving about and her car must have run off the road. She called Norm asking him to come get her car out of the ditch. He arrives at this seven eleven and she’s standing outside in the snow with a huge gash down her face. He popped her in the car then went inside and thanked the attendant. The attendant was all very defensive she refused to come inside, I really tried. Norm understood that and left it at the thanks then off they went to hospital. Going back the next day to get the car, it was practically vertical on its nose in a very large ditch about a mile from the seven eleven. Gran had crawled out, walked to the store then thought about calling. The old dear didn’t want to bother anyone.

Last night I met Bob and Vicky. Actually I’d met them the night before briefly but they were on their way out. This time we had more chat time. Bob is 75, Vicky would be about that. They own a company called Cubbys Cookies. They supply the breakfast breads and muffins to the hotel and many others around by the sound of it. They recently sold their house but their new one doesn’t settle until 31 December so they’re at the hotel until the new year. They sound like they’ve lived an amazing life. They’re sailors, seems like mostly pleasure but also a fair amount of racing.
Vicky told a story of a race she did when she was younger. It was a 24 hour race where they have to cook a three course meal and deliver it for judging. It seemed like the best meal won though there was also a speed element. So her team of four women (only boat fully crewed by women) cooked up this mega meal with a glass of wine and delivered it to the judges. As they handed off the meal, no getting off the boat, just slow a little and hand over the tray, they turned about and we’re wearing these super skimpy swimmers and mooned the judges. Hilarious! The girls didn’t win, they came in third. The winner was an Aussie bloke who cooked up a rabbit. He knew he didn’t have the fastest boat so he put an oven on it and kicked ass with an amazing meal.

I also had an interesting talk with Norm last night about how this country works in relation to pay and tips etc.  So when you’re in a recognised tipping position the company doesn’t need to pay you minimum wage.  What the point number one.  So he says that the people working in restaurants etc are generally paid about $2 per hour, he gets about $5. What the point number two.  So wait staff etc mostly rely on tips to live.  I’d heard and read that before but didn’t realise the extent of it.  Then he pointed out that his salary from the company each pay period is basically nil.  Why you may ask when he works about 40 hours a week?  Because the salary goes into paying taxes and for all the insurances (medical, life, dental, etc).  What the point number three.  They get taxed on the tips they receive off credit cards etc, but not on the cash thankfully.  No wonder he loves going to this Sturgis and getting $3k cash from a week of tips.  It is so quit in the hotel at the moment that he would have got about $30 in tips for last night.  But at least he gets all his insurances so he’s not complaining too much.  The bar managed to get a little money into the till last night – all of $13 for my salad.  Wowee.  Slow night.

So I should tell you about the people at work and stuff at some stage too.  You’ll have to wait though because it is time for me to get up and head over to my apartment and sign my year away on a lease.  I’ll get this up then we can have another nice long post about this long Christmas weekend.  I hope everyone has an amazing and fun Christmas!

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