Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Standby Board From Hell

I think it's safe to say that every caddie had the same reaction when they came in this morning. You walked in, looked at the stand-by board and said: "Holy crap-bag."

Well maybe not crap-bag. Maybe it was just "poop."

Irregardless, the board was freakin' packed. I arrived at 7:15 this morning, which on any NORMAL morning would've put me in the top 5. Today, however, I was number 12. Number 12. Maybe instead of drinking coffee in the morning, I should throw a few crack-rocks in my milk. That might give me the impetus I need to get into work with the rest of these yahoo's at 6 am. I mean that's just ridiculous. And by 8 am, the board was completely full. Over 30 caddies were on stand-by. You KNOW it's bad when even the senior caddies are looking at each other going, "Damn. I don't think I'm getting out today."

I guess schools are starting to close for summer and a lot of kids are coming back to work. In addition, my boss has been busy recruiting so you've got 10-15 young kids being led in by their fathers with this "I'm still the man even though my dad is here" expression on their faces. So take those 20-30 returning employees, throw in the recruits, and mix it all together with some irritated senior caddies and you've got yourself a quite an interesting mix of people standing around the cart barn this morning.

If this is how crowded it's going to be all summer, I better start coming in earlier.

And amidst all of the chaos, the boss never flinched. He just went about business as usual. He even started telling some of his old caddie stories to some of us who were standing around in the office. But with his storytelling abilities, just about every caddie close enough to hear was interested and listening.

I was on the couch to start. It felt great just taking in the atmosphere. To my left, several caddies had started up a card game that I still have no idea how to play (1-2 bingo-bongo). Straight ahead caddies were clumped around the doorway bitching about the stand-by board. You could hear the same thing every time another caddie arrived.

"Holy shit man! This is bullshit!"

Then I looked to my right. I saw something that looked a little out of place. A girl in a caddie uniform. A GIRL. She looked like she was 13. That's insane. You can't throw a girl that young into a room of guys like this. Title IX my ass. This job is definitely the one exception to THAT particular rule. That's like throwing a big hunk of meat into a lion pit and calling down, "Now settle down you little bastards. Don't eat it."

The boss seemed to be reading my mind when he came in.

"You are not allowed to sleep with any of these guys. And guys? Stay away."

Pissing on a house-fire would've had the same effect. You could just see all of the guys around her licking their chops and trying to play it cool. The small-talk was painful.

But in a way, it was like her presence was throwing off our whole routine. It's a room full of guys. We're dirty, we probably smell, we fart together, we discuss the inner-workings of sex in graphic detail and we're constantly passing around Playboy's and Maxim's. It's not exactly the friendliest place for a woman.

So at first I was a little scared for this girl, wondering how she would fair against all of these guys. Then after a little while, I started feeling bad for all of us, because we couldn't exactly behave the way we wanted to. My boss started to tell another one of his stories, stopped, looked over at her and yelled, "Earmuffs!" It was funny, yes, but it just wasn't the same with a girl there.

After an hour or so of swinging golf clubs, watching another caddie try to fight my boss and throwing around a plastic plate that worked pretty well as a Frisbee, there was an opening.

Three guys were currently on the tee and my boss was nowhere to be found. In a panic, one of the staff guys runs into the caddie room and asks somebody to get on the tee. A hand went up.

"I SMOKE ROCKS!"

It was one of the addicts that had arrived at the ass-crack. So he was chosen. But there was a foursome on deck, and that meant at least two more caddies needed to be selected. And somehow I was one of their picks. Not sure how that happened. I definitely had 7 or 8 guys ahead of me. But the staff guys didn't seem to care. As long as SOMEBODY in a bib was on the tee, they were happy. So I went out to meet up with my players.

Just as I'm walking out to pick up the bags, I see two more caddies run up over the hill to join me. One is a new recruit going out for his first loop, and the other is this girl.

Hmm. I wonder how this will work out.

My prediction, even before the round started, was that these older guys we'd be caddying for would probably see this young girl as their substitution for Viagra. My guess was that they'd be talking to her all day. And I was pretty much right.

Surprisingly, everything was moving along nicely for the first few holes. My players were playing cart golf, and the other two caddies seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Well, the new recruit was having some trouble figuring out where to stand, but I think that was because he's never really played golf before. He liked standing 30-40 yards in front of a player that was about to hit. Maybe the kid just likes to live dangerously.

Now up until the 4th hole I thought the girl was new to caddying. But after the look she gave me, I thought otherwise. One of my players had just hit his shot and I was lifting up the bags. I heard her behind me.

"What's the number?"

"What?"

"The number."

"What number? On the ball he's playing?"

Pause.

"Forget it."

She looked pretty flustered. At first I couldn't understand what her problem was. Trust me little one, he hit the right ball. But then I understood. Shit. She just wanted the YARDAGE from my players' ball to the front of the green because she couldn't find a sprinkler head. Le Grande Geek strikes again.

"Oh man. Sorry! It's 186!"

Well, at least I tried. She just shook her head and continued walking. After that, I felt like a rookie again. She's obviously done this a few times before. But I shook it off. She's carrying one bag for an OLD guy. And she's a CUTE YOUNG girl. She'll be getting a big tip regardless of what happens today.

As for my players, one was friendly and very touchy-feely, and the other rivaled Silent Bob. Well hold on. I just remembered something. Silent Bob DID talk for a little while on the first hole.

When I had introduced myself, for some reason I included my last name, which happens to sound Polish. Somehow this struck a tuning fork in Silent Bob's loins.

"I married a Polack."

That's awesome sir.

"Yep. Married a Polack."

Pause.

What? You want a cookie or something?

"Back in Michigan there's a whole community near us just filled with Poles."

Long pause.

"They're a very industrious people."

To quote Lewis Black: "Why? Why the FUCK open your mouth?"

I mean, I'm a little Polish, yes. But it's not like I'm from there. I've never even met a Polack. I had no idea how to react.

"Yeah. I guess we're everywhere."

Good one Tom.

And from then on, we really didn't talk to one another. I mean sure, I gave him yardages. But yeah. Not too much to talk about after THAT conversation.

My other player was very very friendly with me. VERY. I read somewhere that people who like to caress any and all things are in fact lonely. Or perverts. Can't remember which it was. But either way I felt bad for the guy. So FINE. Be all touchy feely. See if I care.

I was able to stay away from his hands for a little while by keeping my distance, but he ended up luring me in with a granola bar on the 7th hole. And that was just creepy.

I was surprised that it took me so long to notice, but on the back nine I started seeing a very unique approach the new recruit was using to assist his player with each and every shot. You might refer to it as "negative space."

I first heard this term back in college when I was enrolled in some Theatre classes. "Negative space" is a term used to refer to the space on the stage that you aren't using effectively. The goal of any set designer is to minimize the space needed for a show so that the actors are actually USING all of the playing areas provided. The areas of the stage they don't use are referred to as "negative spaces."

Now normally, when I'm caddying for someone, I give them the yardage, tip their bag up so they have easy access to their clubs, and after they've selected a club I pull the bag back and set it down at 3 o'clock approximately 8-9 feet away. But screw that. This new recruit had me beat. He made sure he was as far back as humanly possible. 20-30 YARDS. No joke. That's almost the difference in driving distance between Tiger and DiMarco at this years' Masters. This guy would hand his player a club and then run about 25 yards away and stop at 3 o'clock. I guess I just don't want to be the one to tell him that he doesn't have to do that. I think I want some of the other guys to see it too.

Now back to Mr. Touchy-feely. Mr. Touchy-feely made a habit out of walking off his own distances and then forgetting what they were. So by 14 I started holding hands and pacing the yardage off with him so I would be prepared for the inevitable: "So wait. How far is it again?"

Don't worry. We're in this together, sir.

After I handed both of my players their putters for the 15th green I decided to get ahead of the group and walk over to get the yardage for the par-3 16th.

By the time I set down my bags and calculated the yardage, the group was already walking up to the tee. So I called out the yardage a few times to make sure everyone heard me. Okay, done and done.

By the time they all stepped up onto the tee, they had all forgotten. The player the girl was caddying for chirps in with, "So coach, what do we have here?"

I quickly reply: "145."

There's a pause.

I turn to see this guy standing there staring at me, as if to say, "Wait a second. You're not my coach. You aren't 13 and you don't have boobs. Something here doesn't add up at all."

The girl quickly repeats: "145."

And then the guy calms down. Her voice has satiated him once again.

Then MY two players turn and ask her to repeat the number.

"145."

Oh come ON guys. This isn't a siren's song or anything. She just rattled off a number. Let's focus on your match instead of possible jail time.

And sure enough, at the end of the 18 holes, they were all giving her compliments and then just walking away forgetting about my goodbye handshake. I was tipped, yes, and they did end up saying "good job" to me. But I like that handshake. It more symbolic than a colloquial "job well done, son." But today I guess I'll just have to settle for holding hands with Mr. Touchy-feely on 14. We'll always have that, sir.

Before I go, I guess I should clarify: this girl is 18. No laws are being broken here. She just LOOKS 13. She's a freakin' baby. I'm just wondering how long that hunk of meat will stay untouched in the lion's den.

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