Cruel Hand Lou

(To my long-time friends and readers: you might have seen this one before… it’s from one of the most substantial experiences of my life and I hope you don’t mind if I share it again this year. Thank you. To my new friends: please enjoy reading about my first ever job: usher at a long-gone movie theater.)

Cruel Hand Lou

I’m still till talking about my first job at the movie theater that no longer exists. Woodfield III & IV.

It’s gone now, replaced by Pier 1 Imports, which is not nearly as much fun late on a Friday night.

Let me tell you about one of my first fellow ushers. No, not Kevin, that rascally troublemaker that almost got my face cut open. He came around much later in my theater career.

I’m talking about a whole different bodily injury thanks to a guy that we’ll call Lou (which might be his real name, who can remember?), another usher just a few years older than me. Lou was mostly a nice guy.

During one afternoon shift during my first week at the job, our manager told us that we had to move dozens of five-gallon soda tanks from our second-floor storage area down to the parking lot. This is where the distributor would collect our empty tanks and replace them with filled ones, which would then have to be carried back up the stairs and placed in storage.

For reference, check out the picture. And multiply by about six.

Between hauling around those tanks (which, when full, weighed around 40 pounds or so; empty they were closer to 10 pounds), carrying big drums of popcorn oil, and hefting really heavy sacks of popcorn seed, I got a workout that summer.

So Lou told me that the best way to get the tanks from storage to the street was to use gravity.

We would work together, Lou said, to move the tanks (dozens of them) from the storage area to the outdoor space above the theater marquee. Then, I would go down to street level and he would drop the 10 pound metal tanks down for me to catch and line up in the parking lot.

Simple enough.  Move the tanks, then he’d drop them down to me to catch.

The empty tanks aren’t THAT heavy and I can catch them, right?

Of course I can!

I’m young and strong!

Is your warning light flashing yet?

After catching all of those of tanks, my arms were sure glowing, tingling, and very mad at me. My hands were swollen and gnarled. My arms were two bloated, throbbing bruised masses.

My brain was just a little less ignorant than it was 30 minutes earlier.

Lou, you got me. Ya got the new guy.

My revenge was not letting the people hired after me fall for Lou’s prank.

The last time I saw Lou was a couple of years after he left the company. He came to visit the theater, driving a beat up yellow sportscar that wouldn’t always stop when he stepped on the brakes.

A kind of car karma, I think.

How about you? Have you fallen for any kind of cruel initiations or practical jokes?

I told you mine…let’s hear yours!

See you tomorrow.

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