Quite a while back, I posted a couple of stories from my days as a teenage parking valet at a very exclusive country club. I was recently remembering some of the times there, and I thought I'd share a couple more of them.
The concept was pretty simple at the country club parking lot. Each parking space was labeled alpha numerically. A car pulls in, we open the door and greet the club members. We then park their car in a marked spot, recording the spot on a piece of paper that we bring back to the valet shack and hang on a wall board, leaving the keys in the vehicles to save time and confusion during pickup. On weekend days when the club was more crowed than usual, we would set up a few chairs halfway down the parking lot underneath an old sycamore tree. With two or three people stationed under the tree and the use of walkie talkies, we could more efficiently fetch cars down toward the end of the long narrow parking lot. When a member came out to collect their vehicle, someone stationed up front at the shack would call a parking lot number letter combination down to us sitting under the tree, say A12 for example. We would run and get the vehicle and bring it to the front circle. Brilliantly, simply efficient. Of course, sitting underneath the tree away from any supervision during the slow part of the afternoon usually led to wandering minds, which in turn led directly to no good.
As with many old trees, this sycamore had a hollowed out trunk at ground level. We had fallen into the habit of tossing our garbage, paper cups, plates, napkins into the trunk of the tree, always meaning to eventually bring it up to the trashcan. It was rather cold that particular afternoon, and thinking we might kill two birds with one stone, we decided to burn the garbage, saving ourselves a trip to the garbage can, while warming up next to a cozy little fire.
We (I) rustled a pack of matches from the kitchen and lit the refuse. For a while, it was a nice little garbage fire in the trunk of the tree, and we fed it trash as necessary to keep our little campfire going. Eventually of course, we began to realize our fire was burning on its own with no need for garbage anymore, and had slowly started working its way up the trunk, flames now licking at the lowest leaves of the tree. Almost unbelievably, it hadn’t dawned on us that the tree might actually catch fire and burn on its own. Realizing there may be a problem brewing here, and that a large burning tree in the middle of the parking lot would more than likely grab the attention of arriving club members, not to mention the boss, I leapt into action. I grabbed two large cups that we hadn't yet burned and ran up to the valet shack where we had a drinking fountain. Being a rather slow, dribbling drinking fountain, it was taking a while to fill my two cups. Our "boss" that day was Taylor, who was just a couple of years older than the rest of us. He was actually a very nice guy and liked and understood us, but he noticed the nervous look on my face and asked if everything was alright. I tried my best to make nonchalant small talk as the cups filled and responded that sure, we were fine but thirsty, and I was just getting us some water. I awkwardly ran/walked back to the tree, just out of view of the shack, trying to do so in a casual, carefree manner as water sloshed from the cups. I could see the smoke from the tree wafting slowly upward as I approached. I tossed what was left of the two cups of water onto the fire. Nothing. No effect. I ran back up to the drinking fountain to refill the cups. Again, Taylor inquired as to whether everything was okay down at the tree. I assured him again that things were fine and that we were just very, very thirsty. On the third trip for water, I finally had to say, "Dude, trust me, you really don't want to know." With that, Taylor realized that yeah, he was probably better off in the dark on this one. It took several trips and the equivalent of about 3 gallons of water, but the fire was eventually extinguished with no lasting harm done to the tree or our jobs.
Occasionally at the parking lot, we would be presented with oppurtunities to be, well, oppurtunists. One of the younger members at the club, a man in his late fourties, owned a Dodge Charger. It was quite the muscle car, and just one of the many member vehicles we all clamored to drive each time he arrived. This particular time, I was the lucky valet to see him coming and rushed out to greet him and take possesion of his car. With no one in sight, it was the perfect time for a real test drive at the empty end of the parking lot. I left the parking circle very carefully, a model of responsibility and maturity, until I was around the corner and out of view. Once safely on the other side of the lot, I jumped on the gas and took a couple of high speed laps around the lower part of the parking area, throwing the vehicle sideways into the turns so I could get a decent slide as I went. As a fitting end to the joy ride, I turned a very sharp left and spun a few donuts, racing around in tight little circles, tires spinning and screeching behind me before gently pulling into a parking spot. As I left the vehicle however, something seemed amiss, and looking back over my shoulder I noticed the back right tire was flat. I realized immediately, my individual style of parking this particular vehicle may well have had something to do with this. My dismay at the situation didn't last long though, as the oppurtunistic little gears started turning in my head. This dark cloud quite possiblly had a silver lining. On somewhat rare occasions, a club member would offer to pay one of us kids to run an errand or do some minor repair, such as changing a tire. With this in mind, and after waiting what I thought was an appropriate amount of time, I had him paged and informed him of the bad news, that somehow his back right tire had slowly deflated and was now totally flat. Without blinking, he asked if I knew how to change a tire. I tried my best not to smile or seem too pleased as I said, 'Yes sir, I sure do!" He paid me fifteen dollars to change the tire I had just ruined earlier that afternoon.
I'm not proud of some of these things we did. In fact, I'm a bit ashamed of some of them. They still make me laugh though.