I was at a point in my life where daytime television fulfilled a void left by years of ambivalence, apathy, and inaction. High school was a distant memory and college was a breeding ground of yuppies and the kind of people whose smug satisfaction would only carry them as far as some corporate shill felt their name on a piece of paper was worth. I gleaned some satisfaction from knowing I'd gone against the grain, and while my contemporaries slaved away at their nine to five rat race hamster wheels, I was my own boss.
Well, kind of my own boss. I worked a different nine to five. PM to AM, to be exact. I was the night maintenance technician at the Yogurt Palace. It was a pretty sweet gig. After the store closed, I would go in, clean the machines, change out the yogurt mixes, and mop the relentlessly sticky floor. I sometimes liked to pretend it was an adult movie theater, which is gross, but let me believe I had transferable skills.
I had the whole Palace (as I called it) to myself, and for those 9 hours, I was the king. I made myself bottomless yogurt sundaes with whatever mountain of toppings I fancied (no 36 cents an ounce for me!) and sometimes I even held contests with myself to see just how many sundaes I could eat (actually, I only held this contest once. The magic number is 3. It's probably more if you don't count vomiting as disqualification, but since I was both the officiator AND the clean up crew, I found it best not to test my limits again).
I enjoyed my nights at the Palace, and I was never far away from my next dessert, but there was clearly something missing in my life that no amount of New York Cheesecake WowCow yogurt could replace: concerts.
Yes, though my nights were spent in the lap of luxury, I had no time for the Nickelback/Puddle of Mud "Tribute to Creed" Tour or the Kid Rock/Papa Roach "Southern Pride" benefit show. While money was an issue, time was the more prohibitive factor. When you don't start work until nine o'clock at night (the time most concerts really get going), it doesn't leave you open for much of a nightlife. Though I couldn't really argue with my salary (slightly above what we in the industry called the "graveyard minimum") and benefits package, which was your typical BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half Off on Wednesdays before 4pm), I longed for a schedule that afforded me the ability to attend a myriad of musical engagements.
Instead, my nights were filled with yogurt (sweet, delicious yogurt) and my days were filled with television. As my longing for the world beyond (and concerts) swelled into a dramatic crescendo of desperation, I mined the smorgasbord of informative daytime advertisements sandwiched between my small claims court cases and paternity test results. I called personal injury lawyers and asked them how I might go about getting a piece of that $2.2 million settlement money (apparently that guy lost his legs, and I wasn't quite ready to part with those). I called several car insurance companies to find out how I could reap the enormous savings they advertised so convincingly, and was told that without a car I was already saving the maximum amount.
I began to sink into despair. This was the life of a king, rich in yogurt but trapped in what society deemed my place: far above the common man but unable to partake in their worldly social gatherings.
That day, in my dimly lit studio apartment, bathed only in the warming glow of my 19-incher, as though it were sent from heaven, a sign appeared: "Hi, two concert tickets please!" Concert tickets? How can you afford to go to a concert?! "Hahaha, with my degree from Bryman College, of course! I enrolled in their Dental Assistant program, and after just 9 months I'm working in a dental office and I can do the things I've always wanted to do!'"
Concert tickets? The things I've always wanted to do? I couldn't believe it. I immediately called the number on my screen and was connected with an admissions specialist. She seemed very eager to get my application rolling, and she said I'd be a shoe in for the Dental Assistant program (even though I had no experience that would qualify me for "a career in the competitive field of dental assisting," I think she recognized my enormous amount of potential). I headed to the local library to use the internet, set up an email address, and within a few short hours received all the paperwork I'd need to bring me one step closer to a Ticketmaster shopping spree.
Days later all the pieces were in place, and I was poised to enter the ranks of the elite. Dental Assisting is more expensive than I thought it would be, but they set me up with a pretty hefty loan that I won't need to start paying back until three months after I graduate, so I was living large. I couldn't wait to see the looks on my old high school classmates' faces when they saw me attending college, like some yuppie communist I swore I'd never be! We'd all have a good laugh. I imagined the look on the box office worker's face when I approached, triumphantly declaring, "One ticket to the Nickelback/Puddle of Mud ‘Tribute to Creed' Tour, please!" She'd stand, mouth open, wondering how on Earth I could afford or had time to attend a concert! I'd smile, give a wink, and tell her about Bryman, my 9 short months of training and my amazing career working in a dental office! Oh how we'd laugh.
My fantasy was cut short by a sad realization: I would have to bid adieu to the Yogurt Palace. The Palace molded me into the man I am today, inspired me to achieve, and taught me that I have what it takes to make the world a better place, even if just for myself. With sadness I used the library computer to type out my two weeks notice, thanked them for their years of kindness and BOGOHOs, and scrawled my signature onto the freshly printed letter (I believe a tear drop or two may have found their way onto the paper, as well).
As I entered the Yogurt Palace through the front door (I had only done this once before, the day I submitted my application), the manager looked up curiously, furled his brow, and went back to his math homework (he was a senior this year, so I could imagine how busy he was). I approached the counter and said, "Blake, sir, I won't waste much of your time. I just want to say that it has been an honor and a pleasure." I bowed my head, extended my right hand, and handed him the letter. Then I gave a quick salute, turned heel, and walked out the door. That was the last time I saw Blake.
I carried out my last two weeks of service diligently, and I do believe that they were the best two weeks of work I've ever given. On my last night in the Palace I revived the sundae challenge. I beat my old record that night, and as I mopped the dried yogurt and fresh vomit from the floor, I knew that I would always remember my years as a king.