I cannot help but feel like the great majority of human beings really are stupid monkeys dressed in clothes. I watch them interact with another, I see their mannerisms and I am often frustrated that I have to live in a society made up of such fools. But I am getting ahead of myself here. This is not how I wanted to start out. Instead I wanted to talk about my father. My father is a man who is filled with impossible expectations not only for himself but also for everyone else. I have had to grow up always facing the trap door of a father’s unmet expectations and as a 40-year-old man I am still expected to be a particular kind of son. A son who fills his fathers emotional holes, a son who smiles through his continual and subtle emotional abuse, a son who does not question the bullshit, a son who takes the money and does what he is told, a son who sacrifices himself for his father’s love and a an unseen son who is a narcissistic extension of his father. Maybe this is why I decided to take the job as Mr. Pickle.
When I went into Mr. Pickle’s sandwich shop I noticed a help wanted sign just above the cash register. Mr. Pickle’s sandwich shop was looking for someone to dress up in the Mr. Pickle costume and stand outside on the busy street corner and wave at passers by and try to direct them into the sandwich shop. The pay was $10 dollars an hour and on the sign it said: “All you have to do is dance around in a pickle costume for three hours a day! We will even give you a free sandwich!” Maybe it was because I only had a little over a hundred dollars in my bank account or maybe it was because I was fed up with my father’s expectations that I looked at the old lady behind the register and asked pointing to the sign, “how can I interview for this position you have available.”
Before I knew it I was standing on a busy street corner dressed in a Mr. Pickle costume. The Pickle costume covered my entire body so I was only wearing my underwear and shoes and socks. There were two little holes through which I could see and a small hole for breathing. It was one o’clock in the afternoon. Armies of cars passed through the intersection as I heard the old lady, my now boss, come outside of the sandwich shop and yell, “dance pickle, dance!!!!”
On my second day on the job it was almost a hundred degrees out at twelve o’clock in the afternoon. Dressed again in only my underwear and shoes and socks, I had brought with me my iPod, which helped get me into the mood for dancing. I listened to the Smashing Pumpkins, Fugazi, The Jesus Lizard and TV On The Radio as I became that dancing idiot in a costume that every person passes by at some point in their life, on some street corner….somewhere. As the armies of cars passed by I tried to catch their attention by waving my arms, moving my tight hips and bobbing my head back and forth. The faces in the cars all looked long and depressed. It was mid afternoon and the majority of people looked as if they were already buried deep in the superficial worries of the world. I knew that if I looked like I was having fun possibly I could grab their attention and get them to join the party by pulling into the Mr. Pickle Sandwich Shop’s parking lot. But very few did so. Instead I felt like more of annoyance. People honked at me with bitter looks of disdain. Some people flipped me off but the majority just pretended as if I did not exist. By three o’clock I was covered in sweat and green lint that came from the pickle costume. As I sat down eating my free vegetarian sandwich I thought of my father and suddenly a smile appeared on my face.
The day that I told my father I wanted to be a writer it was as if someone had died. I was a fresh college graduate with a drinking problem and a future filled with potential. He had hoped that I would be a doctor or a stockbroker- someone who would reflect well upon him when he talked about me to his friends. With great authority my father worked hard to direct me down the straight, safe and legitimate path. But I kept falling off the path and it was always emotionally pain filled to get back on it. When I finally drew the line in the sand and said that the life he had envisioned for me was not a life I wanted to live I was met by toxic projections of unspoken disappointment. To this day I am still working hard to detoxify myself from the continuing exposure to this toxin. Years of despair, self-blame and feeling disempowered in the face of an adversary who was unable to love me for who I was, unable to let me do what I needed to do for myself without punishing me, had weakened my ambition and my body. Rebellion had taken up so much of my life and unmet expectations had left me feeling like a failure. As I ate my Mr. Pickle’s vegetarian sandwich I could not help but feel the absurdity of it all. I had grown up in an affluent country club and as a result of a long a tiring battle fought between father and son, I was now a sad, angry, despondent 40 old man dancing on a street corner dressed in a Mr. Pickle costume.
The following afternoon I could not stop yelling, “fuck you!” at all the cars as they passed by. I was a crazed pickle dancing to the music of the Dead Kennedys, jumping up and down and screaming at all the cars as they passed by. I felt a rage that I had not felt since my father hit me or since he told me that he loved my mother more than I. In my sock was the 40 some dollars that I had made the day before and when I felt it scraping against my leg I remembered my father bragging to me about things such as the modern mansion in which he was living, his world travels and decadent dinners. The intersection was filled with cars moving every which way. Everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere, rushing their life away without any idea that they were doing so. “Stupid fucking monkey’s” I kept yelling as the cars obediently marched in line. The people in the cars and the pedestrians walking down the street must of thought that Mr. Pickle was losing his mind. My screaming became louder as I thought about the stupidity of all the obedient people in the world. I also thought about my father and the lifetime of injustices that I felt were perpetrated upon me by him. In the midst of all my rage I noticed that I was having some slight difficulty breathing through the small hole that was now filled up with green lint. Saliva ran down my mouth as I continued to shout, “stupid fucking monkeys, stupid fucking monkeys!!!!!!!” while listening to the punk rock sounds the provided a musical background to what had become an uncontrollable inner rage.
“Mr. Pickle? Mr. Pickle?” I felt someone moving my head and when I opened my eyes I was looking up at two unfamiliar faces and a big blue sky. It was a young boy and his father I assumed. “You okay?” the father asked me. He took his hand in mine and helped me up. The young boy looked at me with wide eyes and surprise. The father said, “we saw you dancing around and then you suddenly fell onto the ground. Are you ok?” I shook myself off in the same way that a deer does after a fright and said, “yes I am fine thank you.” “You sure?” the father asked. “Yes I am sure thank you for your help,” I replied. The father then patted me on the shoulder and said to his son who looked on in surprise, “Mr. Pickle is ok. Say bye to Mr. Pickle.” The son waved at me and said “Bye Mr. Pickle.” I waved at the young boy and watched the father and son walk away hand in hand. I felt a bittersweet smile form on my face as I thought about the irony of it all. I then turned around and saw the old lady standing by the open door of the sandwich shop. She was looking at me with an intimidating look of disdain. Still dressed in the Pickle costume I stared at her. I could feel the stinging pain of a few open wounds on my leg. As I dropped my shoulders in defeat and closed my eyes I heard the old lady yell, “you are fired! Take of my Mr. Pickle costume and get the hell out of here.”