Friday, September 20, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/20/13: "Good for you."

Without a doubt, my biggest regret from this whole experience has been the lack of friends I've made. Not in the sense that, when I leave here next week, I will have no lifelong relationships to nurture, but in the sense that, by not being more social, I in turn failed to take advantage of the job perk of all job perks: playing these four world-renowned golf courses for free. I've played exactly three times since I've been out here. One of those times was with my father -- on the resort's par-three course, so that doesn't really count. The other two times happened to both be on the same course, Bandon Trails. One-for-four...that stat is disappointing, and more than a little embarrassing, so I'm just putting it out there now. Let the humiliation/healing process begin.

I am solely to blame for this ineffective social integration, and I take full responsibility for it. The fend-for-yourself world of the caddie shack is not exactly my happy place. In many ways, it's like a bar or a party; there's no defined structure, and there's no designated place for me to stand or sit. It's in settings like these where I tend to get lost, blending into the woodwork, a master at going invisible in plain sight. Striking up random conversations, when there's no clear reason as to why I'm doing so, is just not in my wheelhouse. Though I do feel as if I can talk to anybody, it's preferable that it happens within a certain context. We're in the car together, or sitting at adjacent desks, or assigned to the same table at a wedding. In other words, I thrive when I know the other person either has to talk to me or talk to nobody at all.

My hope had been that the more I worked, the more caddies I'd get to know, and the more those relationships would form organically. But even with the guys I've been paired with, the ones I've actually been introduced to and spent 18 holes (minimum) working alongside, I still have struggled, avoiding eye contact and interaction, convinced that they have no interest in me, or that they wouldn't know who I am or remember my name. Given this, I've chosen to go it alone, and the longer I've headed down this solitary path, the easier it's gotten. I show up, I take my seat in front of the TV, and I wait to board the shuttle -- and I do it all in anonymity. Having a phone that I can bury my head in helps in camouflaging the isolation. At the very least, I look like I have a reason for not interacting with others. Pathetic, I know, but if nothing else, comfortable. Clearly, my evolution is far from complete.

While it thankfully was not emblematic of my overall social experience here, an interaction I had with another caddie earlier this week is worth noting -- if not outright comical. I am on the shuttle, my first day on a new job, wondering if's app has incorrectly steered me into unnecessarily wearing my bulky, overheated rain suit. The early morning sun is pouring through the windows. I am going to cook like a honey glazed ham. To my left is Carl, a cagey, veteran caddie with leathery skin and eyes that have undoubtedly seen all there is to see. Carl is eating oatmeal out of a styrofoam coffee cup. While we've never been introduced, I have randomly ridden the shuttle with him once before -- a ride I'm confident he doesn't remember but one that I didn't forget, primarily because it was one of my first encounters with the cursing and vulgarity you'd expect to be common among caddies. It was a while ago, and we were on our way back to the caddie yard. Carl was holding court with the other guys on board. Knowing that my mother is reading this, there will be no further details beyond this: the only thing Carl likes more than his women is telling his fellow caddies what he likes to do with them.

In an effort to prevent my guests from learning that I'm still relatively new, I've made a habit of introducing myself to the other caddies in the group on the bus ride over to the course. Do it in front of your player, and it's obvious you haven't been around that long. So just moments after boarding, I turn to Carl, stick out my hand, and innocently say, "I'm Brent." In my life, there have been countless ways people have responded to this simple introduction, from echoing back their name to saying, "Nice to meet you," but nobody has ever responded as succinctly and brilliantly as Carl.

"Good for you," he replies.

Having seen the man in action before, having seen him laughing and cracking everybody up, surely he has to be kidding. Surely nobody could be this rude, and if they were, for what? I do the only thing I can think of to do -- I smile and laugh. Carl does not. Good for you. The words hang in the air like a punchline that falls flat. Clearly, this is not a joke. Carl goes back to his Quaker Oats.

Waiting for us when we get off the bus is Kyle, a representative from Caddie Services. Kyle is there to tell you who you're going to be carrying for, and to then introduce you to your player(s). Before the guests arrive, I consider warning him of Carl's unpredictable nature in regards to introductions, but I think better of it. Of course, not surprisingly, Carl has no problem talking to Kyle about me -- right in front of me. He asks Kyle if I had been assigned this job beforehand, or if I'd picked it up this morning. The assignment of caddies works one of two ways: you're either scheduled in advance, or you show up and enter the "free agent" pool and hope that a guest requests a caddie at the last minute -- or, what's known in looper lingo as "free-birding." The former process is generally reserved for caddies with some measure of seniority; the latter for the less experienced. This is why Carl is asking about how I'd gotten assigned. From the moment we got on the bus, and he saw my unrecognizable (to him) face, he knew that, given his seniority, he was in a position of power. Now, he's trying to determine just how much -- or how little -- respect he's obligated to show me.

I've spent the overwhelming majority of my time here free-birding. That's just how it is. There's a natural progression to things, and from what I can tell, it's the same for everyone -- first, you sit around a bunch and ride pine; then you work some one-and-dones; then they throw you some multi-day assignments; and finally, you start to get scheduled ahead of time. I've only recently started to get scheduled, and it's certainly not an everyday thing.

Thankfully, though, it is the case today.

Kyle informs Carl of this, and there's a slight softening in Carl's eyes. I can't tell if he's satisfied or disappointed by this revelation, and truthfully, I don't really care. I'm no longer irritated or upset about his actions towards me; I'm indifferent, having already accepted how this round is going to go. Carl can take one side of the tee box, I'll take the other.

After being introduced to my guest and with our tee time quickly approaching, I grab my player's golf bag and make my way up towards the first hole and duck into the starter's shack, where you can load up on any last-minute essentials -- tees, scorecards, ball markers, insect repellent. And as I'm getting organized, I hear somebody walk in behind me, followed by words that were both unsettling and unexpected.

"How ya doin', Brent?"

It's Carl; the assist from Kyle has clearly flipped me over to the better side of his power trip. I am now worthy of common courtesy. My, how far things have come -- and not just in regards to this stretch from the shuttle to the starter's shack. As the end of this experience quickly approaches, I can't help thinking back to the symmetry of the beginning when, as a trainee, the caddie I was shadowing had such little respect for me that he wouldn't even make eye contact with me. Now, look at where I am. Granted, I still don't really have any friends, and I still haven't played all four courses, but if nothing else, I've put in enough time and enough effort to earn a kind, colloquial greeting from somebody like Carl.

Good for me. Good for me, indeed.                   

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About Me

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?